The Great Rocky Snowfari: From Jackson Hole to Big Sky

Nestled in the northern Rocky Mountains close to the orgiastic beauty of Yellowstone National Park, three ski resorts offer the perfect antidote for the crowd-weary U.S. skier. Like its host state of Wyoming (which boasts a mere five people per square mile), Jackson Hole and Grand Targhee provide untrammeled, uncrowded access to snow-covered wild lands. Meanwhile, Montana's Big Sky sits smack dab in the middle of nearly 10,000 acres of nowhere, an unaffected major-league resort perched at the base of aptly named Lone Mountain. You can easily work your legs into rubber at any of these resorts, but their close proximity—and the beckoning beauty of Yellowstone—begs the adventurous to take on all three within a single week.
Start off in Jackson Hole. Since 1965, when the first tram hauled skiers up the 4,139-foot vertical of Jackson's Rendezvous Peak, visitors have been lured to this infamous summit. It's hard to beat the legendary Corbet's Couloir, where the bold and daring launch off a cliff and drop 20 feet into a narrow, zig-zag chute. If you're apprehensive, the resort offers classes for this feat alone. The Hobacks, three chutes each dropping 3,000 vertical feet, reinforce Jackson's extreme reputation.
Grand Targhee lies only 42 miles northwest of Jackson on the west side of the Teton Range. This lesser-known resort averages an astounding 500 inches of snow per year, which translates into an average of one foot of snow every four days during the season—and if you don't like the snow, you get your money back. The new high-speed quad lift, the Sacajawea, provides access to 500 new acres on Peaked Mountain, increasing Targhee's tow-peaked terrain by 25 percent.
As you drive away from Grand Targhee, an even more pristine landscape awaits. Yellowstone's majestic canvas, laden in white, unfurls on the horizon. Don a pair of cross-country skis—or give your legs a rest and hop on a snowcat or snowmobile—to experience the true grandeur of America's oldest national park.
Only 18 miles into Montana from Yellowstone, Big Sky Resort presents a seemingly endless 3,600 acres of unsullied terrain, and its new tram to 11,166-foot Lone Peak has made this resort the U.S.'s top vertical leviathan. Three above-the-tree-line bowls, with slopes that exceed 50 degrees, crown over 4,380 vertical feet stretching across a vast network of ski-anywhere runs. Snowboarders will find the best terrain on Crazy Horse, but skiers of all levels will find thrills on Big Sky's three mountains. Shuttles run regularly to the airport at Bozeman, an hour's drive from Big Sky, transporting you back to your more mundane pre-snowfari existence, decidedly worn out but ready to do it all over again.

Published: 5 Dec 2002 | Last Updated: 14 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


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