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Jackson Hole — Mountain layout

Mountain Layout—Skiing

No mistake about it. Jackson Hole is a skier’s mountain, and it’s not for the faint of heart or the weak of quads. It’s steep, often deep, the trees are tight and most would have it no other way. The resort has two mountains—Apres Vous Mountain is best known for its groomed intermediate cruisers as well as the black Saratoga Bowl, and Rendezvous Mountain has a handful of groomed runs. Most of the blues here would be blacks anywhere else.

If you’ve got a group of five or six, hire a guide, because few of the mountain’s prizes appear on the trail map. For even more thrills, head out-of-bounds, but only with the proper equipment. Remember: The trail map is only a guide to what’s available; don’t expect to find trails such as Dog Leg or Elephant Tree or areas such as the Liquor Cabinet on it. If you rely on the map, you’re going to be frustrated, and your skiing experience will be unfulfilled.

.Expert, Advanced: If you’re looking for steep (and often deep), Jackson is your mountain. Fully half of the resort’s 2,700 acres is marked with one or two black diamonds, and you can now reach 3,000-plus backcountry acres from on-mountain access gates.

No longer can you board the big red tram for the 12-minute trip to the top of Rendezvous Mountain. It’s been removed for replacement.

This winter skiers and riders will be able to access Rendezvous Bowl, Corbet’s Couloir and the backcountry gates via the Bridger Gondola and a series of chairlifts including the new East Ridge Chair.

The East Ridge Chair will rise 600 vertical feet from the top of the Sublette Chairlift to just below Corbet’s Cabin. This temporary double chairlift will take skiers and snowboarders up Rendezvous Bowl this winter and until a permanent tram replacement lift is installed. At this time, the chair will be recycled into a different location at Jackson Hole Mountain Resort

From the top, you have two choices. You could head down the ridge to the infamous Corbet’s Couloir, a narrow, rocky chute that requires a 10- to 20-foot airborne entry. Or take the “easier” way down, Rendezvous Bowl. Conditions here can vary from mild to intimidating. We’ve seen waist-high bumps, knee-deep powder, easy gliding, and, Egad! breakable crust and crud. It’s not groomed, so be prepared for anything. You can always ride the tram back down or take the guided tour, offered on the hour. Corbet’s Cabin, at the Summit, provides a warm, dry place to make your decisions; snacks and restrooms are available.

Below Rendezvous, drop into Cheyenne Bowl. If it hasn’t snowed in a couple of days, try the bumps and trees on the north side of the bowl near Bivouac. Then yo-yo on the Sublette Quad until you’ve made lines down the Alta Chutes—some of the steepest marked terrain at Jackson—and the Expert Chutes below Tensleep Bowl. Don’t miss Paint Brush into the unmarked Toilet Bowl, or the narrow, stump- and rock-filled Tower Three Chute.

For an out-of-bounds experience (while remaining in-bounds), a 15- to 20-minute hike takes you to the Headwall. Look for the traverse out of Tensleep Bowl. The Crags above the Casper Lift area offers 200 acres of bowls, chutes and trees to explore. The hike is 25–35 minutes.

If it’s a powder day, don’t miss the Hobacks—accessed off the Rendezvous Trail. The Hobacks deliver steep, continuous fall-line skiing to the mountain’s base. But don’t head here if it hasn’t snowed in a while. Unless, of course, you like crusty crud. Saratoga Bowl, off Apres Vous Mountain, is an often-overlooked playground of trees and gullies. For the ultimate in gullies, try your new-school moves in Dick’s Ditch, a natural halfpipe.

The backcountry terrain is not patrolled and requires know-how and the right equipment. The resort offers backcountry camps to teach proper skiing in the area. It’s well worth it, and participants get to ride early tram.

If you’re a budding advanced skier, before you jump aboard the tram, test your skills on the dotted-blue-line runs in ungroomed Casper Bowl—shorter versions of the stuff you’ll encounter off the tram. You can hop into Moran Woods for a run of trees. From the tram, good options to start with are Rendezvous Trail and Grand. Play with jumping off the trail and skiing what you can see.

 

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Intermediate: This is the kind of mountain that makes carrying a trail map, and consulting it regularly, a good idea. Having said that, 50 percent of its 2,700 acres is not black diamond and most of the tough stuff is completely separate from the easier runs, so intermediates seldom have to worry about getting in over their heads.

You will want to concentrate on the runs skier’s left of the tram, using the gondola and the Apres Vous Quad to access the wide-open groomers like Gros Ventre, Werner and Moran. The shorter runs down Casper Bowl—like Sleeping Indian and Wide Open—provide plenty of opportunities to try your luck in the trees. You can follow the fast, yet meandering cat tracks down from the gondola summit. Be forewarned that the Amphitheater, a major trail merge zone, would earn a black diamond on most other mountains. Ditto for Rendezvous Trail, off the Sublette Quad, which gets dicey when it’s icy.

The Sweetwater triple chair makes it easy to access the Casper Bowl area of lower-intermediate terrain from the top of the beginner lifts.

Follow the solid blue lines for groomed terrain and the broken blue lines for ungroomed powder or bumps. As long as you’re willing to ski ungroomed stuff, you’ll run out of gas before you run out of terrain.

Complimentary orientation tours for intermediate-level skiers depart the Mountain Host building daily at 9:30 a.m.

 

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Beginner, First-timer: Jackson Hole’s easiest terrain is served by two dedicated lifts, the Eagle’s Rest double and the Teewinot Quad. The green-rated runs are appropriately gentle, and some present interesting meanders among the trees. Kids will love the informal single-tracks that squiggle into the woods. But the number of beginner runs is limited, advanced-beginners will grow bored rather quickly, and it’s a big step from those gently undulating slopes to Jackson Hole’s blues. Even the wide, groomed slopes of Apres Vous and Casper Bowl have a much steeper pitch than blues at other resorts and can be intimidating for advanced-beginners.

The Sweetwater triple chair makes it easy to access the Casper Bowl area of lower-intermediate terrain. But if you’re leaning toward the advanced-beginner category, our advice is to take a lesson or two. The resort has a program just for you.

Jackson Hole’s excellent learning terrain surprises most people. At the base of Apres Vous mountain, along the Eagle’s Rest trail, stands a fenced-in area that’s served by a moving carpet. Faster skiers can’t get in, so those just learning won’t get nervous. The transition to the adjacent green runs is made easy by dedicated beginner lifts. Parents should take note that Jackson Hole’s “Rough Riders” kids’ offering combines day care and children’s instruction in one of the most innovative programs for young first-timers we have seen.

 

 

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