So you’ve booked a ski vacation to Jackson Hole — awesome! Jackson Hole Mountain Resort is world-class and sure to satisfy all levels of skiers. But why come all the way to Jackson Hole and not experience seeing wildlife up close and personal, or visiting the National Museum of Wildlife Art while you’re at it? The Jackson area is also a mecca for those who enjoy cross-country skiing and snowshoeing beneath the Tetons. You really should consider taking a day off the slopes and enjoy some of the other activities that make this area so incredibly special.
Here are a dozen suggestions.
1 & 2. Go Snowmobiling or Take a Sleigh Ride
There are two activities in Jackson Hole that you won’t find anywhere else on earth: snowmobiling through Yellowstone National Park and taking a horse-drawn sleigh ride on the National Elk Refuge.
Yellowstone National Park is closed to vehicular traffic in winter, making a snowmobile tour on the park’s snow-covered roads a truly once in a lifetime experience. Scenic Safaris’ snowmobile tours are a Jackson Hole must-do. With Scenic Safaris you’ll get to see the park as very few do–with no crowds and no cars. The tour is an all-day, 12-hour round-trip adventure and the early morning and early evening hours present some of the best wildlife viewing opportunities while you make your way to and from our country’s first national park.
Sleigh Ride on the National Elk Refuge: Riding on a horse-drawn sleigh is one of the most unrivaled ways to enjoy the winter landscape and to get up close to certain species of wildlife. Cozy up with a lap robe, sip hot mulled cider and enjoy this classic winter pastime as you absorb Jackson Hole's spectacular scenery. You can join the sleigh ride from the National Elk Refuge and Greater Yellowstone Visitor Center on Cache—it’s located just a few blocks north of Jackson’s Town Square. You’ll thrill at being surrounded by a herd of wild elk, with your sleigh driver and guide sharing information about the refuge. Elk aren’t the only wildlife you’ll see, either: eagles, coyotes, bison, foxes and even wolves can sometimes be spotted, too! Reservations are suggested, as the sleigh rides are run on a first-come, first-served basis.
3. Explore Grand Teton National Park on Snowshoes
With most of the roads in Grand Teton National Park closed in the winter, a half- or full-day cross-country ski or snowshoe tour with an outfitter such as EcoTour Adventures or Hole Hiking Experience offers a truly distinct glimpse into the park's winter habitat. Each company offers a variety of tours, including combo adventures where you can see wildlife, take the sleigh ride on the elk refuge and more.
Park ranger-led snowshoe tours are also available from 1:30 to 3:30 p.m. on Wednesdays and Fridays until March 15th. Reservations are required: Call 307-739-3399 for more details.
One of our favorite tools to use as it applies to skiing or snowshoeing in Grand Teton National Park and the backcountry in general is JH Nordic. The website features GPS trail maps as well as current updates on grooming and snow conditions for all the latest safety guidelines before you go.
4. Visit the National Museum of Wildlife Art
When you decided to travel to Jackson Hole for the skiing you probably never guessed that your trip to the northwest corner of Wyoming would include the chance to check out a national art museum. Surprise! Jackson Hole is the proud location of the National Museum of Wildlife Art, a world-renowned collection of wildlife and Western artistic creations. Consistently ranked as one of Jackson Hole’s top attractions, the museum is built into a hillside overlooking the National Elk Refuge. In addition to galleries, the museum boasts a gift shop, interactive children’s gallery, Palate café and outdoor sculpture trail.
5. Treat Yourself To a Day of Wellness
Pampering yourself on vacation and embracing wellness is simply a must! Whether your muscles are shot from non-stop skiing or you’re in search of a rejuvenating couple’s massage experience, a visit to a spa will help. Wellness spas are located inside most of the resort hotels in Teton Village and a few in town, such as the brand-new Grand View Spa at Snow King Resort. You can also contact Massage Professionals of Jackson Hole for an in-home/in-hotel massage or get your muscles relieved in their facility.
Healing Waters Therapeutic Float Center features the ultimate in relaxation: zero-gravity floating and an infrared sauna. Among other things, floating in magnesium is great for your skin and absorption. Couples can also choose a full-spectrum infrared sauna. Full-spectrum infrared sauna helps with cell health, skin purification wound healing, relaxation and pain relief. The center also offers Emsculpt NEO, a non-surgical body-contouring treatment. Healing Waters is located at 250 Scott Lane, Suite 105.
Hydrate, Hydrate, Hydrate! Hydration therapy will truly have you feeling your best. Improving overall health and wellness or athletic performance... Restore hydration and rebalance your body through the use of minimally invasive IV hydration therapy enjoy your vacation! Mobile and in-house IV Hydration Therapy Services— RemedeCo.
Keep up your yoga practice—or try it for the first time—at one of the yoga studios in town. Inversion Yoga is a local favorite and offers a diverse line-up of classes. Teton Yoga Shala is located in the Aspens off Teton Village Road—the perfect location if you are staying in the Village for your ski vacation.
Eating healthy will really help you keep up your stamina. Check out Healthy Being Juicery as well as Picnic and Persephone Bakery or Snake River Roasting and Cafe for organic and/or healthy options for your body.
6. Watch Winter Wildlife
Though the bears are still hibernating, winter is a good time to see large animals in Jackson Hole and Grand Teton National Park. Elk and moose migrate to lower elevations in winter and the lack of leafy cover combined with the valley's snowpack make for easy viewing. For the best chance of seeing critters of all shapes and sizes, embark on a half- or full-day trip with one of the area's experienced wildlife safari outfitters. Guided by a trained biologist and conducted from the comfort of a specially equipped van with spotting scopes and a large sunroof, you will remember this excursion forever.
7. Go Shopping On Town Square
There’s nothing like a little “retail therapy” as well as getting a feel for the town of Jackson by taking a walk on the wooden sidewalks of Jackson's historic Town Square.
Check out Jackson’s locally-owned shops which are filled with curated collections of treasures that include everything from one-of-a-kind art to T-shirts for the kids. There are jeans and cowboy boots for all, or if you’re game, go for the locally crafted jewelry or a chic handcrafted cowboy hat. Most shops are owned by local characters or informed local outdoor experts who will help you choose something great as they share a love for Jackson Hole.
We suggest shopping local, buying local at Teton Mountaineering, MADE, Belle Cose, JD High Country Outfitters, Skinny Skis, Valley Bookstore, Workshop, Two Grey Hills, New West Knifeworks and Grit General. Consider getting a custom cowboy hat fitting with JW Bennett. To purchase original, Teton-inspired jewelry, pop into DanShelley Jewelers. And be sure to visit to Yippy-I-O candy emporium. Your sweet tooth won't know what hit it!
8. Ride a Mountain Coaster, Snow Tube
Snow King Mountain, known to locals as the "Town Hill," is the oldest ski area in Wyoming, not to mention a fun-filled destination for an afternoon of winter activities.
King Tubes is a guaranteed hit for the whole family and real excitement under the lights until 7 p.m. There are three smooth, groomed lanes; a rope tow takes you up the hill. You'll find the long chutes and giant backstop of the tubing area right at the base of Snow King. Kids must be at least 42″ tall to ride and there’s only one person per tube allowed. The Town Hill also boasts the only Cowboy Coaster in the state. It zips, twists and turns through nearly a mile of loops, curves and drops—some as high as four stories tall. Open year-round, windscreens are installed on every cart in winter for added protection against the typical seasonal elements. This is a thrill not to be missed as there are very few mountain coasters in the United States!
9. Learn About Jackson's History
Founded more than 50 years ago, the Jackson Hole Historical Society & Museum offers a place where "the Old West is still alive." Current exhibits include "Homesteading in the Hole" and "Wyoming Women" and there are more than half a dozen permanent exhibits to check out, too. Admission is $10 adults/$6 students and free for kids age 5 and under. The museum is located on Town Square at 225 N. Cache. ***
*** IMPORTANT NOTE: The history museum and store will be closed during the winter of 2024, as a brand new building and campus is being built on the historic Van Vleck Block adjacent to protected Greenspace on Town Square. It is set to open in the summer.
10. Soak In a Hot Springs
Rest your weary bones in a hot springs pool. Jackson Hole features two of them.
• Astoria Hot Springs Park: Located just minutes south of Hoback Junction (an approximate 20-minute drive from the town of Jackson) in the gorgeous Snake River Canyon, Astoria boasts five hot springs pools, including one dedicated to children only and a new cold plunge pool. Open year-round, multiple soaking sessions of two hours each are available daily beginning at 9 a.m. by reservation only. Cost: $18 adults, $14 for kids ages 2 to 12; under 24 months are free. Call 307-201-5925 or visit astoriahotspringspark.org.
• Granite Hot Springs: During the winter months the hot springs are accessible only via snowmobile, dog sled, cross-country skiing and via fat biking which makes for a memorable adventure all around. Operating hours are 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily until mid-February when it changes to 10 a.m. - 5 p.m. until the closing date. The cost for a soak is $8 for adults and $5 for kids.
11. Tour the Art Galleries
Jackson Hole is one of the top art towns in the West. Offering everything from Western to contemporary visual art and sculpture, our galleries can keep you enthralled for days. Mostly located in and around the Town Square, pick up a gallery map at your first stop and craft an itinerary from there. We recommend you especially visit both Altamira, Turner Fine Art, Cordair Fine Art, Mangelsen Images of Nature and Gallery Wild.
Jackson also boasts a terrific Art Association where you can take a class or two if you are so inclined. The association is located inside the Center for the Arts where it has an art supply store for you traveling painters, sketchers and such to stock up on all you need to capture this glorious area on canvas. Check out the classes offered at artassociation.org.
RELATED STORY: Visit the Center for the Arts
12. Distillery Tours and Tastings
While there are obvious activities to indulge in while on vacation in Jackson Hole—skiing, snowshoeing, snowmobiling, wildlife tours—there is one less obvious and very unique thing to do: visit a local craft vodka distillery. The newest vodka distillery on the scene—and the only one based in Jackson Hole— is Jackson Hole StillWorks. Touring and tasting some home-grown libations is a special experience and you’ll be able to bring home a bottle or two of vodka as a souvenir for yourself and a friend.
Jackson Hole Winery has a tasting room inside New West Knifeworks just off Town Square. Tastings are available daily from 1 to 7 p.m. If craft beer is more to your liking, Jackson boats three such breweries: Snake River Brewing, Roadhouse and StillWest.
RELATED STORY: Cheers to Jackson Hole Breweries