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Jackson Hole Mountain Resort, Wyoming

Jackson offers some of the toughest skiing in the U.S., but one of its secrets is that it also has great intermediate terrain and fine learning slopes.

If you’re like many skiers and riders arriving in Jackson Hole, your very bumpy plane landing is just a precursor to the adventure waiting for you on the mountain. Might as well get used to that feeling of slight jitters, because it’ll probably be with you for much of your stay.

True, Jackson Hole isn’t all about taking routes that scare the pants off you, but you’ll get the most out of the two mountain peaks if you go a bit beyond your comfort zone.

Rendezvous Mountain has some of the steepest in-bounds terrain around, with much of it swathed in well-deserved designations as black- or double-black-diamond runs. Adjacent Apres Vous Mountain and the lower elevations of Rendezvous are gentler, with fabulous intermediate slopes and a top-notch learning area. And wherever you look, the views are astonishing. Jagged peaks soar out of a narrow flat plain that’s spliced by the winding Snake River. It is with an inspiring sense of wonder that you realize Jackson and its surrounding wilderness are part of the 1.7-million-acre Bridger-Teton National Forest and adjacent to Grand Teton National Park.

Teton Village, at the base of the mountain, has grown up to be a respectable home base for your vacation. The village offers everything you need, including a grocery and liquor store. Lodging ranges from what must be the cheapest slopeside lodging in the states, at Hostel X, to several posh mountain retreats and a multitude of condos. Add restaurants serving everything from burgers to sushi to wild game, and a smattering of nightlife, and you could easily spend your vacation right here.

But wait. No trip to Jackson Hole is complete without visiting the town of Jackson, 12 miles down the road. The impression here of the Western frontier is authentic—Jackson is still as remote and wild as it ever was and those cowboys ambling down the street are local ranchers and ranch hands (although a few tourists think they can fake it, you’ll notice they stick out like sore thumbs). The original town of Jackson was home to mercantile stores, cafes, saloons, hotels, bordellos, and even a jail. Today, many of those buildings remain, but now house gourmet restaurants, rowdy bars, Victorian inns, upscale boutiques, art galleries and coffeehouses. And all this revolves around one of the prettiest town squares anywhere, defined by elk antler gateway arches.

Women have always made a big impact on Jackson and in 1920, the town elected one of the first all-women town councils in the U.S., which The New York Times dubbed the “petticoat government.” Now many of Jackson’s women dominate mountain sports, ripping lines down big mountains and climbing distant peaks, carrying on the tradition of women who can do anything just as well as, or better than, a man. So, when you’re riding up the lift, look closely—many of those hot skiers and riders are women, and often they are proudly wearing feminine colors to show they’re not afraid to have someone say, “Hey, that’s a girl!” You betcha, it is!

After two years of costly construction and excited anticipation, Jackson Mountain Resort opened its new 100 passenger aerial tram, Big Red, in mid-December 2008. Twice the size of the original tram which it replaced, Big Red moves skiers and riders from its new base in Teton Village 4,139 vertical feet to the summit of Rendezvous Mountain in nine minutes.

The Bridger Restaurant complex is located at 9,095 feet near the summit of Jackson Hole Mountain Resort. This high mountain setting offers incredible views of Jackson Hole, Grand Teton National Park and the surrounding mountains. There will be three restaurants and a private dining room in the building. A 100 seat, fine dining restaurant and bar, The Couloir, offering contemporary gourmet food with a western flair, a “gourmet on the go” deli, Headwall Deli and an upscale servery. The Couloir Restaurant will be accessible to skiers and non-skiers in the winter and everybody in the summer, simply ride the gondola and enjoy a once in a life time meal at 9,095 feet. The Gondola operates daily winter and summer, and night time dining will be available at the Couloir.

Bottom photo of mountain with barn by Diane Scholfield