Why Jackson Hole is the Perfect Ski Resort for Families
Indeed, Wyoming’s most famous ski resort has made it a priority to be more welcoming and accessible to beginners and families — which make up 30% of the visitors.
In the past six years alone, Jackson Hole has added two lifts to access more intermediate trails, in addition to 200 new acres of intermediate terrain. This year will unveil Solitude, a mid-mountain lodge featuring a Mountain Sports School that caters to adult beginners and older kids. But it is that wild spirit, those challenges you won’t find anywhere else, the take-your-breath away beauty of the mountain and that feeling that you are a total badass just being there that keeps people entranced. Jackson Hole isn’t a mountain you can ace easily — and that’s what is so exciting about it.
While skiers may think the mountain is the main draw to this picturesque community, it’s actually not — summer is the biggest season (making winter lodging cheaper). The biggest lure of Jackson Hole is the year-round access to incredible wildlife, outdoor adventures and national parks in one of the most breathtaking backdrops you can imagine. In Jackson Hole, 97% of the land is preservation land. Grand Teton National Park and the 25,000 acre National Elk Refuge are both minutes from town, while the southern entrance to Yellowstone is 60 miles away.
Families who don’t downhill, or want a break, will find more than enough outdoor activities to keep their days busy. Here’s my list of where to stay, where to eat and the best winter family must-dos.
Where to Stay
The Clear Creek Group’s 65 stunning rental properties are set in idyllic locations and boast up to eight bedrooms, including cheery bunk rooms stocked with toys. Their concierge service is ready to score dinner reservations, arrange for outdoor adventures, stock fridges and arrange personal chefs.
Set at the base of Jackson Hole mountain, just 300 feet from the aerial tram. There are 125 guest rooms, plus two-, three- and four-bedroom residences. Kids will adore the indoor/outdoor pool complete with grottos, waterfalls and bear sculptures.
The Four Seasons Resort is the only ski in/ski out property in Jackson Hole with a prime base location and seven different room types to accommodate every kind of family gathering. Kids will head straight for the sprawling outdoor pool complex with multiple whirlpools and gorgeous views of the mountain.
What to Do
Explore Grand Teton National Park with a guide (otherwise you are bound to miss some of the wildlife). Mike Vanian of Eco Adventures pointed out bison, elk, big horn sheep, bald eagles, hawks and wolf tracks to our spellbound kids.
Kids will love taking a sleigh-ride through the National Elk Refuge, which is teaming with elk — especially in mid-March. Guides are funny, engaging, and full of interesting facts that kids will be fascinated by.
The National Museum of Wildlife Art is a trip highlight, with a spectacular collection of scenic landscapes and wildlife art and sculpture including works by Georgia O’Keeffe, Andy Warhol and John James Audubon.
Those who like their skiing without inclines can spend the afternoon at Teton Pines Nordic Center for easy, wide-open groomed cross-country tracks.
For an adventurous and memorable way to explore Grand Teton National Park, join the ranger-led two-hour snowshoe hike. Three times a week, this free guided tour begins at the Taggart Lake Trailhead and explores park history, winter wildlife and animal tracks and behavior. Historic wooden snowshoes are provided. Reservations required.
Where to Eat
Head to this historic circa 1906 log cabin in downtown Jackson for hearty comfort food including signature Cajun sausage, amazing Eggs Benedict and fried chicken. For kids who like brunch for lunch, breakfast is served until 3 p.m.
Wyoming’s oldest brewery serves up award-winning brews (don’t miss the sampler), a hearty menu that includes steak tacos and one of the best bolognese dishes we’ve ever tried. Kids and parents will appreciate the relaxed, friendly vibe and an opportunity to see the brewing up close.
Located at the top of Bridger Gondola, at 9,095 feet above sea level, Piste boasts both the best food on the mountain and the most stunning views from floor-to-ceiling glass windows. Locally-sourced favorites include chili, bison meatloaf and kale-and-fig salad.
Wood-plank lined walls with bright red booths lend to Spur’s cozy atmosphere. Located on the ground floor of Teton Mountain Lodge & Spa, Spur serves up a creative locavore menu, including American Wagyu Butcher Steak and a decadent grilled-cheese sandwich.
Set right below Jackson Hole resort’s iconic red tram in the hip Caldera House hotel, Old Yellowstone Garage features a trendy vibe and mouth-watering Italian food. The restaurant serves up kids’ pasta, but pint-size foodies will also delight in the two types of lasagna and smoked chicken.
By Sara Bliss