80 South Bay Accent
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But that’s why you are here, at Wyoming’s Jackson
Hole Mountain Resort: to test the limits of your skills
on a terrain that makes exceptional demands on mind
and body. Jackson Hole rewards skiers who master the
forces of gravity as they accelerate down spectacular
runs sometimes dotted with burning-thigh moguls.
One visit will confirm that it lives up to its billing
as one of the nation’s greatest ski resorts. Maybe the
greatest. It challenges city slickers with a disdain for
coddling while still paying homage to its rugged cowboy
A few decades back, when I first encountered Jackson
Hole, there were indeed authentic cowboys moseying
up to the town’s bars, elbow to elbow with
extreme skiers, who were cowboys of a different
stripe. They didn’t go around bluffs; they skied over
them, launching themselves like rockets, airborne and
maybe a little airheaded, too. But they survived to ski
Those rough-and-tumble days are now history, but
the ski resort thankfully hasn’t been gentrified into a
snow-covered mountain Disneyland. Today, half the
113 named runs are still marked as expert. Another 40
percent are intermediate, and another 10 percent are
long, wide runs geared toward beginners.
While the ski resort, like the town, has mellowed, it
hasn’t totally abandoned its Wild West spirit.
Early mountain men trapped beavers here for their
fur pelts. They called it a hole because you have to descend
steep slopes to enter the valley. John Colter, who
had been a member of the famous Lewis and Clark
expedition, wrote about the valley in his journals in
1807. Back east his tales of tall mountains and steep
valleys and endless vistas sounded like a fable. Few
Jackson Hole is still a wonder. The local mountains
receive a ton of light, dry snow every year, an average
of 459 inches of powder annually for the last five
years. That’s close to 40 feet.
Last February’s snow was the deepest in the resort’s
50 year history, with a depth of 570 inches. It’s just
one of the reasons that Forbes magazine has called it
the top ski resort in the country. In addition to the
deep snow, skiers face 4,139 vertical feet of continuous
drop. That’s monstrous. The longest run is 4.5
miles, with 22 miles of machine-groomed terrain and
2,500 acres in-bound.
While the controlled terrain has become a bit tamer,
the resort also has opened access to the backcountry
with 3,000 more acres to challenge extreme skiers.
But the out-of-bounds areas are only for expert skiers
with the proper avalanche training and equipment. If
you don’t own a rescue beacon and shovel, don’t even
think about it. Snowboarding is allowed everywhere,
with a halfpipe and two terrain parks, one for experts
and the other for beginners. Jackson Hole also has
four Burton Stash Parks on the mountain.
And now a word about the weather. Winter can see
averages of about 21 degrees. That sounds like a good
reason to stay inside except that a temperature inversion
raises the heat on the slopes by 20 to 40 degrees.
But chances are excellent that you are going to work
up quite a sweat on the slopes anyway.
A new 100-person tram offers panoramic views of
the Tetons, the town and Snake River Valley and can
also handle winds up to 70 miles per hour. Two eightperson
high-speed gondolas and four detachable quad
chairlifts, as well as four fixed grip quads, speed skiers
up the mountain. Short lift lines abound. The resort
has a lift capacity of nearly 18,000 skiers per hour.
There’s an arch
made of elk antlers
at every corner
of Jackson Hole’s
The deep powder
is famous at
inches a year.
NEW THOUGHT MEDIA; OPPOSITE: COURTESY OF JACKSON HOLE MOUNTAIN RESORT;
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