I managed to time my trip to Jackson Hole to coincide with a long dry spell. Honestly, with some of the most snowfall on a ski area in the country so far (290″), odds are slim for Jackson Hole to go for so long without fresh snow. Thank goodness for the Jackson Hole Mountain Sports School backcountry guides who led a small group of us out to Four Pines. Just a few drainages over from disembarking the top of the tram, our guides managed to lead us to some nice soft north facing powder stashes lodged within a few moderate chutes. Another option is to hook up with Exum Mountain Guides for some great turns in the nearby national park away from the ski area.
But after we ran the chutes, getting back to the front side was a pretty crunchy affair. After lunch at Couloir in Rendezvous Lodge at the top of Bridger Gondola, we combed inbounds for a few more tolerable runs the last of which (my friends tell me as I bailed just before this) was the worst of all. Good call and saving of the knees on my part, I thought.
With another two nights already booked at the Spring Creek Ranch, I figured this was a good time to get to know the town and some of the surrounding area since next time I’m in Jackson there will once again be copious amounts of snow and I won’t want anything to do with being in town.
We started the day in the cozy coddle of Cafe Genevieve just a block from the town square. The atmosphere is warm and comfortable and the food was of course incredible. The portions were perfect such that I didn’t feel like I had to be wheelbarelded out of there when we were done. They even brought over some candied bacon, which frankly, I would probably eat no matter how full I felt.
After lounging there for a while engorged in good conversation with friends, a walk was in order so we met up with Bob from the Jackson Hole Historical Society for a walking tour of the town. We stared at the elk horn archway on the sunny side of the square where the stellar warmth soaked into my back while Bob told us of the early history of town and how since the boys of yore couldn’t be bothered with getting things organized, a bunch of women ended up taking over by winning the mayoral election as well as all the elected city council seats. And the appointed positions? You guessed it, also all women. It took them a few years but they did indeed turn things around and got Jackson running smoothly to give the town a solid foundation for it to become the great town it is today. The tour continued by foot to check out nearby buildings and the stories behind them of the entrepreneurs, trappers, clergy and even the tourists (including the ones that came but never left). It’s pretty fascinating to hear about how a town comes together and what the people of the time were thinking and drawn to.
After thanking Bob, our next stop was an impressive program that brings artists in from all over to use the surrounding area as inspiration for their art. One such artist, Georgia Rowswell, specializes in using colorful fabrics for her art. She spent some time in nearby Yellowstone NP taking photos of the hot pools and is now using the studio space provided by the Teton Art Lab project. While Georgia only traveled across the state from Cheyenne, the Teton Art Lab has artists visiting from all over the world from month to month. Check the “Events” tab at tetonartlab.com for upcoming Open Studio events to see the work of these artists.
It worked out well that the day had warmed some since we headed to the National Elk Refuge next. Just a few miles out of town, transfer from your car to a horse drawn cart (or sleigh if snow permits) and one of the cowboy or cowgirl (elkboy/elkgirl?) guides will take you out onto the elk refuge to get an up close and personal visit with these wild and free roaming animals. On the way out the guide will tell you all about the history, purpose and success of the work done at the elk refuge to keep the elk population in the area healthy. You’ll learn about how their antlers grow and shed, about how the local Boy Scouts are partnered with the refuge to collect the antlers to auction them off in the spring. You’ll see bull elk sparring with each other, young elk calves following their mothers around and yearling and spike elk acting much like you’d expect teenage humans to act: awkward, gangly and sometimes a bit ornery.
Then evening fell and we found our way over to Snake River Brewing mere blocks from the town square for drinks and dinner. We were also treated to a special and totally unique pairing session: jerky and beer. Jerky company Jacks Links worked with brewers at Snake River to pair certain flavors of jerky with different brews. From original jerky to bacon jerky along with stouts, pilsners and amber ales, the flavor masters mixed and matched to pull mouth-watering combinations together. Dinner was incredible as well and after such a relaxing and enjoyable day out and about a number of us were keen to hit the night scene and where else to start but the Million Dollar Cowboy Bar right smack in the town square. Even on a weeknight, there was a live band and plenty more drinking and dancing and other things I can’t really talk about pushing the fun out to 3am. But it didn’t end there. A hot tub soak under the stars back at Spring Creek Ranch was in order where just a few of us relived the last few days including some of the crazy things that happened earlier that night.
The next morning it started to snow but I was heading for the airport. Time to book another trip back to Jackson.