While there are many beautiful mountainous regions to escape to in the United States, few are quite as stunning as the valley of Jackson. From wild animals, to a rustic yet chic main square, to the yodelayheehoo-worthy peaks of the Teton mountain range, there is a plethora of Americana activities to satisfy your soul. Don't shy away from adventure here, this is the place to dig deep and run wild with your most daredevil worthy desires.
Being the travel junkies that we are, we never let a long holiday weekend go by without taking full advantage of it. So for MLK weekend in 2017, we put to use a Delta companion ticket we earned from our SkyMiles credit card, and booked two non-stop tickets on Delta from JFK to Jackson for a four night ski getaway. Continuously voted by Forbes as the best ski area in the country, as well as the most challenging, we were ecstatic to test the powder and our abilities at Jackson Hole Mountain Resort.
Our flight landed around noon on a Saturday and because of the petite size of the airport, we deplaned outside onto the snowy tarmac and quickly ushered into the warmth of the modern terminal. We were greeted with complimentary mimosas and snacks by the luggage carousel. Once we collected all of our belongings, we boarded a shuttle and had a short but scenic 15 minute ride to our hotel.
Words cannot describe how much we adore the Rustic Inn Creekside Resort. We originally chose the hotel because it offers decadent yet affordable individual cabins. And no need to rent a car if staying at the property, the staff literally chauffeurs you to any spot in downtown. Besides the adventure of staying in our own little bungalow, the hotel has amazing amenities such as on-site ski rentals, private car service to and from town, shuttle service to and from the airport, buffet breakfast, and transfers to and from the ski-resort. All of these perks were included for a reasonable $10 resort fee a day.
Once checked-in, we walked the minute or so to our luxurious double queen cabin and settled in. The rooms are spacious and comfortable with vaulted ceilings and charming private verandas, complete with Adirondack chairs. Since we arrived in the middle of the day, we walked over to the on-property ski rental shop to get fitted for the next day out on the slopes. Although not cheap, for about $50 a person a day we rented skis, boots, poles, and helmets. The convenience of renting and storing our equipment in such close proximity to our cabin, and the fact that the van pick-up and drop-off stop to the mountain is right in front of the shop, made the price more agreeable.
Once we got the fitting out of the way, we finally made our way to the main square. Besides the cold temperatures, as long as we popped into a cafe or boutique every so often, hanging out downtown is more than manageable; there are a number of cute shops and tasty eateries to check out.
Only four blocks away from Town Square, we were able to walk back and forth to the main street a few times on our own during the trip, but once the sun sets, it's a real perk to be able to call the hotel and have the driver pick you up in a luxury suburban with heated seats and authentic country music on the radio.
Our first stop was at the Western apparel shop, Overland, where we purchased the most amazing sheepskin slippers that, to this day, almost never separate from our feet. After perusing through some other shops along East Broadway, the main drag, we entered the highly anticipated Persephone Bakery, also on Broadway. After doing some research on where to eat, we had high expectations for Persephone, and luckily, it did not disappoint. In fact, it's a challenge to find establishments on other trips that stand up to the delicious dishes that comes out of this bakery/cafe. From the farm omelette, to the sweet potato and brussel sprout hash, to the savory quiche lorraine, and the gooey marshmallows, all the food options are gold medal winners. The only fault we could find in the eatery is that it's not open for dinner. We'd have to venture elsewhere for nosh in the evenings.
Following a great first lunch, we headed west on Broadway, taking pictures under the iconic antler arch in the main square, and checked out other local establishments, including the famous Million Dollar Cowboy bar, owned by Sandra Bullock.
After shopping around, we ventured into CocoLove, a true chocolate lover's dream. One must try the delicate truffles and delectable pound cakes, such as the lemon and cinnamon loaves. The Meixcan hot chocolate is a also a great choice. By this point in the day, it was around 5 or 6 PM and we were exhausted from an early morning flight. We made the cold walk back to the hotel. Once comfy in our cabins, we ordered pizza delivery direct to our cabin for dinner in bed.
We woke up early the next morning, eager for our day out on the slopes. After getting dressed in our ski apparel, we walked in the -17 degree temperature to the main building for the buffet breakfast. After eating, we walked the short distance to the ski rental shop and picked up our gear before getting on the shuttle. Only a twenty minute drive to the mountain, we collected our pre-paid lift cards, and met our instructor for the day. We were scheduled for a group lesson, but we lucked out and had a private one.
Even though we've been skiing since we were really young, Jackson Hole is a steep mountain, so we wanted some guidance for our first day. We are so glad we chose this option. A black diamond on the east coast is equivalent to a blue or a double blue on the JH mountain, so it was nice to have someone assess our skills and take us on the appropriate trails.
We cannot say enough about our ski instructor; he was attentive, patient, and an overall pleasure to ski with. Our favorite trails were Laramie Bowl, Gros Venture, Amphitheater, Kemmerer, and Werner. Rendezvous Bowl is another great trail and sits at the top of the mountain, requiring the 150 person tram to get to. There is a cozy waffle hut, Corbet's Cabin, that greets riders at the top. Just know that the tram only leads to black diamond trails.
Those who live on the edge can try out the terrifying Corbet's Couloir. Youtube it if you dare. Another great lunch spot on the mountain is Rendezvous Lodge, which offers breathtaking views from the second floor seating.
Not only are the ski conditions on the mountain superb, but the valley has an inverse climate, meaning the higher up you ski, the warmer the weather. While we were freezing in the 5 degree temperature at the base, we were stripping off our layers in the 25 degree temperature at the top of the mountain. When the end of our ski day approached, we were disheartened to ski to the bottom, knowing the fierce cold would be waiting for us.
Once on the shuttle back to the hotel, we were truly exhausted from an amazing first day on the mountain. Our thighs were aching from the steep conditions, but it made it all the more adventurous and challenging.
We returned our ski equipment back to the ski rental shop and headed into our cabin to unwind from the busy day. That evening, the hotel car took us to Rendezvous Bistro in downtown where we had a great French inspired dinner. One thing we noticed about Jackson is that the folks who live there are very friendly and love to engage in conversation. From those conversations we found out that many residents were from other parts of the country, visited Jackson, fell in love, and either moved out full time or seasonally. A number of the residents we met were from our neck of the woods on the east coast, in fact, our waiter at the bistro was from a town nearby ours, and a family seated next to us was from Boston proper. Seems we weren't the only ones to be smitten by the area's natural beauty, laid-back vibe, and year-round activities.
The next day was more of a lazy day, a.k.a our legs needed a break from the steep mountain. After eating breakfast at the hotel, we walked to the National Elk Refuge, located directly across the street from the Rustic Inn. We ventured out on an amazing one hour, horse drawn sleigh ride through the refuge, seeing thousands of elk. The guide was very informative and it was amazing to be out in nature with these indigenous animals.
Had we gone to Jackson in the warmer months, we would have rented a car and drove the hour to Yellowstone National Park. But it's on our list for the next time we return. After the sleigh ride, we walked into downtown, perusing through some streets we had missed on our first day out.
We again went to Persephone Bakery for lunch. This is the spot for serious eats. Once we were done there, we had the hotel car pick us up and drop us off at the Wildlife Art Museum. For dinner that evening, we went to the Pearl Street market for hearty soups and locally sourced burgers in its casual yet comfortable sit down area. After that, we braved the few yet cold blocks to CocoLove, where spicy hot chocolates awaited us. From there, we called the hotel to come fetch us.
That night we went back and forth deciding whether or not we wanted to ski Jackson Hole mountain again, or to take the coach bus to Grand Targhee mountain in Alta, considered a more mild and scenic ski area. Since we loved our first day skiing so much, we opted to return to Jackson mountain the next day, promising to try out Grand Targhee on a future ski trip.
Our next day out on the slopes went pretty much the same as the first day, we had an amazing time and the ski conditions were great. We skied without an instructor, since we felt we knew the mountain better. The other reason we love Jackson Hole mountain is because there aren't hoards of skiers or snowboarders occupying the trails like on the east coast, or even at Vail or Aspen. It feels as though the whole mountain is your own domain.
After our final full day skiing in Jackson, we departed Teton Village, the base area of the mountain, and returned back to the hotel. It may not be a Four Seasons or an Amangani, which are two of the most exclusive properties in the area, but we found the Rustic Inn to be perfect for all our needs. For our final dinner, we returned to Rendezvous Bistro.
Since we had an early afternoon flight on Wednesday back to JFK, we went for a final loop around the downtown, and, of course, ate at Persephone for a farewell lunch. Naturally, we picked up some goodies from Cocolove for the plane ride back.
On our way from the hotel to the airport, we spotted a bald eagle perched on a fence, a majestic symbol of our Americana trip. Once we were dropped off at the airport, we were at the gate within minutes, thanks to the non-existent wait at the security line. While flying above the Grand Tetons, we were in awe of the amazing time we had in this little north west corner of Wyoming, and even more shocked by how beautiful this country is. Destinations abroad often seem more exotic and desirable, but a simple plane ride or cross country road trip reminds you that adventure and wonder await at your own nation's doorstep.