I traveled near and far, North to South, East to West, criss crossed the Western US and did circles around Colorado, Wyoming, Montana, and Idaho chasing powder but I never found a more bad ass ski resort and authentic Wild West town than Jackson Hole, WY. I was told that Steamboat Springs, CO has this Wild West Wyoming cowboy feel to it. (It does and the ‘Boat will always be near and dear to my heart! ❤) But when I visited the real Wyoming, I knew the trip to Jackson Hole will become a tradition and I would be back twice an year from now on – summer for exploring the National Parks 🏞 and winter for snowboarding 🏂.
Wyoming (total area of 95,000 sq. miles) is larger than the whole country of Bulgaria, yet it has only 10% of Bulgaria’s population (585,000 people). It is the least populated state in the US (even less populated than Alaska and Montana!!!) and with 1.4 million cows in WY there are nearly 3 times as many cattle as people… #Godblessthecows
A big portion of western Wyoming is national parks, forests, and public lands, which prevents commercial and residential building. In the middle of the state right under the Wind River Range (which is also protected land) there is a large Native American reservation. The economy is comprised of mining (30% – mostly fracking), agriculture (hay, wheat, and oats – gotta feed them 1.4 million cows :-), government and tourism. Cheyenne is the capital of the state and largest town with 60,000 people. In the summer over the span of a week,Cheyenne hosts the largest rodeo in the West.
We arrived in Jackson Hole very late one night in December. I had picked up my friend Lindsay from Denver Airport and we drove all day taking turns on snowy winter roads. Lindsay had friends in Jackson who were so kind to open their home (and sofas 🛋 ) for us. The guys were working that night and by the time we made it to their house we were exhausted and crashed on the sofas. I didn’t even know the guys so imagine my surprise when I woke up next morning totally disoriented and a “tall, dark, and handsome” snowboarder asked me: “Would you like some coffee ☕ ?” While thoughts such as “Who are you? Where am I?” were racing through my mind, all I could mumble was “Coffee…Yes, thank you”. He is a dear friend to this day!
Day 1 – Started at Pearl Street Bagels 🍩 in Wilson followed by a warm up run on Jackson Hole’s ONLY green slope. A green and a blue later, probably high on altitude, I decided it was “high time” for me to test those famous steeps of Jackson… Jackson Hole is voted the steepest, most difficult terrain in the US. In retrospect I have to say that a green in Jackson is a blue everywhere else and after green come light blue, dark blue, double blue, blue black, and only then black. Yours truly went straight for the black. Ungroomed nevertheless… Cuz #YOLO! Overdoing a toe turn, catching an edge, double back flipping down the slope (not intentional OR gracious) and going downhill “penguin”🐧. style, on my belly, chin first, arms flopping on the sides taught me that riding with 110% guts and ZERO skill won’t fly in Jackson. I EVENTUALLY stopped when the grade evened out, unhurt, but with bruised confidence. “Penguin style 🐧 ” is still the joke of our posse but once I caught my breath and calmed down my heart palpitations, I returned to that black slope and took it all the way down like a champ (not chin first 😉 ).
Elk nachos and Boot beer at The Handle Bar are a great lunch/confidence booster 🍛🍺!
After riding our hearts out, we had to go soak our sore muscles in Jackson’s very own hill billy hot springs 🛀. Non-commercial, in the middle of a field, by the side of the road, accessible only via high clearance 4×4 vehicle. It is basically a creek with a pond, muddy and steaming hot. You change in the car (clothing optional) and run barefoot through knee deep snow. There is a sign by the hot springs – “Don’t dip your head”. If you ask the locals why, you may NEVER enter the creek (or exit it alive for that matter). Apparently, there is a bacteria in the water that will swim up your nose if you dip your head and eat your brain. How appealing! 😱 All I asked was – “Is there a cure?” No – “Does it hurt?” No – “Is it a quick death?” Yes – no more questions, in I went, (damn #yolo) while keeping my head high out of the water on my long giraffe neck!
Cafe Genevieve’s is equally good choice for brunch or dinner!
Day 2 – The weather was really bad, pouring rain all day 🌧, so our host made the best of it and took us on a winter wildlife safari down dirt roads and hidden paths to see bison, elk, moose, bighorn sheep, eagles, mule deer, and even Mr. Fox in their natural habitat.
We also got to explore town, check out Teton Gravity Research, stretch in an yoga class, and visit the outdoor hot tub 🛀 at Snow King Resort and soak while watching the cats groom. Go to Inversion Yoga and take a class with Kira when in Jackson!
Day 3 – Every snow crazed girl’s dream is to ride in a snowcat. Ok, maybe to ride a fresh groomer right behind the snow cat would be even better! So when our host offered me to go groom with him at night, I couldn’t contain my excitement 🤗. I got to explore Jackson Hole on a snow cat and groom the very slopes I was about to shred the next day. They didn’t seem that steep or scary now that I was approaching them from the bottom 😆.
Day 4 – Finally a bluebird day! The weather in WY is either very snowy and somewhat mellow (somewhat has a whole different meaning in the Tetons ❄) or clear blue skies and freezing -30F cold. I was determined to ride Jackson Hole one last time, so hand and toe warmers glued, I headed for Amphitheater and snowboarded my heart out!
I even rode the tram all the way to the top – to eat waffles #ilikemywaffleswhenimhigh and see (ONLY see) Corbet’s Couloir – steepest ski ⛷ run in the US – attempting to take pictures, but my phone died and I wonder how I survived myself in that bone chilling cold with gusty winds!
After a successful day riding, apres ski cocktails were had at the Mangy Moose, where the drinks are strong, bartenders are friendly, and food is locally sourced and delicious! Best trout in town hands down! There is also a reindeer with a sled hanging (out 😉 from the ceiling and if you are really lucky you may get to ride the mechanical bull!
Evenings in Jackson, WY are for strolling around town, taking pictures of beautifully lit buildings, popping into shops and art galleries, and enjoying some hearty dinner of elk tenderloin or bison bbq at the Gun Barrel. Don’t forget to stop by the Cowboy Bar for drinks and have late night pizza at Pinky G’s. Both places are quite the scene!
Last but definitely not least – your best coffee and pastry choice in town – Persephone Bakery! The lavender latte with Intelligentsia beans is to die for (may have had it every day) and the pastries and egg goodies have no match in town! Not to mention the decor!
Last morning in Wyoming I had to wake up before dawn and get on the road for a long drive down to Colorado. Look what a surprise Mother Nature had prepared for me – elk crossing and me being the only car on the road!
Surprisingly Jackson Hole is busier in summer than in winter, a fact that apparently applies to a lot of the mountain towns in the West, which I found extremely interesting considering the ski resorts in the Northeast are dead in the warmer months. I guess having Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks right next door doesn’t hurt with summer crowds 👪. Well, I will be back once the grass is greener!