Jackson Hole Mountain Resort....
Wow ! Or should I say "Woah!!". What a wonderful mountain you have there (I feel like I need to report to the local Jacksonians).
I'm still in shock. I can't believe I finally made it out to Jackson, WY to enjoy what can only be described as one of the world's great ski mountains. I've been wanting to go there for about 18 years now, and I finally checked it off the bucket list. It was amazing.
First off, I have no dog in the fight. I'm just a skier. Not promoting anything. Nothing to gain by lauding this mountain (save perhaps a "SKI" subscription when I filled out a survey at Nick Wilson's Cafeteria). My wife and I are midwesterners- both skiers since kids and both spent most of our lives skiing on 300 feet of vertical on ice and sleet and manmade and big lake effect snow- just about everything and anything. I've driven through powder on the highway and almost lost it when a snowplow passes me, to get to Holiday Valley, NY- to get to Caberfae, MI or Nub's Nob or Crystal Mountain, MI. I've driven 10 hours to Ironwood, MI with 300 inches of snow to ski a 400-footer. So trust me when I tell you that you've got something special in Wyoming.
I'll also add that I flat out love skiing (if that wasn't obvious). Just love it. Anytime I'm on two sticks going down a slope, all is right with the world and I could care less about anything other than skiing this run and planning my next. I've been incredibly fortunate to have had several opportunities now to fly out west and go to some of my favorite mythical mountains (that actually exist when I get there). Growing up with modest means, I truly never dreamed I'd be skiing at a place like Jackson Hole. As I get older, the skills get rustier, but the mountain list gets longer, and I have more to compare.
I'm not going to put down any other mountains in this thread. But I will say that I've been to the main ones in Colorado and the main ones in Utah, as well as a bit of Tahoe. I can make comparisons. And how does Jackson Hole stack up? Very very well. It's an incredible mountain. It is steep. Not steep like a regular mountain, but steep like "woah, that's a blue?" or steep like "take a picture of me with my tips hanging over the edge". People were spot on with assessments of this place. It's steeper than most, and it skis very BIG. The terrain is varied, the lifts are serviceable and isolate the different areas, and the mountain steps out with ridges and fingers of double and triple fall lines. The rocks that I remember from Utah and Snowbasin are there at Jackson. Big boulders on steep crags that make your turns critical. There are also some of the trees that I remember from Colorado. I didn't do much tree skiing because frankly, it was too hard, but I've skied a lot of trees on my trips and these trees were better than any that I've found in Utah, certainly.
The resort is farther away from town than I expected. It's truly a 20min shuttle ride and obviously that becomes tiresome when you've peeled your tired legs off the mountain to return to the hotel with foggy eyes. I think what can be said about that is that I'd recommend to anyone renting equipment to do it at the mountain. Bob Peters' guide was spot on, of course. JH Sports was very very good and like an assembly line to get my demo Rossi E98's and Atomic boots. Pepi Steigler had the Kastle's I'd been looking at - and would have tried if I stayed a couple more days. I want to thank Wilderness Sports for being our foyer to the mountain each morning. I also want to thank the Mangy Moose for being an awesome apres ski- just what you want from pares. The Pako's IPAs were going down a little too fast so I wasn't all that upset when they kicked us out of the dining side of the establishment at 6pm. Shoo!
The thing about this mountain is just how diverse the terrain is and how much vertical there is. It really is spectacular as far as skiing vertical. There are more runs over 2000 feet than I've ever seen- by a long shot, and you truly get the feel of skiing a long time to get to the bottom of the Tram. The tram line, as advertised, was right around 20 min, with about 6 min in between trams. They crowd you in 100 at a time like a buch of lemmings, and the thing swoops wildly back and forth as you pass the tram towers, but they pump some great tunes and the views, if you are tall enough to see over everyone, are unbelieveable. Make no mistake- Redezvous Bowl at the top of the tram- is not that tough. With good snow and visibility it's a double blue at best. However, let that be the only trail I mention as over-rated. There were others, like Gannett for instance, where I was standing there looking down and then apologizing to my wife by saying- "sorry, this is supposed to be a blue run. Looks like a solid black to me".
The Apres Vous side of the mountain was just as advertised- a great place to get the legs under you and get started. I noticed within about an hour just how dry it is in Wyoming. The powder was beautiful and fluffy, but my head was hurting and a warning to others to make sure to hydrate big time before going to Jackson. The altitude isn't that bad but the vertical is, and with the very dry snow it's pretty easy to break into a bloody nose or a bit of the queezies. I lost a couple hours drinking gatorade at the base. Back to Apres Vous- Werners and Moran were both very classic and long blue runs with some nice pitch shifting. St. John's was a less traveled run that dumps into a mogul funnel that gets you going a bit. The face, Teewinot, I think it was, was crusty and cruddy, but I loved it anyway and cut hard with my mid-fats as long as I could before swinging back out. I also ran the Saratoga bowl and that was an isolated adventure. Great stuff over there. I seemed to be all alone. Heard the birds and spent some time stringing short sets together- but the bottom was pretty rough. They channel you back along a rope line which, as you can imagine, gets pretty bumpy and muddy and rocky, etc. It was a pain, that part. Sidesteps and ski scratches.
The Casper area, and the new highspeed quad "all new all blue", probably makes the locals mad, but it was nice balance for an expert mountain. Sleeping Indian, Wide Open, and Sundog were all fun blue runs, and the lift is a good short ride. I skied the Moran woods and traverse and that was pretty hairy. The traverse ended at a small cliff and I fell back on my tails to avoid scraping over the rocks and tumbling over. Lots of lines in those woods though, and solid challenge.
The gondola is probably the main lift. Some 2800 vertical and a restaurant at the top, with lots and lots of terrain. I got a bit tired of Lupine Way after several days, but I started hitting Cascade to get to Thunder Chair, and that was fun. I will say that an early morning top to bottom run on Gros Ventre (pronounced Grow Vahnt) is an absolute thing of beauty. It's the blue mountain run to compare all others to, if you ask me. Beautiful long long groomer with pitches and endless carving. Great stuff. I never skied Dick's Ditch, but I did ski the South Coulter Ridge, the Rawlins Bowl, and the Hobacks, and all were a lot of wild fun. I absolutely loved the Hobacks. Wilderness terrain and you get it mostly to yourself. The three Hobacks spread you out and then channel you back at the bottom a long long way down. We had good snow and it was soft and creamy on those runs. Some of my best memories.
Finally, I'll add that the Thunder and Sublette areas were my favorite. Big natural bowls- Laramie and Cheyenne/Bivouac. Then the convex topper in Rendezvous, plus the 3D intruding bowl in Tensleep+ Cirque? An embarrassment of riches. The stuff on the south side of Sublette was a lot of fun, and the long run down Rendezvous Ridge was very scenic and epic, really.
All in all, if you are still reading, this is a great mountain that has everything. The tree skiing is not really top notch, but with all the steeps, bowls, moguls, groomers, natural terrain, ditches, upside down spoons, etc., I can't complain. And to top it off they actually take you up 4140 feet on a lift. As much vertical as you can every want. I couldn't really give JHMR any negative marks for skiing, terrain, and snow.
I'd go back in a heartbeat. But unfortunately, as it seemed everyone knew when they told me "be sure to come back", it was probably once in a lifetime. Not cheap to get to. Not cheap to stay. Not cheap to eat. You get what you pay for, and it was amazing through and through from the steaks at The Silver Dollar Saloon at The Wort, to the moose we saw grazing at the riverbank on our way to the mountain. If you have a trip to Jackson, WY on your list of things to do in life- make it happen.