Major developments and an eye toward the future are poised to make 2016—the 50th anniversary of Jackson Hole—a banner year for the ski resort.
Mr. Luxury Ski
Fifty years doing anything is considered a milestone, and the journey to get there is paved with evolution, innovation, hard work, and perseverance. For Jackson Hole Mountain Resort these qualities can only be summed up in one resolute word: access. This year American, Delta, and United airlines have expanded direct flight service from 13 cities across the country—including more flights from key markets like Chicago, Dallas, and LA, and a brand-new flight from New York's JFK.
On mountain, the brand new Teton lift (two years in the works) has opened up 200 new skiable acres that were once limited to experts who hiked in. It delivers 2,000 skiers per hour to legendary "stashes" of powder hidden within the trees that were once well-kept local secrets.
Since the Kemmerer family purchased the resort in 1992, they have spent $138.5 million in expansion capital, inclusive of but not limited to six new lifts, a major upgrade to the iconic aerial tram in 2008, and expanded summer products. On average, they've outspent the Rocky Mountain region one-and-a-half times and $9 million annually on capital expansion for the last decade. With all of this and continued reinvestment on the mountain there are more major projects planned ahead. Look for a new base gondola with halfway station providing improved access to beginner terrain and topping out at the Casper restaurant and in coming years improved and expanded restaurants and trails.
The small ski hill that started in 1966 as an afterthought to Yellowstone National Park continues to stake its own claim as a sprawling year-round destination looking toward the next 50 years poised to dominate.
With 159 guest rooms and 18 suites, Wyoming's only five-star, five-diamond resorts sits perfectly positioned at the base of Jackson Hole Mountain Resort and is the only true ski-in/ski-out access around. Fun Fact: when it was built, the property was the largest building in the state. Each room is oversized and recently renovated with all of the latest bells and whistles. Room to get? The Presidential Suite, of course, located on the eighth floor and spanning 2,200 square feet, it features a butler pantry (and butler upon request), floor-to-ceiling windows and the most spectacular views of the resort. It can be configured as a two or three bedroom by adjoining adjacent rooms (starts at $3,299 per night).
Ready to shred "Cowboy Powder?" The crack-team at the on-property Base Camp ski concierge will set you up with your own locker to store your civilian clothing upon checking in, remember your skis and boots by heart, and even help you get them on. Lift tickets, private lesson bookings, and any gear you might have forgotten are all available within arms length.
Rather relax? The hotel features an 11,000-square-foot spa facility and full-service fitness center complete with 16 treatment rooms, steam rooms, plunge pools, and a tranquility lounge. The Grand Teton Sports Recovery treatment is not to be missed. Designed to increase mobility and reduce muscle pain, therapists combine orthopedic, traditional, and Asian bodywork styles to get you back on the slopes good as new.
For food and drink, the property's premier restaurant, Westbank Grill, provides the requisite mountain steakhouse experience. Ask Head Sommelier Anthony Puccia for a bottle of 2013 Catch & Release Sonoma Valley Zinfandel produced by Jackson Hole Winery (his favorite). Looking for something more "apres-ish?" Michael Mina's Handle Bar is ready to serve complete with outdoor fire pits, indoor/outdoor bar, and plenty of storage for your gear. Be sure to try the "Frickles" (fried pickles); you might as well go for two orders.
Favorite amenity: Alongside the 75-foot heated pool and hot tub is a pool attendant eagerly waiting to take your robe and towels and place them in one of the two outdoor heaters keeping them toasty while you soak your tired muscles.
Attention to detail: Upon noticing my laptop sitting out, housekeeping graciously left a screen cleaning wipe on my keyboard (I was sorely in need of one).
The first new luxury boutique property in the town of Jackson in 15 years brings a welcome breath of fresh air (and touch of refined western class) to the community.
Dating to the early 20th century, the original Hotel Jackson was one of the first five structures that made up Jackson Hole. It's now been completely reimagined as the first LEED-certified property in town. A full 10 years from vision to completion (local municipalities and building ordinances can be strict), the finished product pays homage to western heritage while maintaining all modern conveniences. The new 58-room, six-suite building embodies rustic elegance and welcoming hospitality with no details left to chance. It's perfectly situated in the heart of town, a stone's throw from all of the nightlife, shopping, and dining you might desire.
Just opened this past summer, the property is the brainchild of Jim Darwiche and a joint venture with his wife, Safaa, and sons, Sadek and Dorian. Jim is one of those stories you hear about so frequently in ski towns—someone who was just passing through and never left, set up a life with his family, and created a thriving place in the community.
Hungry? FIGS, the hotel's signature restaurant, helmed by Executive Chef Christian Bustamante, has turned into somewhat of a local gathering place featuring Mediterranean-inspired small plates (unique for the area) made with locally sourced Wyoming ingredients. Don't miss the vegetarian-friendly sweet potato entrée, complete with Muharma, labneh, beluga lentils, and pomegranate.
Our favorite room? The Miller Suite, Room #301. A 700-square-foot room with wraparound balconies and outdoor fireplace. With a town-mandated 3.5-story building height restriction, you have direct line of sight anywhere, including the "local" mountain, Snow King.
Favorite amenity: Twice daily shuttle to and from Jackson Hole Mountain resort for skiers.
Attention to detail: Find time to relax in the mountain-zen designed library, which doubles as screening room.
Experience: Order the strictly off-the-menu R.G.F.C. (Really F**ing Good Cocktail)
Think a five-star mountain resort means only dining on rustic fare? Check out Sam and Suchada Johnson's family-operated local favorite Teton Thai, within walking distance from the slopes, for authentic Thai cuisine. Grab salad rolls and salmon curry. If Sam is around, just let him order for you, but be careful of the spice-level; these guys don't mess around. They even created their own micro-brew with local Roadhouse Brewing called the "Fire Extinguisher" to help tone down the heat.
If there was one person to know in the Jackson Hole culinary community, it's Gavin Fine. The Teton version of Danny Meyer, Fine reigns supreme over his (appropriately named) Fine Dining Restaurant empire that now includes six diverse offerings from the bottle shop and wine bar Bin 22 in Jackson, to the Teton Village "Bodega," his rendition of a roadside market-cum-Dean and Deluca. However, ask any local and they will tell you the place to see and been seen is Gavin's original restaurant Rendezvous Bistro, which he opened 15 years ago at the age of 25. Known for consistent and innovative favorites featuring the best ingredients, Rendezvous Bistro has a few don't miss items like its famous Fried Chicken (Wednesday's plat du jour) and scallops (Friday). Get there early; they sell out before 7pm on a regular basis.
Last November, owners Graeme and Christine Swain brought on award-winning executive chef Clark Myers from the Jenny Lake Lodge in Yellowstone National Park to overhaul the menu of the eight-year-old staple. Gather's locally focused menu shares elevated new takes on western abundance. Try the red wine braised beef spatzle and if you are in town on a Tuesday, grab a seat at one of Gather's 2sday Tastings, where patrons get to weigh in with the chefs on new menu additions, experiments, and play critic for the evening.
Fusing elegant craftsmanship with high function, New West Knifeworks has built its reputation at on the prep tables of celebrity chefs and art collectors alike. In addition to gorgeously rugged knife sets, its flagship store in Jackson houses the Mountain Man Toy Shop, where customers are encouraged to sip Wyoming Whiskey and toss tomahawks in the back alley. It's a combination that could only work here.
Featuring a highly curated selection of local and USA-"made" waresfrom more than 150 artisans, MADE has become the go-to destination for local and visiting gift-givers. Owner John Frechette has assembled the perfect collection of hard-to-find stationery, natural candles, and crafty knickknacks. MADE's "brother store" across Gaslight Alley is Mountain Dandy, which carries more substantial handmade items for the home. Step into the retro "clubby" atmosphere to select the perfect souvenir (leather aprons, industrial desks, and masculine accents) you would never be able to source back home. Do yourself a favor and do some pre-shopping via their Instagram feed. The feed was actually featured by Instagram themselves in a story on best stores.
This article originally appeared in Town & Country.