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Updated Guide to Skiing Jackson Hole

post #1 of 15
Thread Starter 
We have a new tram and a few other things have changed since I first wrote this guide, so here's the brand new 2009 updated version. This is the "sedate" version, which basically lists the on-piste ways to get around the mountain. I'm also updating the "Steeper Skiing" version and hope to have it posted sometime later this week.

This version also includes photos to help newcomers with orientation around the mountain. Because of that, I'll probably have to split it up into more than one post, so look for that if the post you're viewing doesn't seem to include all of the mountain.

Here goes...

Bob’s Unofficial Guide to Skiing Jackson Hole:

Here are a few suggestions on some ways to get around the mountain. If you’ve never been here before, some of this might help you figure the place out a little quicker and allow you to best enjoy your limited time.

One thing to understand about this mountain is that there is difficult terrain accessible from almost every lift, but there are also pretty easy ways down from every lift (with the exception of the tram). So if what you’re looking for is a guide to the most gnarly stuff on the mountain, this isn’t it. Just ride a lift, get off, and look for a place where the horizon disappears.

This little summary is geared mainly toward people who are coming here for the first time and want to get a feel for the lifts and terrain. Most of the runs I’ll describe are intermediate through advanced, and are runs that are groomed daily or fairly often. If you follow the little tour I’m suggesting, you’ll have an excellent understanding of the mountain and you’ll see plenty of more challenging stuff along the way (if that’s what you’re looking for).


First off, come prepared. JH is a huge, rugged mountain in an alpine environment. There is plenty of easy skiing here, but if you’re prepared for bad weather you’ll enjoy your visit much more. You want good goggles, waterproof/breathable shells, multiple layers of synthetic garments, good gloves, and even a neck gaiter. You may not use much of that, but you’ll be glad you have it if you need it.

Also, mid-fat and fat skis are the common choice here. If it snows during your trip (we all hope), wider skis will make life easier for you if you’re skiing the endless variety of terrain and conditions we have. I love using my slalom race skis all over this mountain, but if it snows those skis don’t come out again for a few days. There are several good ski shops in Teton Village or the town of Jackson where you can demo/rent skis that work well on this mountain. I’m the mountain rep for
Head skis here at Jackson Hole, and I have a relationship with the local Head dealer, Teton Village Sports (TVS). TVS is the oldest and largest ski shop at Teton Village, and I hope you can maybe give them some business while you’re here.

So, let’s head for Teton Village and the Jackson Hole Mountain Resort. Here’s a map of Teton Village, which makes up the base area of the Jackson Hole Mountain Resort. Here's a map of "the Village".

When you first arrive at Teton Village, the most important landmark to look for is the Tram Building. It’s the building with the clock tower and it has massive cables leading ALLLLL the way up to the top of the mountain. Here’s a photo of the tram building and the clock tower on top of it:

If you come to Teton Village by bus or shuttle or from the outer parking lots, this is where you’ll be dropped off. The tram building has lift ticket windows on the ground floor facing the parking lot, and up one flight of stairs is the large wooden deck where the line for the aerial tram forms. Also adjacent to the tram loading dock is a cafeteria called Nick Wilson’s Cowboy Café.

If you’re standing on the mountain side of Nick Wilson’s looking uphill, on your left (slightly behind you and working down a slight incline) will be a building with Wildernest Sports in it. The next one down is TVS, the one beyond that is the Mangy Moose bar/restaurant, and just beyond that is the Hostel. Slightly uphill and to your left is Pepi Stiegler Sports. Pepi’s and Wildernest also have excellent ski shops where you can buy/rent gear, get your boots worked on, or get ski tunes.

Still standing back in front of Nick Wilson’s, to your right and slightly uphill will be the Bridger Center and the loading sites for the Teewinot chairlift and the Bridger Gondola.

Here’s a photo of the ticket windows and the Ski School office doors of the Bridger Center:

The Bridger Center has lift ticket windows on the ground floor and a very good ski shop, Jackson Hole Sports, on the next level up. The Bridger Center also has day lockers for rent. If you want a ski/snowboard lesson or a day with an alpine guide, this is where you go.

Now that you know where the main buildings are, it’s time to make a decision about what lifts to take.

The tram gives the fastest access to the most vertical and it’s also the most popular lift, which can mean liftlines. But the brand new (2008/2009) 100-passenger aerial tram is so big and so fast that we haven’t seen lines much over twenty minutes yet. It’s important to understand that if you ride the tram, there’s no “easy” way down. That doesn’t mean intermediates can’t comfortably negotiate it in the right conditions, but it does mean that Rendezvous Bowl, which is the main way down from the top, can throw some pretty challenging conditions at you. More on that a little later.

So let’s say you choose to do more of an orientation cruise than immediately jump into the toughest part of the mountain you can find… we’re going to start out on the Apres Vous side of the mountain.

This is the online trail map for the Jackson Hole Mountain Resort. It has a great little feature on the website that allows you to click on a specific area to blow up that part of the map. It may help you to open another browser window and alt-tab back and forth between this guide and the online map to help understand the places I'm describing.

Here’s a photo of the base stations for both the Teewinot high-speed chairlift and the Bridger Gondola, with the tram station visible in the upper left-hand corner of the photo:

You’ll want to load on the Teewinot Chair. This lift leads to the Apres Vous chair but also accesses three very easy groomed runs that are all excellent for first day beginners. We’re going to assume for this little document that you’ve progressed beyond the beginner stage and are ready for some blue and black runs. So, when you get off the Teewinot chair, ski to your right over to the base of the Apres Vous high-speed quad. The Apres Vous chair gives you lots of terrain and gets you up the hill very quickly.

Here’s a photo of what you’ll see at the top of the Aspres Vous chair:

As you can see from the trail signs, when you unload you can bear left to the main runs or right to a run called St. John’s or to Saratoga Bowl. Werner and Moran are the runs you’ll ski if you go left. Werner and Moran (they split about 300 yards down at an island of trees, with Moran being the run on skier’s right) are groomed essentially every night and offer wide, smooth cruising all the way back to the base of the chair. If you take Moran, you’ll deal with a couple of short steeper pitches, while Werner is good, solid intermediate skiing all the way down. The pitches on Moran are nothing scary and they’re pretty short, but don’t be surprised when things drop out from under your feet a little bit.

Following either Moran or Werner is going to take you down about 1,800 vertical feet of nicely-pitched intermediate skiing and back to the Apres Vous chair. Here’s a photo from the top of Werner, showing where Werner trends left and Moran trends right:

Back over on the north side of the chair (looker’s right as you’re riding up the chair), St. John’s offers a long run that may or may not have been groomed recently. Between St. John’s and Werner is an ungroomed, fairly open area called Teewinot Face. The “Face” part might be a bit misleading because it really isn’t all that steep, but it IS right underneath the chair. This is a great place to test out your off-piste skills because it’s usually a combination of crud, a few bumps, a little shrubbery, rocks, and some wind drifts – plus, you’re skiing it with the critical eyes of all the lift riders on you. (If you’ve skied that and it felt pretty good, look closely at your trail map and see if you can find something interesting to skier’s left and below you. If you cross lower St. John’s and poke around in the trees a little, you might be rewarded for your adventurous spirit. That’s all I’ll say.)

One last option off the Apres Vous chair is Saratoga Bowl. This used to be an out-of-bounds area (and does definitely avalanche in extreme conditions) but is now permanently open through a gate just below the patrol shack near the top of the chair. As you’re nearing the top as you ride the chair, see if you can spot a suspicious-looking“tree” off to the right a little bit. That “tree” is actually a cell phone tower and the entrance to Saratoga Bowl is just below the tree on the skier’s left side of St. John’s. Here’s a photo of the cell tree:

Saratoga is a fascinating natural terrain park. There are tons of rock gardens, gullies, trees, small cliffs, etc. The skiing here can be great, especially if there’s been some new snow. It’s definitely *not* easy skiing, however. If you choose to ski it, be very mindful of tracks. After about a thousand vertical feet, you must start traversing to skier’s right to get back to the ski area. If you spy some untracked snow way low on Saratoga Bowl and go down to ski it, you may find yourself on the valley floor about a mile from the base of the ski area. That’s a long way to walk. Just watch other skiers and make sure you’re trending right as your dropping down Saratoga.

Okay – we’ve sampled the Apres Vous side of the Jackson Hole Mountain Resort and now we’re ready to try another part of the mountain. This time, when you unload from the Apres Vous chair, go left and head down Moran run. Stay right at the tree island where Werner (left) and Moran (right) split. You’ll cross a bit of a flat and then work your way down a little steeper section. Just at the base of that steeper section will be a cat track leading to the right. It’s called the Togwotee Traverse (pronounced TOW-guh-tee). Get on that and follow it quite a ways and you’ll come out at the base of the Casper triple chair.

The Casper area has some of the best low-to-mid intermediate skiing on the mountain. As you ride up, you’ll see Easy Does It off to your left (looking up). Here’s a photo taken from the middle of Easy Does It looking down toward the base of the Casper lift:

Just turn left at the top of the Casper Chair and follow the road a couple hundred yards until you come out on a wide, glorious, user-friendly run. That’s EDI. This is a great place to just relax and enjoy the grooming. There are also a couple of little runs to skier’s right of Easy Does It called Campground and Timbered Island. This is wonderful, easy skiing, just like the name implies.

To looker’s right of the chair are a couple of runs called Sleeping Indian and Wide Open. Both are excellent upper-intermediate to advanced runs.

Sleeping Indian and Wide Open may or may not have been groomed recently. If they haven’t been, they’ll have lots of moguls. Just beyond Wide Open is a gladed area known as Moran Woods and Moran Face. If you’re feeling pretty good about your skiing, you can just poke around in there and work your way back to the Togwotee traverse that brought you from Apres Vous to the Casper chair.

If you’re ready to try somewhere else, you have a couple of choices; you can ski right from lower Easy Does It onto a run called Blacktail, which eventually joins Sundance Gully (known locally as Dilly Dally Alley). This route leads back to the base of the ski area and is one of the most popular ways down from the Casper area. This would lead you to the base of the Bridger Gondola, which I’ll describe in a couple of minutes.

Another choice from the top of the Casper chair would be to traverse over to the Thunder chairlift. To do this, exit the chair left onto the cat track and just keep following it. You’ll eventually come out onto a very wide, easy run known as Amphitheater. Once on that, trend down and to the right until you see the base of the Thunder chair. Here’s a photo of Amphitheater, and the base of the Thunder chair is just to the right of the trees in the lower part of this photo:

So now let’s ride to the top of the Thunder chair, where you’ll have lots of choices ranging from easy-going to hairball. At the top of the Thunder chair, you’ll have a choice of going straight ahead or turning left to head back down toward the chair.

Here’s some of what you’ll see at the top of Thunder. If you go straight from the chair and then angle right, you come to Upper Amphitheater. This photo shows the way, with the Expert Chutes cliffs up above (those are discussed in the steeper-skiing section):

For now, though, we’re skiing in the easy-going department, so turn left off the chair and you’ll see this sign:

Go past the sign and down under the chair for about a hundred yards toward the huge tram tower. Just above the tram tower, you can turn left onto a wide cat track. This route will lead you to upper Amphitheater, which is usually groomed every night and offers wide open cruising all the way back to the base of the chair. This run has a delightful variety of gentle slopes, slightly steeper sections, and little shoulders and rollers. Here’s Upper Amphitheater as viewed from over near the Bridger Gondola, showing the top of the Thunder chair:

If you keep going downhill from the tram tower instead of turning left onto Upper Amphitheater, you’ll negotiate a little steep section known as the Egg Carton and then you can bear slightly right onto Grand. Grand is, well, grand. It’s very wide, a little steeper than Amphitheater, and sunny (if the sun’s shining). It’s just a delightful run. At the bottom of Grand, you can either ski right the Sublette Quad or turn left onto the catwalk (South Pass Traverse) and ski back to the base of the Thunder chair. Here’s a photo of Grand and the base of the Sublette chairlift:

Those of you looking for some serious challenges will also find it from the Thunder chair. Really sporty runs like Tower 3 Chute, Mushroom Chutes, Hoop’s Gap, and the Gold Mine Chutes are all reached from Thunder. Thunder Run, Jackson’s most famous bump run, goes right under the chair, and Riverton Bowl runs directly beneath the tram cables. More on all of those options in the steeper skiing guide.

So let’s continue our tour by taking Grand run down to the base of the Sublette Quad. This chair rises up through the area known as Laramie Bowl (the big area to your right as you’re riding up). Directly to your left as you ride will be the Alta Chutes. These are expert terrain and you’ll see plenty of skiers making their way down them as you ride up. The chutes are numbered from the top down, so the first one you’ll pass as you’re riding the chair is Alta Chute 3. You’ll then cross a little rock outcropping and pass a couple of narrow, ominous-looking slots through the trees and rocks – those are Alta 2.5 and 2. Then you’ll pass a very obvious chute coming all the way down from the high ridgeline on the left. This is Alta 1 and it’s the most popular of the Alta Chutes. Just uphill of that is a roped-off cliff-and-rock area known as Alta Zero. This area is usually closed but occasionally opens. See if you can pick out the lines through here. Once you pass the Alta Chutes, you’ll soon ride over an obvious cat-track leading from left to right. This is the Laramie Traverse. The spot almost below you where the cat-track makes an abrupt left is known as Flip Point. Pepi Stiegler, former Olympic ski racing champion and original Ski School Director at JH, used to fly down the cat-track and do flips from that dropoff - hence the name Flip Point. That was 30 years ago, by the way.

Here’s a photo of Laramie Bowl looking back down from the chair just above Flip Point:

When you get to the top of the Sublette Chair, you can either unload left or right. Going right leads you to Tensleep Bowl, the Cirque, and the Expert Chutes. None of that terrain is groomed and on average it’s pretty difficult skiing, so if you’re still looking to get oriented, let’s turn left. You’ll angle down a cat-track and soon find yourself at the bottom of Rendezvous Bowl. The Bowl above you is the primary way down from the top of the aerial tram. You can take a look at the pitch and conditions of Rendezvous Bowl and decide whether you want to ride the tram a little later.

Here’s a photo of Rendezvous Bowl from the road leading to Rendezvous Trail, with Cheyenne Bowl dropping off the right edge of the road in this photo:

From the trail sign at the bottom of Rendezvous Bowl, you’ve got two general choices. Going skier’s left will put you on the Laramie Traverse, which winds back past Flip Point, under the Sublette Chair, around the top of Laramie Bowl, and ends at the saddle at the top of the Thunder Chair. If you follow the road right from the bottom of Rendezvous Bowl, you’ll be on Rendezvous Trail. This is usually groomed nightly and offers an excellent way back down to the bottom of the Sublette Chair.

As you start down Rendezvous Trail, you’ll see many options for dropping down into the basin on your left. This is Cheyenne Bowl and Bivouac Run, which are pretty steep and often very mogulled, but they’re north-facing and the snow usually is very high quality. If you stay on Rendezvous Trail, however, you’ll cross a bit of a flat and a short, steeper section. At the base of that section is another rollover going left as well as a cat-track going skier’s right. That cat-track leads to the top of North and South Hoback. Here’s the sign leading to the Hobacks:

The Hobacks can be pretty challenging depending on conditions, and once you’ve started down that cat-track there’s nowhere to go but down almost 3,000 vertical feet to the bottom, so make sure you’re feeling good about your skiing before heading off to the Hobacks.

If you stay on Rendezvous Trail, you’ll wind up back at the bottom of the Sublette Chair.

So let’s say it’s time to head back down to the bottom of the mountain from here. The South Pass traverse is the road leading away from the base of the Sublette Chair. Here’s a photo:

Follow this road to the base of the Thunder Chair and then just go right on by that chair. A little bit past the Thunder Chair, you’ll come out onto a wide run leading down to the right. This is Gros Ventre (pronounced GROW-vont) and it'll take you all the way to the base of the mountain. Gros Ventre is one of my favorite runs at Jackson Hole. It’s wide with a moderate pitch and just a couple of nearly imperceptible rollers along the way. Early in the morning when there’s no traffic, you can REALLY let your skis fly down here. Once you’re on the flat almost at the bottom of the mountain, look for an intersection on the left. Bearing left will take you back to the base of the Teewinot Chair and the Bridger Gondola. Staying right (straight) takes you to the tram.

So rather than stopping for lunch just yet, let’s take a quick drink from the Camelback, wolf down a Power Bar, and board the Bridger Gondola. This lift whisks you and seven of your friends uphill in total enclosed comfort. About halfway up, you’ll see the Casper Chair area off to your right. Higher up, you’ll go over some of the gladed skiing available in upper Sundance Gully.

When you unload from the gondola, you’ll be looking south. You’ll see the top of the Thunder Chair over on the other side of Amphitheater Run, and you’ll see the tram towers and maybe one of the tram cars climbing to the top. From the top of the gondola, you can angle down and left on Sundance Run and wind up back over at the Casper Chair or follow Sundance Bowl and Sundance Gully all the way back to the bottom of the gondola. Here’s the sign you would look for if you want to go that direction:

From the top of the gondola you can also angle down and right on Lupine Way and come out in the middle of Amphitheater. That, if you remember, will take you back to the bottom of the Thunder Chair. Instead of either of those choices, let’s do upper Gros Ventre run. Ski down Lupine Way for a couple hundred yards and then go straight when the cat track heads off to the right. Here’s a photo from that junction:

If you go down at that sign (rather than turning right on Lupine Way), you’ll find yourself on Upper Gros Ventre and it’s a playful series of steeper and flatter sections. A couple of cat-tracks cross the run in places, so pay attention or you might find yourself getting launched when you didn’t expect it. This run eventually comes down onto the lower section of Gros Ventre that you did just a little earlier.

THIS time when we get almost to the very bottom of the mountain, let’s go straight on Gros Ventre and ski to the tram building. It’s time for a bit of rest and some fuel before we head up the aerial tram. Some of the choices nearby are Nick Wilson’s in the tram building (cafeteria-style food), the Village Café in the Wildernest Building just to skier’s right of the tram dock, the Mangy Moose a couple more buildings down, or the Alpenhof Bistro, which is upstairs in the Alpenhof Hotel just skier’s left of the tram.

If you’re looking for a bit more leisurely, civilized lunch, the Alpenhof dining room (ground floor of the hotel) is excellent, Cascade in the Teton Mountain Lodge (the big building to the south and west of the skating rink) is a nice, quiet place, and the two restaurants in the Four Seasons are excellent.

I just ran out of space for this post, so our tour is continued on the next post.....
post #2 of 15
Thread Starter 

Upated Guide to Jackson Hole - Part 2

Okay, we’ve refueled and we’re going up the tram.

Head into the maze at the corner of the tram building and work your way through the line. It’s impossible to say how long the line might be, because it just depends on conditions. If you get to the dock and find that the maze is full with people spilling off the deck and onto the snow, that means it’s probably a two-car wait to get on the tram.

A full car goes about every ten minutes, so you would have a twenty-minute wait if the maze is full to the end of the deck. That’s not necessarily as bad as it sounds. Keep in mind that the tram is going to take you up 4,139 vertical feet. That’s two, three, or even four times more vertical than most of the lifts you’ll ride in the U S, so a little extra wait isn’t such a horrible thing.

Each tram car holds 100 people, and it might feel cramped. Unless you’re a madman gunner who has to be first out of the tram at the top, I think it’s best to be among the first people to load when they open the doors at the bottom. That way, you can get into one of the front or back corners and you won’t get jammed by all the people laying back trying to be the last ones on (and therefore the first ones off).

If you happen to be near a left-side (looking up) window on the way up, keep an eye out for Corbet’s Couloir near the top. It will come into view after you cross over Tensleep Bowl, and you can have a bird’s eye look at Jackson’s most famous ski run.

And here’s what the top station looks like:

There’s a small restaurant in the building at the top if you’re looking to sit for a minute (they have a great waffle maker), but let’s go skiing. When you unload at the top, it’ll be interesting to see what the weather is doing. It’s not unusual for the wind to be blowing *hard* up there, and it might be pretty cold. It also might be so foggy you can’t see a thing. It also might be sunny, in which case you’ll see some of the most amazing scenery anywhere in the world.

The tram unloads essentially at the top of Rendezvous Bowl, which is nearly half a mile wide with about 800 vertical feet. From the top of the tram, most people ski past the little patrol shack/restaurant and angle skier’s right across the top of the Bowl. That’s what you’re seeing in the photo above.

Before we do that, I’ll just mention that if you want (for some twisted reason) to go look at Corbet’s, you would head straight down and slightly left from the building. You’ll go through some scattered, stunted spruce trees (you’re right at timberline here) and watch for all the fencing and caution signs. That’s Corbet’s. You can duck under the ropes (unless Corbet’s is closed) and slink up to the edge to get a TRUE feel for what the run is like. Here’s what it looks like:

Then, if you’re like me most of the time, you’ll back away and ski out to your right right onto Rendezvous Bowl.

So, now we’re back along the top of the Bowl. There are literally unlimited choices on the Bowl because it’s so huge and open. If the weather is really bad, most people work their way down the left side of the bowl because there are a lot of trees along there to help provide definition.

There is also a set of poles with green markers going skier’s right along the top of the bowl. These lead to another set of poles with black markers. This set of poles goes straight down the middle of the bowl. In really bad visibility, I’ll use that set of markers to provide a landmark.

If the visibility is good, you can just look around and pick whatever line you like. The Bowl is high, exposed, and faces southeast, so conditions can be all over the map. It can be one of the most amazing powder experiences anywhere, or it can truly suck. If it’s good, just pick a line and ski to the big trail map at the bottom of the Bowl. If it’s bad, you can do huge long traverses punctuated by a gorilla turn and get yourself to the bottom of the Bowl without too much trepidation.

Once you’re at the bottom of Rendezvous Bowl, you’re back where I described when we came off the Sublette Chair. You can follow Rendezvous Trail toward the Hobacks or the bottom of the Sublette quad, you can take the Laramie Traverse toward the Thunder area, or you can launch yourself down into Cheyenne Bowl (the big basin below you) in a bunch of different places.

So, that’s our tour. If you’re not tired and battered by the time you get to the bottom, head back up the tram and ski one of the Lower Faces (a topic for another essay).
If you’re worn out, save a little energy for tomorrow. Go have a beer at the Mangy Moose or the Alpenhof Bistro or the Peak Bar at the Four Seasons.

post #3 of 15
Stunningly vague and lacking useful information

Can't thank you enough Bob and I hope to at least view all of this during the gathering
post #4 of 15
Thanks for the update, Bob. Just printed a full-color copy to take with us- we leave Greenville for JH tomorrow afternoon. Probably won't get much sleep tonight. I don't know who's more excited about our first trip there- the parents or the kids. We'll certainly follow your suggested routes. Thanks again.
post #5 of 15
YESSSSS!!!! We arrive Monday!

Nobody is a better ambassador for Jackson Hole than Bob Peters. I'll expand that, nobody is a better ambassador for any ski area than Bob.
post #6 of 15
Great writeup Bob, thanks.
post #7 of 15
Perfect timing Bob! A little more than a month till my arrival, so plenty of time to study up

post #8 of 15

Great stuff as always. People would pay real money for this inside info. I know I would.
post #9 of 15
I agree with Living Proof. Bob's guides are awesome! The guys who post on this board from the Jackson area are all great ambassadors.

I can't wait to see the updated "STEEP VERSION." I heard a rumor that it contains video of Bob hucking Corbet's!
post #10 of 15
Bob, What a great Guide. I spent 7 seasons at JH starting in 73 thru 80, and then back every other year. Still the best in the US. Am planning a trip end of Feb or 1st of March. Thanks again for a great update.
post #11 of 15
Thanks, Bob! We'll be there Thursday evening - just in time to head over to Bubba's! On the hill Friday - Tuesday!
post #12 of 15
Thanks for the update. As I've said before, it was Googling your JH Guide that led me to Epicski in the first place.
post #13 of 15
wow...this is incredible. Awesome work...hopefully I'll make it out there next year.
post #14 of 15
It would be awesome to have guides like this for some of the other mountains...like Alta, Breckenridge, Park City...etc.

This is just awesome.
post #15 of 15
This is what we were talking about with the resort insider Lars dreamed up.
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