With more than 500 inches of snowfall each winter, Grand Targhee Resort is perfectly happy to be the Tetons' lesser known ski destination. Celebrating its 50th anniversary this year, Targhee is tucked away on the western slope of the Tetons above Driggs, Idaho, but actually resides in the very last edge of Wyoming. It doesn't get as much fanfare as Jackson Hole Mountain Resort, but has long been one of the West's best kept skiing and snowboarding secrets. With boatloads of snow and a nice, laid-back vibe, one gets the feeling Targhee prefers it this way.
- Where? Targhee is nestled in the "other" side of the narrow Tetons, technically in Wyoming but just a 20-minute drive east of Driggs, Idaho, and a one-hour drive over Teton Pass/Hwy 22 from Jackson's downtown.
- When? 9 a.m.-4 p.m., Nov. 17, 2018 to late April, depending on conditions.
- Getting There: Targhee has a few hotels of its own, but not many. Most skiers will be driving up for the day. It's a very simple drive of nearly exactly one hour from Jackson, following their great directions.
- Ages: Anyone who can ski, snowboard, or wants to try!
- Cost: Single day adult tickets this winter max out at $90, with good discounts for senior, junior, beginner lifts only, and multi-day tickets. Kids under 5 and anyone learning on the magic carpet are FREE!
- Duration: Lifts at Targhee run from 9 a.m.-4 p.m.
- Intensity: A delightful change of pace from its big brother across the Tetons at Jackson Hole Mountain Resort, Targhee offers a consistently calmer atmosphere with excellent skiing for all abilities and plenty of challenge if you look for it.
- Highlights: Not seeing anybody. Seriously, Targhee is one of the least crowded resorts you've ever skied. Come for a powder day and make fresh tracks on your last run.
- Lowlights: Not seeing anything. Targhee's beautiful go-anywhere treeless skiing at the top of the main Dreamcatcher lift can be less awesome when its socked in with clouds and you can't tell up from down. On the bright side, it's probably snowing again. Head to Sacajawea instead and stay near the trees for better visibility!
What's With All The Snow?
We'll say it again in case you didn't get the message. There’s one statistic that should stand out when you consider a trip to Grand Targhee Resort: 500 inches. That’s the average amount of light, dry powder that pummels this laid-back Wyoming resort each season. Skiers on both sides of the Tetons are thankful for those eastbound storms rumbling over from the Pacific, but they like them just a little bit more on the western side at Targhee. The storm clouds get snagged on the jagged peaks of the Tetons and literally smush into each other above their western slopes, depositing consistent, double-digit dumps on Targhee's 2,602 acres of glades, bowls and groomed runs.
Traveler Tip: Somehow, Targhee is locally known for under-reporting its daily snowfall—you just can't shake the feeling that the resort's loyal skiers enjoy having it all to themselves.
Skiing and Snowboarding
Grand Targhee is no Jackson Hole, but it sure does make a great neighbor. With a vertical drop of 2,419 feet, Targhee is a smaller proposition. It feels more like a hidden gem than a world-leading ski destination, which is absolutely part of its charm.
For starters, you can ski every last nook and cranny of the mountain and the obstacles are fairly apparent. Read: obvious, not easy. The whole mountain is as high as the main Dreamcatcher quad chair and made up of tree-dotted bowls, rolling groomers, elegant glades, and winding gullies. Skiing at Targhee is about skiing with plenty of room. Did we mention, fewer people?
If you're looking for a challenge, Targhee's trickiest runs come less in the form of steeps and more in the shape of trees with narrower and narrower spacing. The gladed skiing is excellent and there are plenty of forested areas to confidently explore. If you want the thrill, there are some startling steeps along a wide but fairly short cliff band just north off the top of the Sacajawea lift, or in the inbound hike-to terrain on Mary's Nipple.
On the other side of the spectrum, Targhee has a great beginner area that is helpfully set off to the side from most of the main thoroughfares. The Shoshone lift has its own zone of fun green runs to learn on without anybody buzzing by you.
Early Tracks Option and Ski Camps
Early Tracks at Targhee is your access to Wyoming’s best-kept secret before the lifts open to the public. Start your day on untouched, untracked lines or pristine groomers with a seasoned mountain guide from 8 to 9:30 a.m. Early Tracks is for intermediate skiers and above and costs $89. Lift ticket not included.
Grand Targhee’s “Knowledge Is Powder” Off Trail Camps include three days of coaching, video analysis, social events, lift tickets, cat skiing and more. Choose from All-Mountain Camp or All-Mountain plus Snowcat Camp.
Grand Targhee Ski & Snowboard School
Grand Targhee's Ski & Snowboard School offers adult lessons (age 15 and up) for all levels and disciplines including alpine, snowboard, Telemark, and Nordic. Lessons are available for the tiniest of skiers and boarders, too. Lessons are supported by licensed child care facility and aim to have three children per instructor. Kids ages 5 and under ski free. "Powder Scouts" lessons are for those ages 6 to 14.
Snowcat and Nordic Skiing
Grand Targhee also offers Wyoming's only snowcat skiing operation in a specially designated area off the backside. The idea is more about beautiful fresh tracks rather than extreme terrain, and the views are spectacular.
You and 11 other skiers and boarders will experience 8,000 to 14,000 vertical feet in just one day of unbelievable deep, dry Teton powder in Grand Targhee's vast terrain only accessible to Snowcat Adventures. Cost: $450 for a full-day, which includes hot beverages, lunch and snacks. Check website for details.
Snow Tubing and Fat Biking
The Tube Park is open Wednesday through Sunday at Targhee. Hours are 3 to 7 p.m. Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, and noon to 7 p.m. on weekends. Cost: $15 and riders must be at least 42 inches tall.
Grand Targhee Resort was the first ski resort in the United States to embrace and endorse winter fat bikes on the Nordic trail system. Fat bikers who purchase a Nordic day ticket have access to ride on the trails. Jolly Green Giants and the Rick’s Basin Trails are the most popular for fat biking. Bike rentals on-mountain are available at Teton Mountain Outfitters. If you are just learning how to fat bike or want to start, then the “Fat Me Up” Package is the perfect start. It includes a 2-hour group lesson, fat bike rental and an all-day trail pass.
Ski Shops and Rentals
On-mountain ski and snowboard rental shops include The Grand Targhee Resort Rental and Demo Shop. Packages start at $25 for kids 12 and under (skis/boots/poles), and $55 for adults. The Board Shop's snowboard packages start at $25 for kids 12 under, and $45 adults. Teton Mountain Outfitters offers fat bike rentals as well as the latest ski clothing and equipment. It also has master boot fitters on-hand.
There are several on-mountain eatery options for the Targhee skier. The General Store has snacks and grab-and-go deli selections, as well as convenience store sundries. Snorkels has a variety of specialty coffee drinks and hearty breakfast options featuring pancakes, omelets, waffles, baked-from-scratch pastries and breakfast burritos. Wild Bill’s is a full-service resort cafeteria serving lunch and snack options daily. For a family-friendly, casual atmosphere try the Branding Iron Grill for lunch or dinner. And no ski day at Targhee is complete without checking out the world famous Trap Bar, a favorite for après ski food and drink and hearing live music.
The Last Word
With Jackson Hole Mountain Resort nearby, you aren't going to come to Targhee for the excitement at the base (though everyone loves the Trap Bar), or the extreme skiing. You'll come to Targhee to spend a wonderful day enjoying winter solitude on the mountain. You'll come for the ease of getting those fresh tracks and the fact that they last all day. You'll come for the friendly charm, the stunning views back across flat Idaho farmland and the delightful change of pace.
For some, the intensity or costs at Jackson Hole Mountain Resort aren't how they see their ski vacation, while the pace over at Targhee is just right. Luckily, both places offer fantastic skiing so you'll be smiling either way. Since most of the area's visitors travel here for Jackson Hole, it's important to know that Targhee makes a great day trip for the whole family to mix it up during a JHMR ski vacation. If you did come for Jackson Hole you might not spend the whole week skiing at Targhee, but it's more than worth the visit. Did we mention it gets more snow?
Locals Tip: Every April before the resort closes down for the ski season, it hosts one of the most unusual and hilarious events: The Cardboard Box Derby. Watch as cardboard artists and mechanics turn little more than cardboard, paper, tape, glue and string into the most creative sculptures that you can think of like dragons, race cars, UFO’s and other themes. A must-see!
All photos provided by Grand Targhee Resort.