Jackson Hole has become a center for cross-country enthusiasts and offers an impressive range of conditions—from flat-tracking along summertime golf courses where a gourmet restaurant awaits to remote wilderness settings where a complete knowledge of snowpack structure, avalanche hazards, and winter survival techniques is essential.
Beginners will probably want to start out at a Nordic center, progressing to local paths and the more gentle lift-serviced ski runs with experience. More advanced skiers will quickly discover incredible snow in the surrounding mountains.
Rent or buy cross-country skis from:
- Skinny Skis
65 W. Deloney Ave.
307/733-6094 or 888/733-7205
- Teton Mountaineering
170 N. Cache Dr.
307/733-3595 or 800/850-3595
- Wilson Backcountry Sports
Local Nordic centers also rent equipment. Most places rent both classical cross-country skis and skate skis (much faster and a better workout), along with telemark and alpine touring skis.
Nordic skiing enthusiasts will find two different developed facilities near Jackson and a third at Grand Targhee in Alta, Wyoming. The largest is Jackson Hole Nordic Center (307/739-2629, www.jacksonhole.com) in Teton Village, with 15 kilometers of groomed trails—both set track and skating lanes—that cover a wide range of conditions. Call 307/733-2291 for the snow report. This is the best place to learn cross-country skiing. Daily trail passes are $14. Traditional cross-country skis, skate skis, and telemarking equipment are available for rent, and the center offers a wide spectrum of lessons and tours. Hours are daily 8:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m. You can exchange your alpine lift ticket at Jackson Hole Mountain Resort for one at the Nordic center (but, hey, it had better be for no extra charge since you’ve already dropped $91!).
Along Teton Village Road, Teton Pines (307/733-1005 or 800/238-2223, www.tetonpines.com) features 16 kilometers of immaculately groomed track (both classical and skating) on a summertime golf course. Daily trail passes cost $10 adults or $5 children and seniors. Ski rentals and lessons are available. Hours are daily 9 a.m.-5 p.m. The clubhouse here has a restaurant for gourmet après-ski lunches and dinners.
On the west side of the Tetons 42 miles out of Jackson, Grand Targhee Nordic Center (307/353-2300 or 800/827-4433, www.grandtarghee.com) has 15 kilometers of groomed cross-country ski trails (classical and skating) covering rolling terrain. Trail passes are $10 adults and $6 seniors and kids. Lessons and ski rentals are also available. Hours are daily 9:30 a.m.-4 p.m. Guests with Targhee lodging packages can ski free on the cross-country tracks.
On Your Own
Nordic skiers who would rather explore Jackson Hole and the mountains that surround it on their own will discover an extraordinary range of options, from beginner-level treks along old roads to places where only the most advanced skiers dare venture. Because Jackson has so many cross-country fanatics (and visiting enthusiasts), tracks are quickly broken along the more popular routes, making it easier for those who follow.
For complete coverage of all these options, pick up a copy of the helpful free winter outdoors guide Trailhead at Skinny Skis (65 W. Deloney Ave., 307/733-6094 or 888/733-7205, www.skinnyskis.com). If you’re heading out on your own, be prepared for deep snow (four feet in the valley) and temperatures that often plummet below zero at night.
Teton County Parks & Recreation (155 E. Gill, 307/739-9025, www.tetonwyo.org/parks) leads all-day cross-country ski and snowshoe outings in winter, as well as cross-country lessons. The department also grooms 30 kilometers of local pathways for cross-country and skate skiing in the winter; call 307/739-6789 for the grooming hotline with daily updates.
Friends of Pathways (307/733-9562, www.friendsofpathways.org) produces a free map of local Nordic trails (including the grooming schedule) and has a downloadable version on their website.
Even beginners will enjoy exploring several local spots. The closest place to Jackson for on-your-own cross-country skiing is Cache Creek Canyon. The trailhead is at the east end of Cache Creek Drive, where the plowing ends at a parking lot. The trail is groomed by Parks & Rec a couple of times per week. For a longer trip, take the Rafferty ski lift at Snow King and then ski west through the trees and down to Cache Creek, returning via the road. Ask at Snow King Resort (400 E. Snow King Ave., 307/733-5200 or 800/522-5464, www.snowking.com) for specifics and safety precautions.
Another popular local place is along the Snake River dikes, where Highway 22 crosses the river one mile east of Wilson. The dikes extend along both sides of the river for several miles, making for easy skiing. This is also a good place to watch ducks, moose, and other critters or to listen to the river rolling over the rocks. The northeast side is groomed for skate and touring skis on a regular basis but can get pockmarked by folks walking the trail.
Granite Hot Springs
One of the most popular ski- and snowmobile-in sites is Granite Hot Springs (307/734-7400, http://granitehotsprings.mountainmancountry.com), a delightful hot spring-fed pool on Forest Service land. Get there by driving 25 miles southeast of Jackson into Hoback Canyon and then skiing 10 miles in from the signed parking area. The route is not difficult, but because of the distance it isn’t recommended for beginners unless they’re prepared for a 20-mile round-trip trek. The pool costs $6 adults, $4 ages 3-12, and is free for infants. It’s open daily 10 a.m.-5 p.m. in winter. Bring your swimsuit or rent a suit and towel here. Ask the attendant about places to snow camp nearby.
Locals head to 8,429-foot Teton Pass when they really want to test their abilities. The summit parking area fills with cars on fresh-snow mornings as everyone from advanced beginners to world-class ski mountaineers heads out for a day in the powder or a week of wilderness trekking in the Tetons. Snow depths of eight feet or more are not uncommon in midwinter. (The snow once became so deep on the pass that it took plows two weeks to clear the road!)
The slopes around Teton Pass cover the full spectrum, but be sure you know your own ability and how to avoid avalanches. Check the previously mentioned Skinny Skis Trailhead winter guide for specifics on Teton Pass, or talk to folks at Skinny Skis or Teton Mountaineering. This is the backcountry, so you won’t see any signs at the various bowls; ask other skiers if you aren’t sure which is which. Avalanches do occur in some of these bowls, and it’s possible to get lost up here during a storm, so come prepared.
Those without backcountry experience should contact Rendezvous Backcountry Tours (307/353-2900 or 877/754-4887, www.skithetetons.com), Jackson Hole Mountain Guides (307/733-4979 or 800/239-7642, www.jhmg.com), Exum Mountain Guides (307/733-2297, www.exumguides.com), or Jackson Hole Nordic Center (307/739-2629, www.jacksonhole.com) for guided ski tours at Teton Pass and elsewhere.
Both Jackson Hole Mountain Guides (307/733-4979 or 800/239-7642, www.jhmg.com) and Exum Mountain Guides (307/733-2297, www.exumguides.com) run winter ascents of Grand Teton, plus avalanche safety courses and ski mountaineering trips. Longer winter trips, including a five-day Teton Crest tour, are also available.
Over on the western slopes of the Tetons, Rendezvous Backcountry Tours (307/353-2900 or 877/754-4887, www.skithetetons.com) maintains three Mongolian-style yurts in the Jedediah Smith Wilderness, each situated several hours of skiing (or hiking) from the next. These immensely popular huts can sleep up to eight and have kitchens, bunks, sleeping bags, and woodstoves; they’re $375 per night on weekends ($325 on weekdays) plus $150 for a guide to take you in on the first day.
You’ll need to be experienced in backcountry skiing and have the necessary safety equipment and avalanche training. If you don’t quite measure up, the company provides guided ski tours to the huts. A three-day, two-night catered trip is $695 per person including guide, porter service, meals, lodging, sleeping bags, and avalanche equipment.
The backcountry yurts are available December-April, but call far ahead for reservations. The most popular one (Baldy Knoll) fills a year in advance! Rendezvous also has a close-in family yurt ($95 d or $150 for up to six guests). It’s open year-round, with drive-up access in summer and a 0.5-mile walk in winter. The family hut has running water, a kitchen, and bath, while the backcountry yurts have outhouses.
© Don Pitcher from Moon Yellowstone & Grand Teton, 5th Edition