Why Jackson Hole Is the Daring Skier's Dream Destination

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Skiing by helicopter in Jackson Hole Wyoming
Photo: Stacey Leasca

When it comes to advanced skiing, Jackson Hole is a step above the rest.

“It’s a great mountain for any type of challenge,” Anna Cole, communications director at Jackson Hole Mountain Resort, told Travel + Leisure. “You know, whether you are still learning, or if you're ready to push, and you're ready to focus.”

Yes, the mountain more than welcomes intermediate and beginner skiers to come explore its 4,139 continuous vertical feet and 2,500 acres of terrain. However, of that terrain, more than 50 percent tips toward the advanced side. And that’s not even counting its glorious backcountry.

“Jackson Hole Mountain Resort is 2,500 acres of inbound terrain,” Cole said. “What's really incredible about Jackson Hole is that we've got 3,000 adjacent acres of national forest and national park lands that allow additional backcountry skiing. So it really, it’s an adventure playground here in Jackson Hole inbounds.”

Part of all that terrain is the famed Corbet's Couloir.

It’s known as the steepest open run in all of North America. It’s a drop so steep that only the most advanced of the advanced dare try. However, guests to the mountain can at least get a view of all those brave enough to drop in as the aerial tram runs just overhead every 10 minutes.

As for what it's like to ski, Cole describes, it’s “basically a mandatory air in with a sharp right turn and you have to stick the landing.”

But there's a better way still to level up at Jackson Hole, and that is exploring the 305,000 acres of terrain across four mountain ranges with an expert guide via skinning, cat skiing, or hopping on a helicopter with High Mountain Heli-Skiing.

Heading out to experience more of the great outdoors with Jon Schick, the owner of High Mountain Heli-Skiing, and his crew is the dream addition to any Jackson Hole adventure.

The day begins in their main office where guests are introduced to all the hazards that could come their way (you’re flying in a helicopter to the middle of nowhere, trust me, pay attention to the safety course), and are given an avalanche beacon.

Then, you’re off into the great beyond.

The six flights that come with the tour are a quick, but thrilling adventure through the stunning Wyoming landscape that will keep your face glued to the window with an ear-to-ear grin.

Upon landing, everyone must stay low and scurry out to a safe distance. Once the chopper leaves you finally get your first taste of what true solitude feels like. It’s nothing and everything all at once. There are no sounds, no flashing lights, no other people to get in your way. There are just landscapes that look more like movie backdrops and paintings that go on for as far as your eyes could possibly see.

And then, you drop in.

Powder spewing everywhere, you can’t help but smile or let out a little yelp. It’s different than normal skiing or snowboarding. It’s more like floating on a fluffy cloud away from everything else. And then you get picked up and get to do it all over again until you take your sixth run totaling 15,000 vertical feet (you have the option to pay for additional runs at an additional cost, too).

Jackson Hole Mountain Resort and the surrounding terrain is where the good come to get even better. It’s a challenge worth taking and a thrilling ride you’ll never forget.

Of course, if you need a little help advancing your skills, Jackson Hole Mountain Resort is here to help too. Not only does it have an exceptional ski school open to all skill levels, but it also hosts Steep and Deep Camp four times a year. At the four-day camps, skiers can come to level up their game and learn how to safely explore the extreme terrain. Fair warning: This camp is headed up by some of the best guides and instructors in the game, but is really only for advanced and expert skiers.

Summing up all that is Jackson Hole is a difficult task, so I’ll leave it to Schick, a man light on words but heavy on heart: “It's become a really hot destination. Everybody wants to go to Jackson Hole.”

How to Ride:

Grab a lift ticket, which starts at $99/day, or purchase an Ikon Pass, which includes access to Jackson Hole.

Where to Stay:

Four Seasons: The Four Seasons Resort and Residences, Jackson Hole offers the best mountain access. The lifts are just feet from the door and a ski valet is on-hand to help you put on your boots and get on your way. They’ll even have hot cocoa waiting for you when you return. And the amenities don’t stop there: At the Four Seasons, guests can relax in its world-class spa, swim in the heated outdoor pools, and grab a bite (or a beer) at The Handle Bar.

Snake River Sporting Club: Anyone looking to bring a large group along for a trip to Jackson Hole should consider booking a stay at Snake River Sporting Club, located about 30 minutes away from the mountain. The residence club offers plenty of homes for rent including its fairway lodging located directly on the golf course, which can comfortably house an entire family (plus pets). And, as a bonus, High Mountain Heli-Skiing is located right outside the gate.

Where to Dine:

Old Yellowstone Garage, located in the Caldera House, services up some seriously tasty Italian dishes with a twist. Chef Jeremy Williamson has added plenty of local and fresh ingredients to all the plates served at the restaurant including hearty pasta, pizzas, and meat dishes like lamb and pork that will surely warm you up after a day on the mountain.

Snake River Grill has delighted skiers for more than 25 years in Jackson Hole. The restaurant still serves up all the decadent foods that mountain-goers crave, but with twists like a wild game bolognese and chorizo-stuffed dates.

Where to Après-ski:

The Mangy Moose is a full-on Jackson Hole Institution. If you don’t go here to have a drink immediately off the mountain you didn’t really visit Jackson Hole. Go for a beer, a cocktail, or grab something off the wine list and stay for its live music and even livelier crowd.

The exterior of the Million Dollar Cowboy Bar has to be one of the most photographed places in town. Once you snap a photo head inside and belly up to its bar on one of the stools made out of old western saddles. Just make sure to get there early as this place fills up fast when there’s a musical act coming through the saloon doors.

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