Jackson Hole Ski Resort Review

Jackson Hole, Wyoming

Jackson Hole was rated the #1 resort in North America in 2013 in the annual Ski Magazine reader survey.  This review is based on 3 visits during good powder conditions.

Top of the Tram, December 2013

Top of the Tram, December 2013

Stats and Rating

Real Vertical ? 4,139′, Rank: 4
Size 2,500 Acres, Rank: 34
Annual Snowfall ? 459″ claimed / 368″ actual, Rank: 21
Lift Pods ? 8, Rank: 29
Distinct Trails ? 130, Rank: 20
Review Date December 2013
Number of visits 3
Our Rating ★★★★★
Resort website https://www.jacksonhole.com
Jackson Hole Trail Map 21/22

Jackson Hole Trail Map 21/22

Jackson Hole Review

It was 2013 and Tahoe had very dry conditions and very little terrain open.  We decided to head northeast to where it had actually been snowing.  Jackson Hole had received about 160″ of snowfall by the time we visited during the busy Christmas week.  It was a 750 mile drive from South Lake Tahoe where we celebrated Christmas to the town of Jackson, Wyoming.  It’s a beautiful drive for the most part, and you can really make time in Nevada with an 80 MPH limit on I-80.

Our lodging

We arrived at night and woke up to a spectacular view of Grand Teton from our lodging at Spring Creek Ranch, which is up on a hill above the town.  The restaurant there wins the prize of having the best view of any place we have ever eaten, and the food was great too.

First impression

Jackson Hole is a few miles away from the town. And as you get closer, you start to realize that you are in for a challenging day.  The over 4,000 feet of vertical is completely visible from the base area and seems imposing.  The steeper stuff is on the left under the tram, and the mellower terrain is on the right on Apre Vous.

View from the top of the Gondola, December 2013

View from the top of the Gondola, December 2013

Only one day to ski the whole mountain

We only had one day to ski so we did as much of the mountain as possible.  I (Ron) spent a couple of days skiing at Jackson in March 2011 which was a great year for snow.  That previous experience allowed us to hit some of the highlights, and give AiRung at least an idea of what the place is about. Granted, it would take many days to find the really sweet spots because there are a ton of trails heading off into the trees to unknown treasures, or possibly terrors if you take the wrong one.  Caution is necessary here so you don’t get cliffed-out.

The Mountain

We started on the right at Apre Vous and had some great long groomer runs.  This was paradise for us compared to what we had been skiing in Tahoe recently.  Soft, natural snow and no rocks.  Awesome.

Working our way to the left side of the mountain there is a new high-speed quad just before the gondola which serves another pod of mostly intermediate terrain groomed to perfection.  This new lift is a huge improvement over the old fixed-grip triple that used to be there.  The long runs from the top of the gondola all the way to the bottom are great fun and are what we did just before lunch.

Our Project Run

We like to have a “project” run each ski day that is more ambitious and takes longer.  Skiing the 4,139 feet top to bottom was that day’s project.  It was a long wait in line, but it was worth it. Getting off the tram at the top of Jackson Hole for the first time is something most people remember as being a bit scary and definitely exhilarating.  Off the top to skier’s right Rendezvous bowl is the usual route down.  Corbett’s is the other way down, but that is not really on the menu for us at our level.

Also mention

The Hoback’s and Alta Chutes are 2 memorable runs when I skied JH in 2011. It had snowed 17″ overnight.  The Hoback’s is a popular destination on powder days because it is a huge apron of about 2,500′ vertical that takes a while to get tracked out.  Alta Chutes is another one of those memorable very steep chutes that JH is famous for, but there is no mandatory air like there is at Corbett’s.

The Food

Finding a spot for lunch was difficult.  Seems like many of the places take reservations, and we didn’t have any.  We did eventually find a place over by the tram, which was where we headed after lunch.  Unfortunately the Christmas week crowds were in-force and the line wrapped all the way around the building to where we were having lunch.

The good

  • Jackson Hole embodies the core values of North American skiing with deep snow, steep terrain, and locals that use every last bit of it.
  • The lift network has been vastly improved in the past few years and even though it was Christmas week, the only lines we experienced were at the Tram.
  • The enthusiasm and culture of skiing there is second to none and just watching people really taking skiing to the ultimate level is great fun.
  • The scenery is fantastic and the town of Jackson is fairly authentic with a great variety of lodging, restaurants, and shopping.

The bad

  • JH is actually a fairly small mountain with only 2,500 acres, which is comparable to one of our home resorts Kirkwood.
  • There is almost no beginner terrain and not that much intermediate.  Many of the “runs” are actually roads snaking down the mountain avoiding steeper drops.  This all sounds pretty bad, but in reality the place skis bigger than it is and it’s not as limiting as the stats and map indicate.
  • The lift ticket price also deserves special mention as it was the most we have ever paid at the time.  With the mandatory $5 charge for the plastic card, and with Holiday pricing, get your credit card warmed up.  Ouch!  We could not find any discount deals anywhere so just had to pay up at the window.

Don’t Miss

Take a ride up the tram to the top and make a single run all the way to the bottom if you have upper-intermediate or greater abilities.  There aren’t many places with that much contiguous vertical drop in one run, and the views at the top are not to be missed.

Our best experience

For me, it is skiing Alta and Tower 3 chutes.  They are smooth and very steep and really give you a feeling of accomplishment.  For AiRung the groomers off the Apres Vous lift first thing in the morning were fantastic.  Also memorable was the breakfast at Spring Creek Ranch with that spectacular view.

Would we go back?

Definitely.  It’s close enough that we can just barely drive there in one day, so next time we are having really bad conditions in Tahoe I’m sure we will head over there.  Skiing at JH is an experience that left us feeling completely satisfied.  It’s one of the few resorts that we rate as a solid “5”.

Rendezvous Bowl, December 2013

Rendezvous Bowl, December 2013

2 thoughts on “Jackson Hole Ski Resort Review

  1. Bryan

    The steeps are always talked about at Jackson, but Gros Ventre off the Gondola is perhaps the best groomer I have skied. 2700 vertical and it doesn’t flatten out till the last bit. Teton lift also has some great groomers and I am not really a groomer kind of guy. I skied late season and the Tram still had long lines even though the snow was not great. Can’t imagine how crowded it is on a good day, so the full vert is basically a novelty run, unless you like standing in lines and squishing into a lift like sardines.

    1. Ron Thompson Post author

      We love steep groomers! From what I’ve heard, when Jackson became part of the Ikon pass it got even more crowded unfortunately, and the Ikon pass model ensures that people will mostly be saving their limited days for powder days.


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