Jackson Hole: Sleeping, Skiing and Dining
By Bill Triplett
Quite a few resorts I’ve skied out West are conscious of being chic in some way, usually by making sure to offer gourmet dining, luxury digs, or boutique shops. But even with its ski-in/ski-out Four Seasons hotel, which debuted in 2003, Jackson Hole feels like it’s still just trying on the upscale look.
You can see this mostly in the town square, a few miles away from the resort, where a frontier look and vibe are still evident, starting with the Million Dollar Cowboy Bar, an updated relic from the 1890s. Its glittering Broadway-style lights, complete with a neon buckeroo riding his bronc, dominate the town square. Inside, saloon history and kitsch prevail – the bar stools are saddles,and Western memorabilia account for most of the decor. I loved it.
Archways made of antlers shed by elk mark the four corner entrances to the square, which is hemmed in by numerous shops, small galleries, and restaurants. Just off the square is the stately Wort Hotel, built in the 1940s and still fitting in with the Old West look of downtown. The Wort also has a great bar for sipping whiskey for anyone seeking a more muted setting than the Million Dollar scene.
I found good eats both in and around the square as well as at Jackson Hole Mountain Resort itself. I wasn’t sure I would, given that I don’t eat meat and this is the heart of beef country. But while steaks and chops are the star attractions on menus here, I also found a fair amount of vegetarian and seafood dishes available. And often prepared with attention to detail: When I ordered the salmon at Cafe Genevieve, the waiter asked, “What temperature do you like it cooked to?” I have no idea if the chef got that part right, but I do know this –it was delicious.
Other restaurants I enjoyed, either around town or at the resort: Snake River Brewery, Bin 22, Il Villaggio Osteria (see my story on owner Gavin Fine), Couloir, and Aspen’s Market (where I was introduced to the pleasures of Wyoming Whiskey). The fare was the right mix of hardy and healthy, and could easily hold its own against the sophisticated culinary dishes and wine lists in Park City or Aspen.
I spent six nights in Jackson – three at the Snow King Hotel, and three at Spring Creek Ranch. Snow King is big, roomy, very ranch-like, and it’s been recently renovated. The staff is friendly, and during the shuttle ride to the mountain,the Snow King drivers often like to regale you with tales of indigenous wildlife they’ve either spotted, wrestled, or both at one time or another. Are they true? Does it matter? They’re very entertaining.
The restaurant at Snow King, Hayden’s Post, is also worth noting. Along with good meals, some pretty spectacular views are on tap near the enormous windows. If the Bison meatloaf doesn’t call to you, try the Fog River trout or the cast iron vegetable lasagna.
At Spring Creek Ranch, I was in one side of a duplex-type condo. The atmosphere inside alternated between rustic and dated, but the working stone fireplace was a real bonus, especially in the evenings. The Spring Creek complex sits high on a ridge in an aerie-like setting that looks down on the valley below. You’re not downtown, but it’s pretty cozy, and the view of the stars on a clear night are amazing.
I took a day off from skiing to check out the National Museum of Wildlife Art, which is about three miles from the town square. As you might expect, you’ll see extensive artwork of wildlife, including works by John Jay Audubon and Georgia O’Keeffe. You might not expect anything by Andy Warhol, but you’ll find it there, too. All told, the museum has about 5,000 artworks featuring animals from around the world. Well worth the visit.
In my first report from Jackson Hole (read it here), I briefly mentioned trying out some new gear at Jackson. The big find: DPS Wailer Pure3 Construction skis. I’ve tried a lot of different skis over the years, but none ever left a particularly distinct impression. Until I tried these. I confess, they weren’t much to look at – basically plain, bright yellowboards – but what DPS ignored in terms of dazzling cosmetics, they put into dazzling performance.
I normally ski 160/65s; because of the DPS construction, I was told to go longer, about 180. I was dubious, until I hit the mountain and felt these things almost turning themselves. Effortlessly. The responsiveness was startling. I felt a lot more confident and capable in crud and mashed potatoes than I ever have.They’re not cheap – about $1,300 without bindings – but they’ve got me thinking.
A set of Giro Blok goggles caught my attention, too. Comfortably snug with a super-widefield of vision, they sport a classic look (especially with the faux wood-grain rims) and good venting. I couldn’t fit them over my glasses – went back to my trusty Scott goggles for that – but with contact lenses on the Blok was a winner for me. Besides, they looked great with the spiffy classic blue MountainHardwear shell I got to try out.
I packed in a lot of plain old-fashioned fun during my stay.With any luck, Jackson won’t get too chic in the future.
Visit Jackson Hole Mountain Resort.