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Jackson On and Off the Mountain

Our Recommendations for a Well-Rounded Weekend

The town of Jackson, Wyoming is a skier’s dream, a bucket list must-visit spot for any snow-chasing lover of winter.

Of course there’s the skiing: world-famous Jackson Hole Mountain Resort, Snow King Resort just blocks from downtown, and an infinite number of backcountry lines. But there’s more to Jackson than that. It’s a hub of Western culture, with plenty of live music and 30 art galleries. And it’s a charming throwback to a different time. It’s a basecamp for the surrounding region that reminds us that there are still wild places to explore.

There are countless experiences to have in and around Jackson. Here are just a few suggestions:
 
 

Jackson Hole Mountain Resort

A winter trip to Jackson wouldn’t be a trip to Jackson without a day of skiing Jackson Hole. The mountain’s terrain is truly epic, and though the original Jackson Hole aerial tram is no longer there, the tram that took its place is as iconic as any ski lift in the world. The resort boasts 2500 acres of inbound terrain and a massive 4139 foot vertical. It’s not exactly a beginner’s mountain—only 10% of the runs are rated beginner—but a healthy 40% of the 133 runs are rated blue, so there’s plenty of terrain for the intermediate to explore. But with half the mountain rated black diamond (or double black), it can be safely said skiers and riders come to Jackson Hole looking for a challenge. You may even want to drop into Corbet’s Couloir, which is potentially the steepest and gnarliest in-bounds run in the world.
 
 

Ski or Climb with Exum Mountain Guides

If you’re interested in exploring terrain outside the resort, get the most out of the experience with a guide service like Exum Mountain Guides. For over 80 years the Exum guides have developed an unmatched reputation for excellence guiding in the Tetons and honing their craft in the world’s premier mountain ranges. They operate under the philosophy that guides should not only provide instruction, but also promote participation, responsibility, and inspiration. From guided backcountry ski tours to avalanche safety courses, day climbs to multi-day expeditions, the Exum Guides can help you make the most of your time in the Tetons, winter or summer.

Read more about my experience with Exum Mountain Guides
 
 

Grand Teton National Park

When kids draw pictures of mountains with crayons, they draw the Tetons. These granite peaks contain some of the oldest rocks in all of America’s National Parks, dating to nearly 2.7 billion years ago. Located just five miles north of Jackson, Grand Teton National Park encompasses over 300,000 acres of pristine lakes, meadows, and the meandering Snake River in a landscape dominated by the towering Tetons themselves. While the park is busy in the summertime, it is relatively quiet in the winter—especially compared to other parks in the region, including Yellowstone National Park, whose southern boundary is only a few miles from Grand Teton’s northern border. So the wintertime is an especially good time to visit, particularly if you’re into backcountry skiing or snowshoeing.
 
 

National Elk Refuge

Just north of town is the 25,000 acre National Elk Refuge, winter home to one of the nation’s largest elk herds, as well other species like bison, trumpeter swans, bald eagles, wolves, and bighorn sheep. The grassy meadows of the valley floor, where many elk are found during the winter, can be viewed from Highway 191. This herd of thousands of elk is truly an impressive sight. In the winter, sleigh rides can get you up close to the elk wintering there, making for excellent photography opportunities. During April and May the elk begin migrating to their summer range at higher elevations. After the autumn breeding season, some elk begin to make their way back to the refuge, but the refuge’s large population isn’t present until heavy snows push the herd down from the high elevations.

National Museum of Wildlife Art

Housing over 5000 pieces of wildlife art by more than 550 artists from all over the globe, the National Museum of Wildlife Art is a must-see attraction for Jackson visitors who are fans of either animals or art. With pieces dating from 2500 b.c. to the present, the museum has one of the most extensive collections of wildlife art in the world representing numerous styles and media from artists like Georgia O’Keeffe, Andy Warhol, Robert Kuhn, John James Audubon, and Carl Rungius. The museum, which was founded in 1987, received the designation of “National Museum of Wildlife Art of the United States” by Congress in 2008. Located less than three miles north of Jackson Town Square and two miles south of the gateway of Grand Teton National Park, the museum overlooks the National Elk Refuge. The presence of the Elk Refuge adds perspective to the museum’s outdoor sculpture trail, which is accessible by either foot or bicycle from downtown Jackson.
 
 

Million Dollar Cowboy Bar

Whether you’re looking for a one-of-a-kind historical experience or a rip-roarin’ good time, the world-famous Million Dollar Cowboy Bar is a go-to spot for Jackson nightlife. The Cowboy Bar is as much an experience as it is a saloon, decorated in Western memorabilia, cowboy murals, genuine saddle barstools, and elaborate animal mounts like grizzly bear, mountain lion, and timber wolf in pursuit of bighorn sheep. The building’s impressive knobbled pine interior dates back to the 1930s, and its large neon bucking bronco sign has been an iconic site in downtown Jackson since the 1950s. You can hear live country and Western music regularly, and there is also salsa dancing most evenings. Downstairs, the Million Dollar Cowboy Steakhouse serves fine cuts of meat.

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