Wyoming Ski Roundup

Jackson Hole Mountain Resort
  |  Gorp.com

The Jackson Hole Mountain Resort, is, in its own words, "Like nothing you have skied before." This sign, on a t-shirt in nearly every shop in town, hangs above the entrance to the resort's tram dock and goes on to say, "It is huge. With variable terrain from groomed slopes to dangerous cliff areas and dangerously variable weather and snow conditions. You could become lost. You could make a mistake and suffer personal injury or death. Give this mountain the respect it deserves." The cowboys that called Jackson Hole home at the turn of the last century might have been inclined to tell tall tales, but this sign is meant as a very truthful, and serious, warning.

Jackson's nine lifts, aerial tram, and eight-person gondola service 2,500 acres of skiing on two neighboring mountains. An additional 3,000 acres of unpatrolled backcountry terrain in the Bridger Teton National Forest and Grand Teton National Park were opened last season. Excluding the backcountry, 10 percent of Jackson's terrain is beginner, 40 percent intermediate, and 50 percent expert. There are 22 miles of groomed trails, the longest of which is a 7.2-mile traverse of mixed terrain from the 10,450-foot summit of Rendezvous Mountain.

The 94 "official" trails at Jackson include bowls, couloirs, wide-open groomers, trees, and mellow faces. Just as many unofficial trails wind their way down the mountain. Skiers at Jackson tackle its two mountains in one of two ways: rather like children at the local swimming pool, they either jump right into it and take the experts-only aerial tram to the top of Rendezvous Bowl or ease themselves into it by starting with the resort's two beginner lifts, the Teewinot High-Speed Quad and Eagle's Rest double chair. (These two lifts service Jackson's only beginner terrain.)

Completed in 1966 after two years of construction, Jackson's aerial tram is one of only a handful in the country. In ten minutes, it whisks 63 passengers up 4,139 vertical feet to the top of Rendezvous Mountain. Because the tram is the only way to reach Rendezvous' summit, skiers sometimes complain that there is a "long" line—about ten minutes. Skiers in Jackson are spoiled in more ways than one.

From the top of the tram, one can take advantage of Jackson's open backcountry policy and ski off the backside of Rendezvous into Grand Teton National Park or stay inbounds and tackle such Jackson benchmarks as Corbet's Couloir, a double black diamond run. If you don't feel like committing to the 20-foot jump inside the steep ten-foot wide chute, you can watch those who do from either the top or from Tensleep Bowl at the bottom.

The Sublette Quad Chair offers access to several more of Jackson's legendary bowls as well as to some chutes that are not quite as heart-stopping as Corbet's. Rendezvous Trail, a winding, roller-coaster intermediate run from the top of Sublette, provides some great views of surrounding mountains and access to the Hobacks. An experts-only area, the Hobacks will satisfy powder hounds that don't feel like venturing out-of-bounds.

Thunder Lift, also a quad, accesses Laramie Bowl and Tower Three Chute, so-named because it begins at the third tram tower. Heading toward skier's left from the top will get you to some easier expert runs that, in turn, lead to some hidden intermediate terrain.

Article © Dina Mishev.


Published: 28 Apr 2002 | Last Updated: 15 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication

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