States Of Euphoria

More than great, these are superb conditions. Credit: Teton Pines

The week before Christmas, 1980, I drove west from Cody, WY, through the rugged Absarokas, over Togwotee Pass, dropping into the northeast corner of Jackson Hole, then south to the town of Jackson. Deep fresh snow covered the landscape, with occasional bison, moose, and coyote tracks crossing broad meadows. The road parallels the Snake River. So do the Tetons, which tower about 7,000’ above the river, with maybe the most spectacular skyline of any mountains in the Lower 48

For the next ten years, I skied, hiked, ran, and biked on both sides of the Tetons on the western edge of the valley (“hole” in frontier lingo), the Absarokas, and the Gros Ventre and Hoback ranges to the east. It was a fantastic time to live there, working as one of the world’s first Nordic ski area consultants.

Watching Jackson’s explosive transition from a cow town to a resort region was a little alarming. Happily the surrounding country stayed pretty much unchanged because almost 97 percent of the region is federal land that won’t be developed. Yellowstone National Park is just north of the valley.

Jackson Hole is a special place for winter lovers. Part of that’s the beauty and the pristine quality of Grand Teton National Park; some of it’s the amount and quality of snow. But for Nordic skiers, maybe the main draw is diversity in that stunning setting. It doesn’t matter whether you’re a track aficionado or skater, tourer or telemarker, loner or family skier —there’s not just that sad cliché, “something for everyone,” but a lot that’s absolutely superb quality. Today you can find an online resource that introduces you to all things Nordic (including snowshoeing and fatbiking) in the Jackson Hole area: click here for JH Nordic. You can figure on 300 km of groomed trails in total regionally.

Movin’ and Shakin’

Perhaps the most influential XC player around Jackson has been a specialty shop, Skinny Skis, which provides high quality rental gear, retail equipment, and clothing.

There’s also a core of friendly long-time locals in town who’ve played a huge role in popularizing Nordic skiing. They’ve been coaches and racers, backcountry guides and Olympians, as well as people who ski non-competitively, just delighting in the outdoors in such a beautiful place. A lot of them are members of the Jackson Hole Ski & Snowboard Club, whose Nordic division has been grooming at Trail Creek Ranch since the late 1960s, at the base of Teton Pass.

Private Tracks

Teton Pines has 16 km of gentle golf course skiing, complemented by instruction, rentals, and guided tours with affable Nordic director Cody Downard.  (You’ll often find his photos in Cross County Skier magazine).

Grand Targhee Nordic Center, on the western slope of the Tetons, has 15 swooping kilometers of groomed trails. The resort is about a 75 minute drive from Jackson.

Open since 2014, Turpin Meadow Ranch is a relative newcomer locally but already has a national reputation. Anchoring the north end of the 50-mile Hole, they’re a complete destination—cabins and chalets, great food (check out the Bob Dylan photo in the lodge, taken at the ranch in the 1980s), amiable staff, and 20 km of groomed trails. The ranch is a little higher than most other regional skiing, but generally routes are on the gentle side in meadows and forest, though there are some climbs and thrills too, starting right behind the lodge. Dogs, snowshoes, and fat bikes are all welcome.

Public Trails

Jackson Hole doesn’t have interconnected trails on the scale of Sun Valley, Idaho, or the Methow Valley, Washington, but public trails are immensely popular locally—and they’re free.

As much as 30 km (and growing) of the Jackson Hole Community Pathways and Trails are groomed, some very close to town. Teton Valley Trails and Pathways, at multiple locations on the west (Idaho) side of the Tetons, is rapidly evolving into a destination. And Grand Teton National Park grooms almost 25 km of summertime road, with wonderful profiles of the Tetons to the west and no snowmobiles within sight or sound.

When you visit

Plan a week’s stay, or you’re depriving yourself of grand exploration. There’s also world-famous downhill skiing, dog sledding, the fabulous National Museum of Wildlife Art, sleigh rides on the National Elk Refuge, and recreational eating at dozens of restaurants (try Fish Creek Inn in Wilson for breakfast and The Blue Lion in Jackson for dinner).

My favorite lodging is the Alpine House,  a 22 room B & B that’s owned and run by Nancy and Hans Johnstone, both former Olympians. They’re still avid skiers with great stories about everything from international competition to climbing in the Tetons.

Could this be Nordic Heaven? Credit: Teton Pines

One Comment

  1. John Griffin says:

    Informative and enjoyable read.

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