Sometimes when you’re in a rut, you don’t know you were in it until you’re out of it. That’s what I learned on my girls’ trip to Jackson Hole last month. For the past several winters prior to this one, I went to Miami and had essentially the same trip (drinks at the latest and hippest hotel, dinner at Prime 112, lots of wine by the pool). And it was great. But heading to Jackson Hole reminded me of why I love to travel—it was a chance to get out of my comfort zone and a break from the routine and expected. And it was a B-L-A-S-T!
Jackson is 100% authentic, from the proud shuttle driver who picked us up at the airport, cowboy hat and all, to the Million Dollar Cowboy bar, that first opened its doors in the 1930s and was the first bar in the state of Wyoming to get a liquor license. There are only about 3 fast food places and the first big drugstore had opened up the week we arrived.
Our Trip to Jackson Hole
I went to Jackson Hole with four girlfriends, two from NYC, one from Minneapolis and one from L.A. On the first day we arrived, we checked into the Teton Mountain Lodge and used the Mountain Direct service to get fitted for our skis. We let them know ahead of time our height, weight and skiing ability and they brought the gear directly to us. The service was seamless and made our arrival that much easier.
From there we headed to the legendary Mangy Moose, named in honor of a very mangy, very stuffed moose. It’s the place for apres ski and offers cocktails and cheap bar food. It was packed when we got there on Friday night around five. We chatted it up with some friendly locals and got the lay of the land.
Then it was off to the Four Seasons, where we had a more grown up cocktail and fancier bar food. Some of us—OK, me,—were ready to call it a night, but the youngest in the group wanted to go into town for the nightlife. Though I was ready to turn in, she shamed me into going by saying, “Don’t you want to experience life?!?” Next thing I knew I was hopping in a taxi for the 30 minute ride into town and sitting on a saddle bar stool at the Million Dollar Cowboy Bar. We line danced and learned about the stuffed bear that legend has it, was killed by a man with his bare hands. I’m glad I went.
The next morning we were up bright and early for skiing. I had a delicious breakfast of ham and cheese crepes and a latte at the Cafe Terra at Hotel Terra. Two of my friends were skiing with me, and after a brief and somewhat annoying assessment, we went off on our own with our instructor Echo. She took us down the bunny hill a few times until we felt comfortable enough to head up the mountain for some longer and slightly more challenging runs.
After about 10 years of not skiing, I was nervous to say the least. But it quickly came back to me and I remembered the utter exhilaration of feeling the wind whip my face as I went (moderately) speeding down the hill. It was amazing and invigorating.
That day, we went to the Handle Bar at the Four Seasons, a sexier more upscale place to apres ski. (That’s how you say “cheers” in any language from its menu, below.) We were all starving after our day on the slopes and we happy to eat all the appetizers on the menu that our host ordered for us. The fried pickles are a must—and I say that as a person who doesn’t like pickles. We were zonked after dinner and decided we had experienced enough life that day that it was OK to call it a night on the early side.
The next day we woke up for a half day of skiing, followed by a long, wine-filled lunch at Colouir at the top of the gondola. There are only black diamond runs down from the gondola, so we hung up our skis early that day. The food was so-so, you can find better options at the base of the mountain, but the view was worth it.
That night we switched hotels and stayed at the TML’s sister property, Hotel Terra. We went in town and had appetizers at Bin 22 a wine and tapas bar and dinner at the steak restaurant underneath the Cowboy Bar. I had high hopes for my filet mignon given that we were in the wild west, but it was disappointing. Then it was back up to the Cowboy Bar for one last round of drinks.
Jackson is a bit of a challenge to get to, which is part of what keeps it so awesome. From the East Coast, you’ll most likely fly through Denver and travelers from the West Coast will go through Salt Lake City.
Things to Know
- Call your taxi well in advance. On the weekend we were there, it took 30 minutes minimum to get a cab.
- The bus costs $1 and runs every 20 minutes. We never did take it.
- Schedule a lesson. This is good advice no matter where you’re skiing and what level skier you are. The instructor can refresh your memory as to the finer points of skiing, point out good trails for your level and share all kinds of insider info.
- Three nights is not enough! I would have enjoyed having a day to check out the Elk Reserve or go snowmobiling, but with two full days, I didn’t have enough time.
- Order the house-made huckleberry vodka at the Cowboy Bar.
When to Go
Next weekend, March 27 to 30, is the First Annual Jackson Hole Rendez Vous. You can sign up for the Pole, Pedal Paddle Race—a mix of alpine and cross country skiing, cycling and boat paddling or The Marmot Coombs Classic – a celebration of skiing in memory of the late Doug Coombs. There will be free concerts throughout the weekend and Michael Franti and Spearhead is headlining.