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Three Perfect Days: Jackson Hole, WY

IF YOU’RE A SKIER, YOU’VE undoubtedly heard of Jackson Hole. The area’s ski superlatives—most challenging, most vertical, most expert-rated ski runs—are the stuff of legend. It’s no surprise, then, that people who move to this northwestern Wyoming valley do so mainly for the skiing. The surprise is that, for many of those who stay, winter is no longer their favorite season. “I came for winter and stayed for summer,” is the locals’ mantra from the bagel shop to the bank. When the snow melts, a completely different Jackson Hole emerges. (To clarify, Jackson Hole is the entire valley, and Jackson is the largest of the valley’s six towns.) Ski runs morph into trails surrounded by wildflowers that are perfect for hiking, biking, and running. Rivers rise to white-water level. Animals come out of hiding, and the ranches that give the area its Wild West attitude come back to life. The roads through nearby Grand Teton and Yellowstone national parks reopen. And faster than you can say, “My muscles can’t take any more,” you can find a symphony or country-music concert, a festival, a rodeo, an art show, a winetasting, great shops and restaurants, or a spa where you can rest your body. Three days is the perfect amount of time to sample Jackson Hole’s cowboy-cosmopolitan style and enthusiasm for outdoor adventure.

Author Dina Mishev Photography Kenneth Redding

DAY THREE / You’ll be surprised to learn that the Rusty Parrot’s six-table dining room isn’t the smallest in town. Shades Café, a historical log cabin a few blocks southeast of the inn, enjoys that distinction. Grab one of the five inside tables; the outside deck might be tempting, but mornings here, even in August, are chilly. Step up to the cozy counter and order a berry-bran muffin and eggs tomavo, a toasted English muffin topped with guacamole spread, sliced tomatoes, poached eggs, and hollandaise sauce. After you’ve finished at Shades, pop back into the Rusty Parrot and pack a dressy/casual outfit for the evening; you won’t be back until late.

Since you did so much work yesterday, it’s time to rest—a bit—in Teton Village. The Jackson Hole Mountain Resort Aerial Tram in the village (a 20-minute drive from town) carried its final load of skiers to the 10,450-foot summit of Rendezvous
Mountain in April but will remain open to sightseers through October, then will be retired and eventually replaced. Board “Big Red” by the clock tower at the resort’s base and emerge 12 minutes later to look out on more than a half-dozen mountain ranges across three states.

Feeling adventurous? Challenge gravity with a tandem paragliding flight from the top of the tram. Strap into a harness with a pilot from Jackson Hole Paragliding, and all you have to do is sit back and enjoy a bird’s-eye view of the valley. Perhaps you’d prefer to challenge gravity a little less emphatically. Exum Mountain Guides offers half-day rock-climbing lessons at various crags accessed from the tram. Or, if you’d rather simply succumb to gravity, the 11,000-square-foot Spa at the Four Seasons Resort Jackson Hole is just a few feet from the tram dock at the base. Before you’ve even reached your warm, woody treatment room for a hawthorn and mallow body glow, which uses locally harvested hawthorn berries, you’ll have forgotten there ever were any Tetons.

Look back on the morning’s adventures and sample local refreshment at the Mangy Moose in Teton Village. Order a Snake River Pale Ale or Hoback Hefeweizen, award-winning beers brewed in downtown Jackson by the Snake River Brewing Co.

Next, you’re water-bound. Wooden-boat craftsman and river guide A.J. DeRosa combined his two loves several years ago and formed Wooden Boat River Tours, offering scenic and fly-fishing trips down the Snake River. A.J. will pick you up right at the Moose and drive you to the river, where a wooden dory, lunch, some of his favorite fishing holes, and a few eagles and moose await.

Afterward, change out of your river clothes and head back to Teton Village for an early dinner at the Four Seasons’ Westbank Grill. Arrive a bit early to appreciate the resort’s pieces by Joan Miró, Alberto Giacometti, and Grant Wood, among others. Just before 8 p.m., make your way a few hundred yards across the base area to the Grand Teton Music Festival, playing chamber or symphonic music in Walk Festival Hall every night except Sunday and Monday. August’s symphony schedule includes pieces by Shostakovich, Sibelius, and Mozart.

Wandering back to your car under a clear night sky, you no longer wonder how someone could move here for a winter and stay for a lifetime. Instead, you’re wondering how you’re ever going to top these three perfect days. Dina Mishev is one of the many who have moved to Jackson Hole for a winter to ski and have never left. Her first book, Wyoming Curiosities, will be published by Globe Pequot in spring 2007.

Jackson Hole Weather

Summer in the northern Rockies features ample sunshine, chilly nights, and occasional thunderstorms.

A typical August day starts out in the 30s or lower 40s. The coldest valleys can freeze any time of year, so pack a sweater or jacket for those nippy mornings. High temperatures top out near 80 degrees. Nineties are infrequent, occurring only in the lowest elevations. Hiking is best done before midafter-noon, not only to escape the heat, but also to avoid thunderstorms. About 75 inches of snow falls annually in Jackson, half of that in December and January. Winter storms are frequent, with heavy snow and high winds. Skiers delight in snowfall that is more often powdery than wet and slushy. Significant mountain snow can persist into early June.

The Weather Channel

Weather information is provided by The Weather Channel. For more Jackson Hole climatological details, visit weather.com.

Getting Around

Jackson Hole is a “hole” because it is surrounded by mountains—the Tetons to the west, the Gros Ventres to the east and south, and the Wind Rivers to the north. Driving to or from the valley means going over a mountain pass or through a canyon. In the town of Jackson, the main streets are Cache and Broadway, which intersect at the Town Square, a popular park and the area’s commercial center. Jackson Hole has public bus transportation between downtown Jackson and Teton Village; rent a car to make the most of your time.

Jackson Hole for Kids

A Fishing in Crystal Springs Pond, Teton Village (Tel: 307-733-2292). Stocked for kids B Alpine Slide at Snow King Mountain (snowking.com). Winds through 2,500 feet of woods and wildflowers C Ripley’s Believe It or Not (ripleys.com). Oddities with a Western slant D Bar J Chuckwagon (barj chuckwagon.com). Western-style food and entertainment

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