Jackson Hole at 50
By William Triplett
Jackson Hole Mountain Resort is looking pretty good for 50. The storied ski mecca celebrates its golden jubilee this season, and it’s a bit of an understatement to say a lot has changed since 1965.
Long known primarily for nuthin’-but-steep-and-deep chills and thrills for experts with at least a mild death wish, in recent years JHMR has carved an extensive network of intermediate and beginner trails into the mountainside. Unlike the old days, upscale dining and lodging aren’t hard to find, and off-mountain activities and attractions are plentiful. The eye-widening drops and chutes are still there (Corbett’s Couloir, anyone?), but never has Jackson Hole been more welcoming to skiers of all levels and their families than now.
Not being a member of the double-black diamond corps, I didn’t make my maiden visit to Jackson Hole until just this past February. If I had to summarize it for Twitter, I’d say: Easily the most fun I’ve had trying to up my abilities on challenging–sometimes scary–terrain; ate, drank and slept very well. I was there just shy of a week, and ever since I’ve been looking forward to going back.
From Teton Village down at the base, you can get a good sweeping look the vast expanse of the 2,500-acre resort, which is essentially divided into three segments rising from right to left. It starts on the right with the Apres Vous Mountain at roughly 8,500 feet elevation, continues to the Gondola Summit at 9,100 feet in the center, and crests with Rendezvous Mountain at 10,450 feet.
Generally I like double-blues and the occasional single-black, with a preference for wide groomers. I had no problem finding any such runs. Skiing them? Different story. Single-blacks I’ve skied at most resorts have nothing on the double-blues at Jackson. And the JHMR single-blacks are, let’s just say, a bit tougher than others I’ve been on.
I discovered this after my first ride up the ultra-sleek Tram, which airlifts you to the top of Rendezvous Mountain and the start of the Rendezvous Bowl, which is neither groomed nor blue. But it’s big. Since it’s the only way down other than Corbett’s (no, thanks), I figured there was no point finding out whether it was single- or double-black. I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t often ugly with at least one tumble, but I made it – and at times actually felt really good.
Still, I felt more suited to the blues – 40 percent of the total 116 trails! – and so stayed with Gondola Summit and Apres Vous, where the majority of them are. The double-blues were, for me, plenty demanding, but also enormous fun. I found myself smiling wider – and skiing better – with each run. Back in the day, I imagine you already had to know what you were doing on skis before you took on Jackson Hole. Nice to know you can come here now and choose runs that are only as tough as you can handle, appealing to just about everyone from newbies in skiing 101 classes all the way to adrenalin junkies still looking for that steep-and-deep fix.
Admittedly, much my own improvement over several days was due to having been able to test-drive a pair of DPS Wailer skis. More on those amazing boards and the Jackson scene in my next report. Meantime — Happy 50th, JMHR.