We’ve never skied in our life so Jackson Hole was not even on our radar until a reader on Facebook mentioned it as a must-see stop on our #motherofallroadtrips from Idaho to South Dakota.
It’s also true that we came explicitly for its proximity to Yellowstone National Park, as Jackson Hole is fondly known as the Gateway to Yellowstone. What we didn’t realise was that we would never make it to Yellowstone. In fact, our 3 nights in Jackson Hole was barely long enough get a decent taste, leaving a lot of fascinating attractions undone. But what we did try was fabulous.
What The Hole?
I understand it can be a bit confusing for a fellow newbie to the region, so getting your bearings is the first step to planning your vacation.
Jackson Hole – the entire valley which includes the town of Jackson, other towns, parts of Grand Teton National Park, the Elk Refuge and multiple ski resorts. It was named by John Colter in 1807 when he looked down from the surrounding mountains because it looked like… er, a giant hole.
Jackson – the town at the heart of Jackson Hole, and also the largest in the valley. This was originally called “Jackson Hole” as well, which was confusing and thankfully renamed later.
Jackson Hole Mountain Resort – also abbreviated to “JHMR”, this ski resort was opened 50 years ago by Paul McCollister and Alex Morley and incorporates Teton Village and the numerous surrounding ski slopes. It is located 12 miles northwest from Jackson. Check out how we learned to ski here.
Teton Village – the lower section of Jackson Hole Mountain Resort, which includes hotels, restaurants, and shops.
Where To Stay:
We spent our 3 nights at the luxurious Teton Mountain Lodge & Spa (check prices…) in a 2-bedroom log-cabin-inspired suite with full kitchen, dining and living room, complete with fireplace. There was so much space and it was so inviting that we felt immediately at home.
Luxurious finishes were found all around the suite – my favourite being the double showerheads.
Every interaction with staff members was friendly and helpful. And as far as location, it’s only a 5-minute walk to the ski slopes. The lodge has a convenient on-site restaurant which we thoroughly enjoyed, but there are also several other dining options in Teton Village.
After a long, tiring day skiing there was no better way to relax than easing into a steaming hot tub. And for a quiet adults-only area, a rooftop hot tub is also available.
TIP: In addition to the parking lot located immediately opposite the hotel, underground valet parking is available (which makes a very tangible difference in sub-zero temperatures).
Things To Do:
So you are heading to Jackson Hole to ski, right? Of course! If you’re an experienced skier, have a laugh at our first attempt to ski.
I don’t need to convince you to choose Jackson Hole Mountain Resort for your family snow vacation – over 500,000 people visit every year. But did you know there is much more to Jackson Hole than just skiing? Your family with love these:
To mix up your snow vacation check out Wild Things of Wyoming for a safari tour through the Grand Tetons in search of Wyoming’s extraordinary wildlife. We met our guide, Kurt, who is the region’s leading naturalist and he shared with us a side of Jackson Hole that many tourists overlook.
Kurt was beyond knowledgeable. I could ask him anything about Wyoming wildlife and he instantly knew the answer. Throughout our safari he pointed out elk, bison, coyote, badgers, big horn sheep, bald eagles and moose. He also had sheep horns and antlers on hand for the kids to touch.
We stopped for a complimentary hot chocolate and snack break while Kurt setup a highly powerful spotting scope for us to get a closer look at wildlife up to 3 miles away.
Our whole family found this safari fascinating, educational and well worth the dollar. To get better prepared, take a look at Kurt’s field guide on Amazon - it’s beautifully illustrated with most of the photography by Kurt himself. If you have a particular location or route in mind, Kurt can tailor tours to suit guests.
TIP: Make sure you start the safari at sunrise to see more active wildlife.
HANDY: Kurt provided an electronic “expedition summary” afterwards via email which was a lovely memento of the tour and highlighted sightings and the route which we took. Take a look at ours…
If you’re too cold to be out and about seeing real wildlife (or you are ready for more after a safari tour), then drive over to the National Museum of Wildlife Art. It’s the largest in the country and houses an amazing array of paintings, photos and sculptures of animals.
And don’t worry about the kids. Ours were kept amused with The Children’s Discovery Gallery - a small, decorated segmented room filled with self-directed hands-on activities. Caius really enjoyed the reading room, while Mia kept busy in the drawing room. And we sat through many cute puppet presentations performed by our kids.
Outside the dedicated children’s area there are still other exhibits around the gallery for kids to interact with while you admire the many masterpieces.
Walk Through Town
Jackson has a very unique town square decorated in elk antlers. Every year Scouts seek out fallen antlers from the National Elk Refuge and assembled them to create a beautiful arch. Afterwards these antlers are auctioned off. Around Christmas time it sure made for a very pretty sight.
Jackson is well known as the southern gateway to Yellowstone National Park. Unfortunately while we were there in early December park roads were closed and the snowcoaches hadn’t started yet. But if you visit in Spring-Autumn or after mid-December, you’ll have one of the best bases to explore Yellowstone. Just check their website for road closures before you go.
Where To Eat:
From bison stew to ski slope après, and from budget to fine dining you can’t go wrong with the wide variety of cuisines available around Jackson Hole. Let us help you get started with our handy guide, Where To Eat In Jackson Hole.
The Bottom Line
Even though more tourists come to Jackson Hole in the summer, I’ve come to discover that as a family friendly snow vacation, this valley has few peers in the United States. What makes it stand out is more than just the skiing, but the Wild West vibe, a wide range of other fun activities beyond the slopes, and delicious dining options.
We were fortunate enough to start our skiing careers at one of the best ski resorts in North America. But more than that, we had a fabulous time discovering western Wyoming’s unspoiled wildlife, magnificent art, and cowboy saloons.
And even if, like us, you don’t make it as far as Yellowstone, then that’s ok - a snow vacation in Jackson Hole will make you feel like you never missed out.
Feeling inspired? Check out the latest prices and more reviews of Teton Mountain Lodge & Spa.