By Annie Fast
Riding Jackson Hole is a lot like surfing a localized spot. You need to be in the know to get first tram (even better--the “early tram”). And not just any out-of-town clown can hold their place in the early a.m. tram line and still run downstairs to the Village Cafe for a breakfast burrito. Function rules over fashion on the slopes, and most shreds ride with backpacks filled with avalanche gear ’cause the mountain boundaries are open.
The steep freeriding is enough of a reason to visit, or live here like Bryan Iguchi, Travis Rice, Rob Kingwill, or Stephen Koch--but the draw of Jackson doesn’t stop there. The nearby backcountry of Towghotee and Teton Pass, the surprisingly plentiful nightlife, and the laid-back lifestyles of the locals make it all even more inviting.
It used to be that on a powder day, the resort got tracked out so fast it was like watching a lawn rake get dragged across sand. But thanks to an open-boundaries policy enacted in 2000, Jackson stays fresh longer--the mountain’s got some breathing room these days.
On powder days, either take tram runs down Rendezvous or take the gondola to Thunderquad and shred Laramie Bowl and every gully, cliff, and natural kicker in between. After lunch, you might want to follow the locals’ line called The Track--jump off the gondola and make your way toward Dick’s Ditch. Then try to follow Jeff Moran off the wall hits, ditch kickers, and follow the traverse over to the top of the Superpipe and terrain park. Jump on the gondola and repeat until beer-thirty, then go to the VC and grab a slice and a draft.
Dick’s Ditch is where the Jackson Hole Banked Slalom is held every April. The contest is second only to the Legendary Mt. Baker Banked Slalom. The vibe and the course are comparable, and it’s easier to get into the race.
There are four backcountry access gates to Cody Bowl, Rock Springs, and Granite Canyon. If you go out of the gates without avalanche rescue gear and a beacon, the locals will heckle you, and you’ll deserve it. Instead of getting pissed off, turn around and get back inbounds--tough love.
But, gasp, what if you go to Jackson and it doesn’t snow? In years past, you’d have been paying a grip of cash to sink between moguls and skid on glare ice--but that too has changed with the new Superpipe and terrain park designed by JP Martin. The terrain features are below Après Vous lift. The Superpipe is on the riders right and is served by a handle-grip ropetow. The park has fun progressive rails and tabletops, and the snowmaking is being increased for this season to get it opened earlier.
After shredding, you can hang in Teton Village and drink and dance at the Mangy Moose (last season the Moose was rocked by Mike D from the Beastie Boys, Reverend Horton Heat, and numerous TGR video premiere parties). The brand-new Teton Mountain Lodge is a good place to stay if you plan on partying at the resort every night and still trying to get first tram in the morning. Stop off at The Stagecoach Bar in the town of Wilson (a left turn between the resort and town) at the base of Teton Pass, local shreds swear by the burgers, and Thursday night is disco night--you should go.
The other choices are in the Jackson Hole town square. Have a burger and fries at the Cadillac Grill and then saddle up (literally) at The Million Dollar Cowboy Bar next door--and maybe even get in a bar fight. Alaskan Extremes winner Julie Zell owns Thai Me Up, a Thai restaurant also in town square. The Snake River Brewing Company is a good place to go with a bunch of friends--just go easy on your servers, they rode hard all day. Wake up and go to Bubba’s Barbecue for breakfast or Pearl Street Bagels.
A trip to Jackson is more than a snowboard trip--the thermometer usually hovers just below zero, the jjagged Tetons pop through the crisp air, elk and moose wander around like they own the place, and some people have found what they’re looking for in life right there.
“The drive to the resort is so flat and chill you could ride a frickin’ scooter to it. There’s always fresh powder less than a half hour by sled or hiking, and my friends are all here and ready to go on a mission--that’s what’s so rad about Jackson.”--Travis Rice
“I’ve lived here for eight years now, and every year we find new stuff. There’s a lot of good riding to be had, you just have to explore.”--Bryan Iguchi
Average annual snowfall: 402 inches
Summit elevation: 10,450 feet
Vertical drop: 4,139 feet
Number of lifts: 11
Shreddable acres: 2,500 acres (plus 3,000 acres out-of-bounds)
Pipes: 1 Superpipe
Snowskate park: No
Nearby skatepark: In Jackson Hole (12 miles)
Local shop: The Board Room, (307) 733-TEAR
Ticket price: $64
Web site: ridejacksonhole.com