Tidewater Traveler - December 2007

Jackson Hole


George Sellers

     Point toes inward to slow down. Flex knees slightly. Shift weight to turn. Keep center of gravity over skis. Look straight ahead. Now, I’m a reasonably intelligent person, but it seems that none of the advice proffered by the bunny-slope instructor is passing successfully through my ears and brain to reach my muscles and bones. I suppose I’m thinking too much about this; the result is a lot of indentations stamped in the snow that resemble the general shape of my aft regions.
     “Have you skied before?” the patient tutor asks.
     “Of course!”
     “Oh! Well, maybe several years or decades ago in my home town of Vienna.”
     “Vienna, Austria? They have some world class ski slopes there.”
     “No, Vienna, Maryland; we had a little hill on Water Street and some of us kids tied long boards to our boots and skied one afternoon.”
      During this conversation little kids are zipping all around me leaning and gliding; throwing both skis sideways and forward to come to snow-spraying stops. How come they are not using sticks like these? Poles, not sticks. Oh. I don’t know. It’s like the snow is slippery or something.
      Jackson Hole, Wyoming, is a destination that offers all levels of snow-skiers a challenge. From multi-black diamond slopes to the gentlest of beginner slopes, the Jackson/Teton area offers a variety of ski vacation experiences. We are staying at a ski-in-ski-out lodge right on the edge of town. I understand that a ski-in-ski-out lodge earns greater appreciation from those who actually CAN ski – in or out. And yet, there is something to be said for walking in and out as well.
      Located just twelve miles northwest of the town of Jackson are Teton Village and the Jackson Hole Mountain Resort. Combined, these resorts make up the largest and most popular ski area in Wyoming. With more than 4,000-vertical feet of varied terrain, the resort draws expert and beginner skiers and snowboarders from around the world.
      Near the base of the mountain is Teton Village, where much activity is compacted into a small area: lodges, condos, coffee bars, restaurants, gift shops, grocers, storage lockers, car rentals, a skating pond, child care, personal trainers, dogsled tours, gear rentals, and ski supply shops.
Some of the ski runs within the 2,500 acres of terrain exceed four miles in length and all totaled there are about 24 miles of groomed trails. The only way to the 10,450-foot summit of Rendezvous Mountain is aboard one of two 63-passenger Aerial Tram cars. Since most of the runs accessed by the trams are for expert skiers, the good news is that folks like me can also ride the tram back down the mountain. The view is incredible!
      Nearby is Apres Vous Mountain, where beginners and intermediates have more opportunity to ski and to live afterward to talk about their experience. At Apres Vous Mountain, families can take advantage of a gondola, several styles of lifts, a half-pipe, terrain park and Kids Ranch, which provides supervised day care.
      In the summer, the Jackson/Teton area transforms into a paradise for mountain bikers, hikers and sightseers, with the Aerial Tram continuing to operate. The top of the mountain makes a great starting point for overnight backpacking trips into Bridger-Teton National Forest and Grand Teton National Park to experience an array of colorful wildflowers, wildlife and absolutely awesome panoramic views.
      Jackson Hole is situated between the Grand Teton and Gros Ventre mountain ranges. Flying into Jackson Hole Airport is an exciting experience. Our plane approached the runway from the north. By chance we had selected seats on the right side of the plane. During final approach, the jagged peaks of the Tetons dominate the westward view from the airplane window. They look and feel overwhelmingly close, like the plane is descending into a steep, but one-sided, canyon. As the plane descends you expect to feel touchdown because the mountain peaks are now higher than the plane, but touchdown is still minutes away. Other than landing in the city canyon of the old Hong Kong Airport (now closed), the landing at Jackson Hole Airport is the most exciting I have ever experienced.
      From late spring through early fall, Jackson Hole makes a good hub for day trips by rental car. One such trip starts with a 45minute drive to the south entrance of Yellowstone National Park. Venturing into southern Yellowstone, we explored to find geothermal geysers, hot springs, steam vents, and bubbling mud-pots. There was an occasional sighting of buffalo and elk.
      The National Elk Refuge lies just northeast of the Town of Jackson, providing a winter home for about 7,500 elk. The refuge is comprised of meadows and marshes along the valley floor punctuated by sagebrush and rock outcroppings along the foothills. A winter-season sleigh ride through the refuge looks like a fun and exciting adventure.
      In town for the evening, I amble past stores and shops on boardwalks reminiscent of Dodge City, Gun Smoke, Matt, Chester, Doc and Miss Kitty. Through swinging doors to a wooden table and benches for four, I am presented with a tattered menu. “Wild game platter” attracts my attention. Two fairly domestic vegetables will accent a selection of prepared portions of bison, elk, moose and venison. Needless to say, dinner becomes the evening entertainment as I cautiously approach new tastes and textures. A big, rich dessert follows and I realize - I may be better suited for a roll-in-roll-out lodge after eating so much. Jackson Hole, Wyoming, is a year-round vacation destination worthy of consideration.
      May all of your travels be happy and safe!

George Sellers and his wife Priscilla are Certified Travel Counselors and Accredited Cruise Counselors who own Travel Selections by Priscilla and George, Inc. and the popular travel Web site www.sellerstravel.com