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First Trip to Jackson: Best Time?

post #1 of 12
Thread Starter 
My wife and I are trying to get a jumpstart on planning our vacation for this winter. However, we have read some conflicting information on the best time to travel to the Jackson area.

All of our previous experience traveling out west has found Late Feb/First Week March to be the most consistant and best conditions with March being a BIG snow month.

However, we have read some information indicating Jackson's snow quality is better in late Jan/early Feb. Jan is quoted as the big snow month for Jackson. Neither of us has ever traveled west that early in the winter and we are unsure if it would be wise to do so.

I know many people on this board have been to Jackson multiple times or actually live there. When would be the best time to travel to have the best chance to catch the best conditions and avoid sun heated afternoon cement conditions while having decent coverage? How consistant is the coverage during the first/second week of Feb?

We are debating between the following weeks, any feedback would be greatly appreciated.

Feb 4-12
Feb 25-Mar 5

We are from New England, so temperature isn't a major concern. We are more worried about hitting a time with the consistant conditions and good snow quality.
post #2 of 12
Go with the earlier dates. JH has a reputation for being bitterly cold in Dec/Jan/Feb, but that is absolutely required there to preserve the predominantly SE facing slopes. Anything later will give you slop the second the sun comes out. Since you are from NE, the cold won't be a big issue anyway.
post #3 of 12
When it comes to weather you can't predict more than a few days in advance let alone 6 months in advance. It's always abit of a crap shoot.

If I did have to choose I guess I would go with Powdr's sentiment. I remember many years in early Jan having a warm spell.

I grew up in Vermont but lived in JH for 17 years. The winter weather for the last few years has moderated but -20 daytime high and -40 nightime low is not all that unusual. One early morning I was headed out to the village to work I just heard on the radio that it was -56 degrees. Not 60 secs later my engine seized up due to a frozen oil pump.

If there is an inversion which often happens when it is that cold make sure you ski on the upper mt as the temp up there can be 20-40 degrees warmer than the base.

Bet you have a great time. Where are you staying?
post #4 of 12
Feb. 25 - Mar. 5 is dangerously late with the exposure. Your Feb. 4-12 option is about the latest I would recommend. January is also the highest snowfall month, though only by 17%. Monthly snowfall incidence is not that important, because with standard deviations over 40% it's not predictable. The effect of the SE exposure is all too predictable.
post #5 of 12
February. There could be dry spells at either time or...
It is the evil sun that can make Mid-March goopy.
post #6 of 12
Oh, one thing I forgot to add:

DO go to Grand Targhee while in the Jackson area. You will come across one of the truely real & genuine ski experiences around, and the snow is always better on that side of the Tetons.

post #7 of 12
Thread Starter 
Early it is. Thanks for all the responses. I haven't decided on lodging yet, but have it down to a few. After some more research, I will likely post a new thread for feedback when I have it down to two or three choices.
post #8 of 12
Go with the earlier dates. I hav ebeen to Jackson during both of those time frames, actually I've been the week that spilts the last week in Jan and th efirst week in Feb; and I've also been over spring break.

As far a feash snow goes, it is a crapshoot, however the trend the past few years out west is that there tends to be a dry spell during January. You first dates are late enough though that you shoudl be able to escape that.

Also, for both of my trips we had fresh snow, but in March, as posted earlier, if the sun comes out, you will be skiing mush very shortly.

There are a few north facing runs on Jackson - Corbet's, Tower 3 chutes and Alta chutes which will hold snow better than the rest of the mountain later in the season.
post #9 of 12
Originally Posted by jhstroup
...There are a few north facing runs on Jackson - Corbet's, Tower 3 chutes and Alta chutes which will hold snow better than the rest of the mountain later in the season...
True, but you cannot avoid the slop as you move from one of those areas to the next. And you can forget about from Casper on to Apres-vous - it is all in the sun.
post #10 of 12
FMR Prairielander:

I'll agree with the previous conclusions but not necessarily for the same reasons.

Of your listed choices, I woud pick the early Feb dates because they're the best bet for good snow conditions and fewer people - *not* so much because late-February and early March skiing are automatically doomed to goopy, gloppy, wet, yucky snow.

It's true that if we're going to get outrageously cold weather it usually comes in January.


that happens when we have extended periods of high pressure, clear skies, and almost no wind. Certainly no snow. I would say that occurs about four, maybe five, out of every ten years.

Just as likely as beastly cold is ongoing periods of snow during the entire month of January. Day after day after day of four to ten inches of new snow and cloudy skies and temps in the mid-twenties (that's ABOVE zero, not below). THOSE Januaries are heaven on earth in Jackson Hole because the temps are completely bearable, the snow is outstanding, and there are very few tourists here to compete for the powder.

So, you can buy the "conventional wisdom" that Jackson Hole is colder than _________ (your favorite simily here) in January if you must. 50% of the time it's probably true, but the other 50% is one of the best-kept secrets in skiing.

And as to March, that also depends entirely on the weather. In the years 1999 to 2002, I had some Salt Lake City friends I wanted to bring to JH in late March for spring skiing. (If you know how to get around this mountain, spring skiing here can be incredibly fun.)

Anyway, each year we would come here for a long weekend and each year ended up being powder skiing every day we were here. One of those years generated one of the best one-liners I've ever heard... My friends and I were here and we were going to go to the top of the ski area on a cloudy day with the intention of going out of bounds to some "spring" skiing. Shortly before the lifts opened, I called the cell phone of a patroller friend who was at the top of the tram to get a snow report.

His reply?

"Bob, it's full-on WINTER up here! Get your *ss up here for some powder skiing!"

This mountain is variable and you can't make generalizations, but being here in March most assuredly does not rule out the possibility of powder skiing.

Bottom line, though, on your days in early February... It's your best bet for fewer people, good snow, and moderate temps. But don't rule out a trip any other time of the year just because of what you hear.

In my years of skiing the SLC area, I had some pretty lousy conditions in Januaries, Februaries, and Marches.
post #11 of 12
Ditto what Bob said. I have had awesome ski weeks in March. The best week I ever skied at JH was the last week of March first week of April in 1989. It was unbelievable. I still haven't hit the hobacks that pristine since.

A couple of years ago when the bottom of the mountain was burned off, it was too warm and a rain event had screwed things over, we still found pow all over the area, and region and had an awesome vacation. Details in the link below (best viewed in Firefox, or Explorer - sorry if it doesn't work in your browser)


I avoid January for my 'ski vacation' because it is cold, and dark. Too me, a vacation is more than skiing. I like the daylight after, the warmer temps, the ability to have a beer on my tailgate without gloves, etc. You can always find powder somewhere in the area, be it Teton Pass, which has plenty of north facing bowls, Targhee, the top half of Jackson especially if you stick to the north sides of the ridges. Its all there. The laps that Bob talks about are laps that I am familiar with... skiing light and deep pow all day after a storm even when the sun is out and the temps too warm.

If your just going to ski JH light and dry, top to bottom, then go late January, but if your willing to shop around a bit and are willing to ski around some crud, things are good all the way to the end. They can even be great.

post #12 of 12

Timing doesn't matter, Just don't stay at the Best Western Inn or Lodge

Whatever time you go, do not stay at the Best Western Inn at Jackson Hole or the Best Western Lodge at Jackson Hole (they are managed by the same people). There service is very poor and their management has the attitude that guests are a burden, and if they piss a guest off that's ok, since there will be plenty of other people who are lining up at the door to rent a room.:

Case and point, I made a reservation at the Inn (in Teton Village) 3 months ahead of time, got a reservation confirmation, later the Inn oversold the rooms, and then right before my stay, they sent me a registered letter informing me they moved me to the Lodge (in the town of Jackson, 12 miles away - I didn't want to stay there, I wanted to stay at Teton Village). The management did not return any of my phone calls over a 2 week period. I finally called Best Western Corporate and complained. Best Western Corporate was great, but I never did get anyone from the Inn or the Lodge to call me back and I never was able to get a room at the Inn. I finally cancelled my reservation and got a room at the Snake River Lodge and Spa at Teton Village. Treat infinitely better there.

I will never stay at the Best Western Inn or Lodge in Jackson Hole.
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