My dad skis backwards. This is not on purpose. As soon as he steps into skis, something about his personal gravity immediately flips him around. I knew this before moving to Jackson Hole, so never once when my parents have visited have I inflicted skiing upon them. And never once have they been at a loss for things to do. Yes, Jackson Hole is one of the best ski resorts on the continent. But this valley is so much more. In winter, you can’t drive into much of Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks, but you can cross-country ski or snowshoe into the former, and snowmobile into the latter. Looking for wildlife? Throughout the valley, our resident wild animals are easier to spot against a backdrop of white. Art? Galleries have their biggest shows in the summer, but in winter, their knowledgeable staffers much more time to visit and chat with you. Here are five great diversion that don’t require snowplowing skills:
Snowmobiling to Old Faithful
During the summer, Old Faithful is a madhouse. Come winter—when the only way to get there is via snowmobile or snowcoach—it’s magical. It’s possible you’ll see more bison grazing around the vents of the geysers in the basin than you will people. Stay overnight at the Old Faithful Snow Lodge and you can walk the area’s boardwalks at your leisure.
National Elk Refuge Sleigh Ride
On a sleigh pulled by 2,000-pound draft horses, you’ll get closer to the thousands of elk wintering on the National Elk Refuge than you could on foot. Wrapped in a blanket on a sleigh, you’ll even get close enough to notice elk have amazingly lush eyelashes. Don’t focus so much on the wapiti, though, or you’ll miss other wildlife—eagles, foxes, bison, and maybe even wolves.
Après Ski and Art
Here a local secret: You don’t have to ski to après ski. Another local secret? Friday evenings (from 5 to 8 p.m.), downtown’s contemporary Diehl Gallery puts out wine and snacks for those wanting a more thought-provoking après ski option than a bar. Expect sleek sculptures of wildlife or vibrant mixed media pieces inspired by the moons of Jupiter.
National Museum of Wildlife Art
The 5,000-piece permanent collection here takes a loose interpretation of wildlife art, with pieces from John J. Audubon, Picasso, Maynard Dixon and Edward Hicks, among others. Wander the galleries and then head to the museum’s Rising Sage Café, where binoculars mounted on the patio have views of the national elk herd that rival any painting inside.
Granite Hot Springs Dog Sledding
Take a dip in this Depression-era, CCC-built pool—which sits above Granite Creek Falls and beneath 11,000-foot mountains—that collects hot water flowing out of surrounding rocks. In winter, the 10-mile road to the springs, which are kept at about 104-degrees, is only accessible by dog sleds, fat bikes, skis, snowshoes and snowmobiles.