Wyoming Ski Roundup

Grand Targhee
  |  Gorp.com
Telephone: 800-TARGHEE
Prices: Approx. $49 adult and $31 seniors and juniors
Skiable acres: 3,500 acres
Operating Hours: 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily

* Skiable acres include backcountry and Snowcat areas.

If it's powder that you are searching for, Grand Targhee, on the western slopes of the Tetons and an hour's drive from Jackson, is a must-visit. "Snow from heaven not hoses" is Targhee's mantra. There is not a single snowmaking machine anywhere on the mountain and Targhee still has more snow than almost any other resort in the country. Storms traveling eastward from the Pacific often get "stuck" on the west side of the massive Tetons and dump twice as much powder there as on the eastern side of the range.

In a good year, Targhee will get over 600 inches—50 feet—of snow; in an average year, they will get 504 inches. In a great year, like '96-'97, they can get nearly 60 feet (just under 700 inches) of snow. "We really only need 350 inches to operate fully and have great powder though," said Susie Barnett-Bushong, Targhee's marketing director. "500 and 600 inches a year are almost a nightmare for us. Other resorts would kill to have our snow problem, but 350 inches is really all we need." Targhee lifties that have been at the resort for decades cannot remember the last time Targhee had less than 400 inches of snow, "if ever," they say. Targhee usually opens earlier and closes later than the Jackson Hole Mountain Resort.

Opened the day after Christmas in 1969, Grand Targhee was bought by George Gillett, the man who previously transformed Vail into the country's most popular resort, in 1996. After nearly three decades of well-meaning but inexperienced owners, Targhee now has a knowledgeable helmsman, and it started to show instantly. Gillett and his Booth Creek Ski Holdings immediately began implementing improvements on the mountain. A high-speed quad chair, Dreamcatcher, began running from the base to the summit in January 1997. One other quad, a double chair, and a new Magic Carpet surface lift whisk skiers to other parts of Fred's Mountain. Peaked Mountain, to the south of Fred's Mountain, is entirely reserved for Snowcat skiing.

More accessible to skiers of all abilities than Jackson, Targhee has 10 percent beginner terrain, 70 percent intermediate terrain, and 20 percent advanced spread over 1,500 acres and 2,200 vertical feet. Even the Snowcat-only Peaked Mountain, which offers an additional 1,500 acres of skiing, has runs of all difficulty levels.

No matter what your ability level, the Teton Vista Traverse, a beginner run descending from the top of the Dreamcatcher lift, is not to be missed. Although Targhee is in Wyoming, it is nestled at the western base of the Tetons and surrounded by the potato fields of Idaho. From the 10,200-foot summit of Fred's Mountain, a very different view of the Grand Teton (at 13,770 feet, the second highest mountain in Wyoming) than the one seen in Jackson looms less than three miles away as the snow flies. Looking at it, keep in mind that pioneer ski mountaineer Bill Briggs skied from the summit of the Grand to the valley floor in 1973.

Targhee's generally treeless and wide-open slopes seem to have been made for the intermediate skier. (The whole upper half of the mountain is above tree line.) The mountain is set up so that even low-level intermediates can travel around the mountain without a map and need not worry about getting themselves lost in expert terrain. Intermediates truly can ski the entirety of Fred's Mountain. It would be easier to ignore Tommy Moe (who, incidentally calls Jackson home) sitting next to you on a chair lift than to find an unpleasant intermediate at Targhee. Chief Joseph Bowl and Sitting Bull are two of the best intermediate groomers. Intermediate powder hounds can hone their skills on Lost Squaw, Blackfoot Bowl, and Floyd's Fantasy, to name but a few.

Expert skiers can get a Nasty Gash, run Patrol Chute, Instructor's Chute, or Powder reserve. Those looking for more adventure can hike or ski over to Mary's Nipple, a neighboring mountain. Teton Gravity Research, a Jackson-based ski film company, filmed the majority of their groundbreaking first movie, The Continuum, in Targhee's backcountry. Much of the expert and backcountry terrain at the Jackson Hole Mountain Resort will also be familiar from that film.

The nightlife at Targhee is quiet and appealing to families. The Trap Bar, the only bar at the base of the mountain, is packed after the lifts shut down, but most visitors to Targhee are day-trippers from Jackson. All three lodges at Targhee are ski-in/ski-out and many of the rooms have been renovated in recent years.

Article © Dina Mishev

Published: 28 Apr 2002 | Last Updated: 8 Nov 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


Sign up to Away's Travel Insider

Preview newsletter »