It’s known for killer slopes, which is why the impending shutdown of the renowned aerial tram (in its last season after 40 years) is Jackson Hole’s biggest news since Tiger Woods bought a house in the skiing mecca. The iconic lift serves North America’s toughest in-bounds terrain: the infamous Corbet’s Couloir, more elevator shaft than trail, and three scary-steep chutes in the Hobacks. With a replacement at least three years away, there’s a last-chance urgency among powder hounds. (Cheap “Last Tram” packages are available on jacksonhole.com.)
Lower down the slopes, the new Sweetwater lift connects the beginner and intermediate areas, making the famously difficult mountain more welcoming for novices and slightly more advanced skiers. Tommy Moe, a 1994 Olympic gold medalist, just started offering the area’s most coveted private lessons through the ski school (from $400 for a half-day; 800-450-0477).
Jackson’s top accommodations have shifted from the town proper to the slopeside Teton Village, where upscale properties like the Four Seasons Resort (high-season rates from $575; 307-732-5000), Snake River Lodge and Spa (from $359; 307-732-6000), and TML, as the acronym-loving locals call Teton Mountain Lodge (from $259; 307-734-7111), have opened. TML has a brand-new Gear Closet, where guests can borrow trendy equipment like Cloudveil RPK3 gloves or Ignite and Vapor goggles by Ryders Eyewear. The hotel’s new “green” Mountain Lodge Spa offers all-natural products, organic-cotton towels, and energy-efficient lighting (book the Aboriginal Dreamtime massage for post-ski).
This winter’s must-hit après ski circuit includes the Four Seasons’ new open-air bar, serving “Icicles”—white- chocolate cones filled with Bailey’s or peppermint schnapps—and the just-opened Café 6311, named for its altitude at the tram base. Locals will be hiding out at the little-known Village Café in the VCI (Village Center Inn); eschew the overcrowded first floor for the hidden basement bar.
For dinner, the new contender is Trio, named for its three owners—veteran Jackson culinary hands, all—and serving up refined comfort foods. On Sunday nights, J-Holers hit OYG (Old Yellowstone Garage) for pizza night: all-you-can-eat gourmet pies fresh from the brick oven and served tableside. At Nick Wilson’s Cowboy Café, order the “Tram Taco”; it’s not on the menu, but locals know it means a taco stuffed with Fritos, chili, and cheese.
Unlike most ski towns, Jackson has a nightlife beyond dinnertime. Thursday is disco night at the Stagecoach in nearby Wilson; skiers and riders go all out in seventies regalia. At the Rancher on Town Square, Tuesday night is “Town Meeting,” where seasonal workers drink PBR out of cans and shoot pool. Club nights rotate at Eleanor’s Cuvee, hidden in a strip mall behind a bank, but are usually held two or three times a week. The late-night crowd always migrates to the tiny, tough-to-find Koshu for martinis (show up before 8 p.m. and it will be empty).
Not to Be Missed …
With Jackson bracing for a particularly busy season, thanks to the tram’s decommissioning, an influx of spotting-worthy celebrities (Jennifer Aniston, Sandra Bullock), and new flights from Newark to Jackson on United and American (with stopovers in Chicago and Dallas, respectively), avid powder hounds would do well to book ahead.
Left:Morning rides on the tram are jam-packed; make a beeline for the secret spot behind the operator to get some breathing room.
Middle:Save money; at $400, Tommy Moe’s afternoon session is $100 cheaper than his morning lesson.
Right:Make the Four Seasons’ new alfresco bar your first après ski stop; it loses sun before other bars.