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Jackson Hole

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Jackson Hole
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So what's it like on this mountain that is considered America's best by top skiiers, even by Olympic skiiers? First, you need to be careful not to overestimate your abilities. At most ski resorts, a novice skiier can try the Blues, an intermediate the Blacks, and an experienced skiier can try the Double Diamonds. Not here. At Jackson Hole, there is a huuuge difference from one level up to the next, and every day the ski patrol has to go out and rescue skiiers who found themselves in over their heads. On your first trip here, you should probably slide down a level. If you're used to skiing Blues, do a few Greens here and then try a low Blue. If you're usually a Black, try a few Blues and then a low Black. We've known lots of expert and experienced skiiers who were seriously challenged by the Blues here and needed a lesson or two before moving up to Blacks. skiing powder
Jackson Hole skiier The second caution here is to be constantly aware of your surroundings. Skiing can become a solitary experience. You focus on the snow in front of you and lose yourself in the moment. But Jackson Hole is such a high mountain it's very vulnerable to sudden storms and avalanches. The Ski Patrol is continually monitoring these risks and closing trails as needed. But you have to be alert to signs, announcements over P.A. speakers mounted on rooftops, trees, towers, and lift structures. If you're all bundled up in a ski helmet, earmuffs and woolen hats, you might not hear those, and if you're focused on the trail you might not notice the signs. Just because you can ski for over an hour down a very long trail, doesn't mean you should. Stop every 20-25 minutes, take off your helmet/muffs/hat, look around, study the sky and the horizon above you, and listen. If you haven't seen anybody else for a while, you might ask where everybody is. You have to keep reminding yourself that this is a much larger mountain than you're used to, and it's further to the nearest hut or lodge. So in an emergency, you're in a much more difficult situation. We're not trying to scare anyone. This is a great, great mountain. We have skiied here for decades with no problems. But parts of it are actually a wilderness. You have to respect it and use common sense.
Our third caution is to be careful skiing off trail. Off Piste, as they call it here, is one of the great draws of Jackson Hole. Basically, the whole back half of the mountain, meaning thousands of acres, is off trail. You can take the cable car to the top, drop off the back, work your way down all day, and circle back around to the front as you get toward the bottom. There are no trails, huts, ski patrol, signs, nothing. You may see not a single ski track all day except for your own behind you. It's a thrilling experience. But remember : Your cell phone won't get a signal. You'll need your own first aid kit and know how to use everything in it. You'll need to be very good with a GPS or a compass and map, because you'll need to find your own routes. You'll need food and beverage, preferably hot tea, coffee or lemonade. You also need avalanche probes and shovels. We strongly urge you to hire a guide from Jackson Mountain Sports down at the Lodge. Once you've worked your way up through Beginner and Intermediate Backcountry Skiing, then hire a guide from Exxum Mountain Guides and tackle some advanced terrain. But do it all with a guide. Jackson Hole signs
Corbett's Coulior Which brings us to the Couloirs. The most famous of these is Corbett's Couloir shown at left. These Couliors are huge vertical clefts in the mountain. There's no margin for error, and there is a long history of injuries and a few deaths, but a really good skiier can ski down one of these slots. Successfully descending a Coulior is a bragging point for a top skiier, and they come from around the world to try. Us normal folk can't do this, but we can watch and take photos. Corbett's is the most famous Couloir anywhere. A skiier drops over the top, free falls 20-30 feet, hits the snow skiing, faces an immediate cliff he must turn sharp right to avoid, drops down a very steep chute, then sinks into a huge deep powder bowl which extends halfway down the mountain. The three photos immediately below show various stages of descending this couior.
atop the coulior hard right turn down the chute
Let's be clear. This is a Blue trail at Jackson Hole. Notice this is a pretty steep descent. At Jackson Hole, "Blue" is defined as straight, wide, clearly marked, clear of obstacles like rocks and trees, even (no moguls or undulations), firm and visible (no powder or drifts), groomed, and visible. To safely get down one of these Blues, you must be able to either ski straight at a high speed for a long distance, or be able to carve turns back and forth very skillfully for a long distance. You're not going to get down this hill using a Stem Christie (or Snowplow or Pizza, whatever you called it back home). None of these trails are cruising runs, where you can just lean back, relax and drift peacefully along a gently meandering route. Jackson Hole is not a relaxing place. It's an adrenaline rush, from the time you board the tram until you unstrap your skiis at the bottom of the hill or at the ski hut. Blue trail
Green trail This is a typical Green (Beginners) Run at Jackson Hole. It's obviously a nice wide smooth trail, but if you look carefully you'll see an inexperienced skiier could pick up speed pretty quick here and there are no terraces or runoffs where you can safely recover. They've grouped all the Greens and most of the Blues into one V shaped area to the right (north) of Teton Village. The whole of Aprezvous Mountain, furthest to the right (north), is Blue except for the Saratoga Bowl, a semicircular series of five Blacks dropping straight off the front of the Aprezvous Chair Lift. Beginners are pretty well limited to a single lift, the Teewinot Chair. All the Greens descend from the top of Teewinot or connect back and forth below it. Only 10% of Jackson Hole trails are Greens, lowest percentage of Greens at any ski resort in America. However, there is a compensating factor which somewhat makes up for this. The trails are longer and there are more of them. At a typical ski resort, the total area is smaller, and while there may be more Greens, they're shorter and so tame as to quickly become boring after a day or so. Here, the Greens are long. Once a beginner, whether an adult or even a kid, develops enough skill to handle the steepness, they can ski these trails all day every day for a week and have an exciting, enjoyable experience. Jackson Hole Greens are kind of like a hometown sledriding run, where kids spend their whole childhood riding their Flexible Flyers down the same run and never tire of it.
Most Rocky Mountain ski resorts maintain huts at the top and a few have them halfway down their slopes. Jackson Hole takes this a step further. These are full scale snack bars and restaurants. You can get a complete breakfast at this one, Corbet's Cabin, at the top of the cable car lift. They're famous for their Waffles but they have lots of other good breakfast items. A short distance to the right is the dropoff into Corbett's Couloir, and back up the hill is one of the most popular gates to the Back Country. ski hut on top
piste mtn grille

After seeing all the other ski huts across the nation, when you wander into the Piste Mountain Bistro at Jackson Hole you'll think you've died and gone to Heaven. This is about as upscale as a ski hut can get. It's in the Rendezvous Lodge at the top of Gondola Summit, where the second biggest cable car at Jackson Hole comes in. It's a bit pricey, but after a morning of long runs, high winds, deep cold and powder, at least one day during your week here you might be tempted to take off your boots and parka and spend an hour. The menu includes Chili, Grilled Cheese, Lamb Bacon BLT, a gourmet Burger, Salads, Pretzels, Shrimp, Meatballs, Tuna, Wings, Buffalo "sliders," Kale Squash Grapefruit Salad, and an Iron Skillet Baked Pie that might be the best you ever tasted.

Granite Grill sits at the top of the Marmot Chair Lift, where the Ranger (black) and Lupine (blue) trails start down. This is a cafeteria style, open station facility with the most reasonable prices of all the on mountain stops. They offer house made soups, a variety of noodle bowls, a fresh grill line, full salad bar and Idaho Salt Baked Potatoes with a huge choice of toppings. Floor to ceiling windows provide impressive views of the summit of Rendezvous Mountain and the famous "Corbet's Couloir" ski run. rendezvous lodge
off piste cafe The Off Piste Cafe is an informal sit down restaurant which offers beer, wine and an espresso bar. The Sicilian style Pizza here is surprisingly good, as are the Soups, Burgers and Wraps. One thoughtful touch is phone charging stations at each table. You could stop here after cruising the Tensleep Trail (black) from the top of the Rendezvous Mountain cable car station across the Tensleep Powder Bowl, although at the very end of Tensleep, you have to turn left/uphill and ski across along the Headwall, instead of following the trail down into the Cirque. Just beyond the Off Piste Cafe to the northward, you could continue on the Casper Traverse (black) into the Lower Casper Bowl.
The Casper Restaurant sits at the base of the Casper Bowl, about two thirds of the way down the mountain. The ledge it occupies is the dividing line between mostly Blue & Green runs and mostly Black and Double Diamond runs. The Casper Chair Lift comes up to the Casper Restaurant, so for beginners and intermediates, this is a favorite lunch stop. The food here is reasonably priced and compares to a Shoney's, Denny's, Jerry's or EatnPark back home. There are Sandwioches, Burgers and Hot Dogs. You can get Grilled Chicken, Pulled Pork, Soups, Chiles, Pretzels, Burritos, Tacos and Nachos. They offer a Salad Bar, Wraps and housemade Breads. A small Mexican menu is pretty good. Prices overall range from $7 - $15. You can even get Salsas, Guacamole, Brownies, Fudge and Cookies. Seating is comfortable and big windows allow good views of skiiers on both sides. casper mountain grill
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