In this former cattle ranching capital, the West is still as wild as ever, but that doesn’t mean every meal needs to be prepared over a campfire
Author Sam Polcer Photography Sam Polcer
DAY ONE | In its early years, the recently spruced-up Wort Hotel, a downtown Jackson mainstay from the 1940s, might have been the kind of place a gambler would have splurged on after a good night at the tables. A moose head watches over the rustic lobby, while cowhide ottomans, wooden detailing and western art continue the hardy-traveler theme throughout the hotel.
After leaving your “Cowboy Suite” on the second floor, you descend the grand central staircase and are slightly disappointed to find that there aren’t saloon doors to push through when you exit the building. You’re pleased that nearly every sidewalk in Jackson is of the wood-plank variety, though.
It’s the kind of brisk, sunny morning that calls for a steaming mug of coffee, so you mosey down a block to the decidedly non-Western-sounding Lotus Café, where you find yourself wondering what the cowboys and hustlers of old would have made of the gluten-free menu options. You order blue corn griddlecakes topped with cinnamon-candied walnuts, blueberry-orange-ginger sauce and organic maple syrup, and dig in, spying a mix of skiers, students and dog walkers strolling outside.
From here it’s a 30-minute drive south along the Snake River and then east through Hoback Canyon, past sprawling hobby ranches and herds of elk and bighorn sheep, to Jackson Hole Iditarod Sled Dog Tours, which will be taking you to a hot spring in the Gros Ventre Mountains. There are more than 170 Alaskan sled dogs living here, and their barking grows to a near-deafening level as you approach, each pup letting you know just how excited it is at the prospect of making tracks.
An hour or so after you set out, your team pulls up alongside the Granite Hot Springs, the steam rising over boulders and fir trees blanketed in snow. Having stripped to your bathing suit in the morning chill, you do a little yelping of your own—once you’re immersed in the natural pool, though, eeks turn to aahs. After a good soak, you eat a lunch prepared by your guides at a nearby picnic table: piping hot beef stew paired with hot chocolate and cider.
Back in town, it’s time for some shopping. Predictably, Jackson has plenty of stores selling cowboy hats, elk antlers, wolf paintings and dreamcatchers, but among these you find a clutch of home goods and clothing shops that’d make any Brooklyn hipster feel at home. Stio, a sleek and functional outdoor apparel label from local designer Steve Sullivan, opened its minimalist flagship store here late last year. You pick up a few items of clothing that require five trademark symbols to fully describe their various weatherproofing capabilities, confident that you’re now prepared for whatever mushing or whooshing might lie ahead.
Dinner is nearby at The Kitchen, whose interior looks like a bunker built by a postmodern Scandinavian designer and whose menu involves such neo-traditional cuisine as lobster sliders and caribou sausage. A restaurateur and 18-year Jackson Hole resident named Gavin Fine runs the place, along with just about every other high-end eatery in town. After demolishing the hoisin-glazed spare ribs in short order, you make a mental note to see what else the guy’s got to offer. He has a gift.
The sledding, dipping, shopping and gorging have taken it out of you, so you hop in your rental car and head toward your new digs in Teton Village: the Four Seasons Resort and Residences Jackson Hole. After glancing around the lobby, which strikes the perfect balance between glitzy and cozy, you nod to the cowboy hat–clad bellman, check in and hit the hay.