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Jackson Hole — Other activities

To book most off-slope activities, call Jackson Hole Reservations at 307-739-3076.

Most guests make the time to visit nearby Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks. Several unusual activities center around Jackson’s abundant wildlife. Plan to spend a half day at the National Museum of Wildlife Art (800-313-9553; 307-733-5771) combining a museum tour with lunch in the cafe. The museum houses the nation’s premier collection of fine wildlife artwork in varied media. Permanent and rotating exhibits are displayed in 12 galleries, but everywhere you look there’s art, from the pawprints on the floor to the sculptures in the reception area and on the grounds. Lunch is a treat. The semi-self-serve cafe, operated by Spring Creek Ranch, dishes delicious soups, salads, sandwiches and kids’ favorites. The National Elk Refuge is home to as many as 10,000 elk during winter. You can take a horse-drawn sleigh ride, accompanied by a refuge biologist, out to the herd. The approximately one-hour trip provides an unrivaled opportunity to view wildlife in its natural setting. Sleighs depart from the Jackson Hole and Greater Yellowstone Visitor Center at the north end of town. Include time to wander through the interpretive displays at the visitor center. Sleigh rides are first-come, first-serve, but large groups should make reservations (800-772-5386).

An outstanding educational tour is offered through Wildlife Expeditions of Teton Science School (307-733-2623). On the school’s wildlife spotting tours, you ride with a biologist to help note the location and numbers of various birds and animals. Half-day, full-day and multiday tours, some into Yellowstone National Park, are offered. We spotted bison, elk, eagles, moose, deer, bighorn sheep, trumpeter swans and pronghorn. Everyone gets to use binoculars and a powerful spotting scope for up-close viewing.

Horse-drawn dinner sleigh rides are offered by Spring Creek Ranch (307-733-8833) and Solitude Cabin (307-733-6657; left). Bar-T-Five (733-5386) operates the sleigh rides on the National Elk Refuge and also has a winter dinner show with a barbecue dinner and “yarn-spinnin’ ” leading the entertainment.

The Jackson Hole Nordic Center (307-739-2629; 800-443-6139) has hour-long dogsled tours. Mush with Billy Snodgrass at Continental Divide Dogsled Adventures (800-531-6874), the main dogsled outfitter in the region. Territory covers some 400 miles of spectacular scenic trails in the Shoshoni, Teton and Targhee National Forests. Choose from half-day, full-day and multi-day trips that include going from Jackson Hole to Togwotee Mountain Lodge or Brooks Lake Lodge on the Continental Divide and from Grand Targhee Ski Resort into the backcountry. Eight-time Iditarod veteran Frank Teaslee operates Jackson Hole Iditarod Sled Dog Tours (307-733-7388) at the entrance to Granite Creek, with full- and half-day options. We recommend the full-day trip into Granite Creek Canyon, which includes a soak in the hot springs and lunch. One child weighing less than 50 pounds is free with every two paying adults, and round-trip transportation from your lodging is available.

The Snow King Center (800-522-5464; 307-733-5200) houses a regulation ice rink, open to the public, where the local hockey team plays regularly. The center also hosts regular concerts and shows by big-name entertainers. Check local papers for events.

Other activities include snowmobile excursions to Granite Hot Springs, Yellowstone and Old Faithful, Togwotee Pass, Grand Teton, Gros Ventre, Grey’s River and the Continental Divide. Most outfitters, and there are many, provide transportation to and from your lodging. Llama Louie’s Reservations (307-733-1617), conveniently in the Mangy Moose, arranges snowmobile trips without a charge.

High Mountain Heli-Skiing (307-733-3274) offers helicopter skiing on untracked powder in five mountain ranges surrounding Jackson Hole. These folks have been operating for more than 25 years. A day trip usually delivers six runs of 12,000–15,000 vertical feet, with one guide per five clients. Rendezvous Ski and Snowboard Tours gives daily backcountry tours in Grand Teton Park, Teton Pass and other locations, while Snow King Mountain Guides operates trips off the back of Snow King and Teton pass for Nordic and alpine skiers.

The small, but full-service Wilderness Adventure Spa at Spring Creek Ranch (307-733-8833) is designed to incorporate feng shui principles of harmony and balance as well as to reflect Native American influences. Facilities include women’s and men’s steam rooms and a co-ed hot tub overlooking the mountains. Plan an afternoon here, perhaps followed by a sleigh ride and/or dinner in the Granary Restaurant. A 60-minute massage is $100.

The full-service, five-story Avanyu Spa (800-445-4655; 307-732-6070) at the Snake River Lodge has a free-form indoor-outdoor heated pool with waterfall hot tub in addition to rain and Swiss showers, hot tub, sauna and steam room in the locker rooms. Locker room lounges are inviting, with large-screen TV in the men’s and a fireplace in women’s. A 50-minute massage begins at $120. A spa menu is available.

In town, The Body Sage Day Spa (307-733-4455) at the Rusty Parrot Lodge offers traditional spa therapies including massage, facials and scrubs and exclusive treatments integrating local ingredients, such as rose petals. A one-hour massage is $100.

Shopping is plentiful. You can easily while away an afternoon browsing the boutiques, factory outlets and art galleries in Jackson. As a general rule, you’ll find the farther you get from Town Square, the less expensive the prices are. The covered wooden sidewalks encourage window shopping, even when it snows. There are far too many good shops to single out many of them, but you’ll find art galleries, plenty of Western clothing and items made from elk antlers.

Don’t miss Coldwater Creek, across the street from the famous antlered town square. This familiar catalogue retailer also sports a basement discount area with true bargains. Valley Bookstore is your best source for books in all of Wyoming. Also across the street from the town square, this independently owned bookstore is a good source for books on the area as well as best-sellers and obscure finds. Another “must” is Thomas Mangelsen’s gallery (888-238-0177), a block from the town square. One of the world’s best nature photographers, Mangelsen documents only what’s captured in the wild and not in captive situations. Hard to believe, but he uses no computer manipulation.

You can pick up culture, shopping, dining or vacation-planning guides at the Wyoming information center on the north edge of town, or call the Jackson Hole Chamber of Commerce (307-733-3316).

Top photo of people watching elk by Diane Scholfield