Jackson Hole is justly famous for its skiing and snowboarding, but don’t stop there! Pack your days this winter with a variety of outdoor activities in exciting new ways or just to rest those ski legs. Find out how you can explore two national parks transformed completely by winter's chill and experience the snowy wilderness as never before.
Want a new way to enjoy Jackson Hole's famous "cowboy powder?" Speed junkies and wildlife lovers alike get their fix with a snowmobiling adventure across Jackson Hole, Togwotee Pass, or in Yellowstone National Park. Local guide services offer a variety of snowmobile trip options tailored to different levels of ability and interest. Whether you want to view wildlife in Yellowstone, hill climb on Togwotee, or cruise to Granite Hot Springs and round out your day of sledding with a dip in a natural hot tub, one of Jackson Hole's expert snowmobile outfitters will have you covered.
2. Heli-Skiing and Snowcat Skiing
How does carving fresh tracks on every run sound? What about a total lack of lift lines? Pretty good, right?
Sign up for a day of Snowcat skiing to experience a memorable ride that delivers untracked snow off the beaten path. Most trips provide guides, lunch and enough powder laps to tire out even the strongest legs. Visit Jackson's neighbor to the west, Grand Targhee, and relish in a day of Snowcat skiing on Peaked Mountain.
For serious skiiers and snowboarders, heli-skiing is the closest you can get to pure Nirvana. Imagine ripping through untracked powder with a trail of snow billowing out behind you like white smoke. High Mountain Heli-Skiing, Jackson Hole's exclusive heli-skiing outfitter, allows you to bomb down pristine slopes of powder and cruise through virgin winter wonderlands in the various mountain ranges that border Jackson Hole. Heli-skiing may be the ultimate way to experience the Teton backcountry, but be warned: It may prove to be addictive!
3. Alpine Skiing and Snowboarding
Serious skiers the world over daydream about winter in the Tetons. With an average annual snowfall of more than 500 inches, Jackson Hole has earned its reputation as a world-class skiing destination.
Snow King Mountain, known as "the Town Hill," packs plenty of excitement into a small area. This hill boasts one of the steepest sustained pitches, top-to-bottom, of any area in the lower 48. It plays host to many national ski teams during the early season and is a popular location for local, state and regional alpine races. Plus, it's a favorite lunch break or post-work lap destination for locals. The "King" also offers night skiing under the lights until 7 p.m.
Jackson Hole Mountain Resort celebrated its 50th season in 2016 and offers what can be considered the closest to a European ski experience within the U.S. With its many acres of expert terrain, longest continuous vertical rise of any ski area in the country and access to thousands of acres of out-of-bounds skiing, few areas can compare. Find all you need to conquer "The Big One" at Jackson Hole Sports, the closest ski shop to Bridger Gondola.
Located on the snowier, western slope of the Tetons, Grand Targhee Resort boasts the most powder days of any area in the country. The 500 inches of snow that fall each year on the resort's 2,602 acres of ski-able terrain solidify Grand Targhee as one of the Rocky Mountain ski world's premier "hidden gems."
4. Backcountry Ski Touring
Jackson Hole is internationally renowned for its backcountry skiing. With access available from within the Jackson Hole Mountain Resort, atop Teton Pass and near Jenny Lake in the Grand Teton National Park, getting into the backcountry is easier than ever. But be warned: It's also easier than ever to find yourself in trouble. Teton County Search and Rescue volunteers and Grand Teton National Park Rangers are dispatched several times a year to extract the unaware or unprepared from the Teton backcountry. That said, it is one of the most incredible and memorable ways to spend time in the wild. All backcountry travelers, regardless of their chosen mode of travel, need to be prepared and knowledgeable for all possible conditions and scenarios. Start at a local shop like Teton Mountaineering or Wilson Backcountry Sports to find out more about necessary information, gear and guides for a successful backcountry experience.
5. Wildlife Viewing
Though the bears are still hibernating, winter is a good time to see large animals in Jackson Hole. 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 wildlife of all shapes and sizes, embark on a safari with an outfitter such as Wildlife Expeditions, guided by a trained biologist and conducted from the comfort of a specially equipped safari van with spotting scopes and a large sunroof.
You'll definitely catch more drama in the winter and never more so than during the chilliest months of December and January. Competition for space and food is increased, while predators like wolves and mountain lions take advantage of prey weakened by the harsh conditions. Late winter is also mating season for wolves, coyotes, bald eagles, owls and ravens.
6. Sleigh Rides
Cozy up with a lap robe, sip hot mulled cider and enjoy this classic winter pastime as you absorb Jackson Hole's spectacular scenery.
If you want to get really close to Jackson Hole's resident elk, consider a sleigh ride on the National Elk Refuge. Tours are conducted by the Bar-T-Five's Elk Refuge Scenic Tours and depart from the Jackson Hole and Greater Yellowstone Visitor Center at 532 North Cache in Jackson between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. daily, mid-December to early April. Dress warmly, as you will be sitting still for about an hour in the open sleigh.
A dinner sleigh ride is a dramatic way to cap off a day in the snow. Mill Iron Ranch offers rides on their ranch among a wintering herd of about 1,500 elk, followed by their famous T-bone steak dinner. Spring Creek Resort offers sleigh rides around the top of East Gros Ventre Butte, affording unsurpassed views of the Tetons on one side and the twinkling lights of Jackson on the other.
If you can walk, you can snowshoe. In addition, a nature hike led by an experienced naturalist who can describe local flora and fauna can complement your winter wandering. Trips are offered by The Hole Hiking Experience, Snow King Resort, Spring Creek Resort, Wildlife Expeditions, or by ranger-naturalists in Grand Teton National Park.
8. Dog Sledding
Run your very own Iditarod during your time in Jackson Hole! Skimming across the snow behind eight dogs hitched to a handmade wooden sled makes for an exhilarating foray into the outdoors. Adventurers of all ages and abilities can enjoy dog sledding. Choose from a day trip to a natural hot spring or to a historic, snowbound lodge. Longer trips include overnight camping "musher style" or a stay in a remote yurt. Whether your idea of heaven is sitting on a soft cushion snuggled deep in fleece blankets while the dogs do all the work, or working up a sweat while driving your own sled, your ideal trip is out there waiting.
9. Snow Tubing
For good old-fashioned wintertime fun, head to King Tubes at Snow King Mountain. Snow tubing is a blast for all members of the family, and no experience is necessary. Picture yourself zipping down one of two courses at the base of Snow King Mountain; tubes are provided and courses are accessed via a rope tow.
10. Cross-Country Skiing
Looking for peace and serenity? A cross-country ski can be the perfect way to spend a day. Rise early and pack a lunch for a day exploring the winter landscapes or steal away for a quick hour of afternoon exercise on the trails near town. With most of the roads in Grand Teton National Park closed in the winter, a cross country ski tour offers a truly unique glimpse into the park's winter habitat.
Multiple options are also available in town and throughout the valley for shorter outings. Popular tours include Cache Creek Canyon to the southeast of the town of Jackson, the Snake River levy between Jackson and Wilson and Bradley and Taggart lakes or the Phelps Lake overlook in Grand Teton National Park. The Inner Loop Road is not groomed past the Taggart Lake trailhead in the wintertime, so you can even enjoy a fast skate ski on a groomed track right at the base of the Tetons. Weather and visibility can change quickly, so bring appropriate layers, extra food and water. JHNordic offers up-to-date trail grooming and condition information on the region's maintained (and often free!) courses.
As you can see, there are many ways to keep yourself occupied during a jam-packed winter sojourn in Jackson Hole. Rather than closing off adventures, the snow opens up new vistas, routes of exploration and days of fun that match every activity level. For more ideas on how to make the most of your winter's stay in the valley, check out some trip descriptions and a checklist for a day off the slopes.