Having visited nearly every top ski area North America has to offer, I'd be hard-pressed to choose an absolute favorite. The pomp and circumstance of Aspen, or the low-key grit of Telluride? The epic back bowls of Vail, or the convenience of Park City and Deer Valley? And what about the vastness of Whistler? But when the chips are down and all things are considered equal, it’s the magic equilibrium of Jackson Hole—Wyoming’s challenging terrain, accessibility, rustic charm, local color, and fabulous food—that makes the resort town a destination I'll return to again and again. (And this year, it helps that while powder has been a rare occurrence elsewhere this season, Jackson Hole has seen over 250 inches of white gold to date.)
With Jackson Hole’s 50th-anniversary celebration beginning in 2016, next year is shaping up to be even better. Visitors should look for a new chairlift that will open up coveted terrain in The Crags area, a new on-mountain high-end dining experience, and the destination’s participation in the Mountain Collective pass, which gives skiers and snowboarders access to 14 top independent resorts, including Aspen/Snowmass, Mammoth, Whistler, and Valle Nevado, Chile.
But if you're looking to catch some late-season powder—especially ahead of President's Day weekend—here's what to check out in Jackson Hole now:
Who to Know
Gavin Fine’s Fine Dining mountain empire of exceptional eateries (Bin22, Rendezvous Bistro, The Kitchen, and The Q Roadhouse, to name a few) makes him the Danny Meyer of Teton County. His newest addition, Bodega in Teton Village, opened in December and offers an elevated approach to the corner store with gourmet groceries, a selection of wines typically impossible to get in this part of the world, craft beer from Fine’s Roadhouse brewery, and take-and-bake pizzas from his Teton Village Italian staple, Il Villaggio Osteria. 3200 McCollister Dr.
Where to Eat
After you make the rounds at Gavin's eateries, check out Sam and Suchada Johnson’s Teton Thai; it's both the town’s local favorite and the Jackson Hole’s most surprising dining experience. Sip Jackson Hole's own brew, Snake River Lager, at the restaurant’s new après-ski patio, or grab an order of veggie spring rolls and Salmon Curry to-go. Be careful with the spice level; these guys know how to turn up the heat. 7342 Granite Loop Rd.; 307-733-0022.
Teton Gravity Research—practically the inventors of the ski video—have expanded their action sports empire from their former digs at the base of the gondola to a custom-built log cabin 10 miles away in Wilson, Wyoming. Drop by to visit founding brothers Steve and Todd Jones; catch a screening of their younger brother Jeremy Jones’s Further, the second installment of his snowboarding trilogy, in their new movie theater; or hit up the new shop for all the requisite gear. 1260 N. West St.; 307-734-8192.
Where to Ski
Check out the “local’s mountain,” Snow King Resort, hovering over Jackson like a gentle giant. Featuring everything from the steepest north-facing racecourse in the U.S. to ecofriendly lights on the night skiing trails, these slopes have something for every level of skier. Tip: Make a pit stop at the Snow King Hotel, which just underwent a massive renovation. 400 E. Snow King Ave.; 307-733-5200.
Where to Stay
Now under new ownership, The Snake River Lodge (formerly a RockResort) has just completed a two-year overhaul. A majestic ski-in property located just below the Bridger gondola, each room now boasts brand-new 42-inch flatscreen TVs, iPhone-docking stations, queen-size beds, and Wi-Fi. Pro tip: Upon checking in, drop by the hotel’s expert ski valets to get fully outfitted and ready for a seamless bed-to-lift transition in the morning. From $210; 7710 Granite Loop Rd.; 307-732-6000.