A horse-drawn sleigh transports visitors at the National Elk Refuge in Jackson, Wyoming. Photo by Russell Hinkle

Winter Ski Trip: Jackson Hole


Antlers are the most popular decor in Jackson, Wyoming. Yes, antlers.

They’re everywhere here in this secluded ski town, just south of Grand Teton National Park and Yellowstone, thanks to a large elk population and a deep-rooted cowboy culture.

The Western vibe carries over to Jackson Hole Mountain Resort, a truly epic ski area with steep slopes located just outside of Jackson.

If you’ve got the new Ikon pass this season, consider making a trip outside of Colorado to visit our northern neighbors in Wyoming. You might just be surprised at how beautiful Wyoming can be in the winter (though the high winds and snowstorms can make driving there a bit dicey).

A skier shreds at Jackson Hole Mountain Resort. Photo courtesy of Jackson Hole Mountain Resort

Jackson Hole Fast Facts

  • 1 aerial tram, 2 gondolas, 8 quad lifts, 2 double lifts, 1 triple lift, 1 magic carpet
  • 459 inches of snow per year, on average
  • 21 degrees Fahrenheit average winter temperature
  • 10 percent beginner, 40 percent intermediate, 50 percent expert terrain
  • 10,450-foot summit elevation
  • 6,311-foot base elevation
  • 2 terrain parks

How to Get There

  • From Boulder, it’s a roughly eight-hour drive.
  • Head east to I-25, then drive north for 43 miles.
  • At Fort Collins, merge onto US-287 for 66 miles until you reach Laramie.
  • At Laramie, turn west on I-80 for 208 miles.
  • At Rock Springs, head north on US-191 for 185 miles and arrive in Teton Village.

You can also fly direct to Jackson Airport from Denver on United and Frontier.

The town of Jackson at night. Photo courtesy of Jackson Hole Mountain Resort

What’s Unique

Jackson Hole is known for being a gnarly mountain with lots of difficult terrain, so it’s a hardcore shredder’s paradise. Rising more than 4,000 feet from the floor of the valley, the resort has the longest continuous vertical rise of any U.S. ski area. If you’re brave enough, you can access more than 3,000 acres of backcountry terrain from the ski area. On your first visit, you’ll definitely notice the steepness right away (and you’ll feel a good burn in your legs).

But that doesn’t mean less-advanced skiers can’t have fun here — on the contrary, 40 percent of trails are intermediate.

“Big Red” the aerial tram moves up the mountain at Jackson Hole Mountain Resort. Photo courtesy of Jackson Hole Mountain Resort

Another unique feature of Jackson Hole is its aerial tram, affectionally referred to as “Big Red” and “The Red Heli,” which can hold 100 people per car and travels the entire vertical length of the mountain in just nine minutes.

Where to Stay

If you’re hoping for an authentic, Western-inspired experience during your trip (without skimping on luxury), be sure to spend a night or two at Rustic Inn Creekside Resort & Spa. The resort is unique because you can choose from guest rooms, cabins and luxury spa suites, depending on your travel style. The spa suites, for instance, come with their own private butler (who also doubles as your personal bartender), a secluded hot tub area, made-to-order breakfast each morning and easy access to a gorgeous eucalyptus steam room and sauna.

The private hot tub for spa suites guests at Rustic Inn Creekside Resort and Spa. Courtesy photo

All the rooms have a rustic, mountain cabin-esque vibe that will really set the mood for your visit to Jackson. Plus, you don’t have to worry about the fact that you’re not staying at the ski resort, as the hotel offers a complimentary shuttle to Jackson Hole, as well as one for getting around town (the parking lots at Jackson Hole Mountain Resort fill up early — like ridiculously early, so a shuttle is actually ideal). The resort’s intimate bar and restaurant is the perfect place to cozy up by the fire in a lounge chair while sipping on a glass of wine or a cocktail.

Of course, this place is also gorgeous in the summer.

The cabins at Rustic Inn Creekside Resort and Spa. Courtesy photo

What Else To Do and See

Elks relax at the National Elk Refuge in Jackson, Wyoming. Photo by Russell Hinkle

Hands down, if you have a little extra time on your hands, pay a visit to the National Elk Refuge. In the winter, you can hop on a horse-drawn sleigh for just $25 per person and take a ride out into the middle of the refuge, where you’ll be surrounded (literally, surrounded) by thousands of elk.

If you’re lucky, you’ll also spot a bald eagle while you’re there.

A bald eagle keeps watch
at the National Elk Refuge in Jackson, Wyoming. Photo by Russell Hinkle

Your driver will tell you all about elk behavior, their antlers and how the refuge works. The sleigh ride takes about an hour and it’s important to dress warm, as the wind really whips in Wyoming. The entire experience is amazingly beautiful and super informative — a win-win.

Elks relax at the National Elk Refuge in Jackson, Wyoming. Photo by Russell Hinkle

No visit to Jackson would be complete without stopping by the Million Dollar Cowboy Bar. Yes, it’s touristy, but it’s also totally awesome. For a small cover charge, you can head inside and cozy up to the bar. But you won’t be sitting on your run-of-the-mill barstool — you’ll be sitting on a saddle. They have tons of live music here, as well as plenty of pool tables if you want to get your fix.

The sign outside the iconic Million Dollar Cowboy Bar in Jackson, Wyoming. Photo by Sarah Kuta

On your way home from the Cowboy Bar, be sure to stop under one of the four antler arches in downtown Jackson.

People walk under the antler arches in downtown Jackson. Photo courtesy of Jackson Hole Mountain Resort

If snowshoeing is your thing, there are some great trails in Grand Teton National Park, which is just up the road from Jackson. Plus, the views of the Tetons will actually take your breath away. Pro tip: Even if you’re not religious, stop by the Chapel of the Transfiguration. A giant picture window behind the altar frames the Tetons, which makes for an incredibly spiritual experience.

Another fun activity: Head to Snake River Brewing for some craft beers (and the California pizza), but stay for the mini-curling rink out front.

Looking for another fun weekend ski trip idea? Here’s what you need to know before you head to Taos Ski Valley in New Mexico.

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