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 Jackson Hole 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 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.
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 as well as a few in town, such as The White Buffalo Club.
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.
A full day of beauty can be had at Elevate Medical Spa and Salon which offers cutting-edge aesthetic treatments including Coolsculpting®, Botox®, and Laser Skin Resurfacing treatments. You can also choose from facials, manicures and pedicures, hair services, waxing, teeth whitening, and even airbrush spray tanning among other salon services.
Elevate is located near Town Square at 260 N Millward Street.
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. The Square features shops, restaurants, galleries and the famous elk antler arches of Jackson's outdoor living room. Luckily for you, there are plenty of places to duck into for an amazing find, a glass of wine, or warming cup of Joe. Got kids in tow? Then a must-do while strolling and shopping is a 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 "Beavers, Beads and Bullets." One admission is good for both locations (225 N. Cache and 105 Glenwood).
10. Soak In a Hot Springs
Rest your weary bones in a hot springs pool. Jackson Hole features two of them.
• 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.
• 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 boast five hot springs pools, including one dedicated to children only. Open year-round, multiple soaking sessions of two-plus hours each are available daily beginning at 9 a.m. by reservation. Cost: $18 adults, $14 for kids ages 2 to 12; under 24 months are free.
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 and Turner Fine Art galleries.
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.
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 Still Works. 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.