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Three Perfect Days: Jackson Hole

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

Fishing guide Boots Allen demonstrates how to hook a trout in the chilly Snake River

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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.

2 Responses to “Three Perfect Days: Jackson Hole”

  1. david yashar 1K Says:
    November 21st, 2013 at 2:04 am

    reading this months magazine, I came across an advertising regarding beaver comforters…can somebody please forward me the web site for that company. certainly would appreciate it.

  2. Joseph Paine Says:
    November 23rd, 2013 at 11:18 am

    I have been living on the West Bank of the Snake river for 3 years now and am an annual 100+ day skier at JHMR. My Mother pulled a Hemisphere mag off her plane to show me the article about my home.

    Sam you did a good job writing about what you know, luxurious amenities, but pretty much blew it writing about things you don’t know, namely hardcore ski culture and the infamous Jackson Hole Air Force.

    You should have encouraged everyone to buy the movie “SwiftxSilentxDeep” and probably should have watched it yourself. Aside from the video, Jackson Hole Air Force gear is not for sale at any shop anywhere in the valley. You also can’t show up and “try for an Air Force patch” unless you show up and dont leave for 10 years, skiing extremes beyond anything you’ve ever imagined, and not being a jackass. Its not about how hard you go, its about how hard you go and who you are as a person.

    Kudos to you for finding that picture of Wild Bill Bowen dropping into S&S in his denim though. That was far and away the best part of the article. I am clipping it for the Hostel employee kitchen refrigerator door.

    Also, you got the actual height of the mountain wrong by 400 ft. The actual height is 10,450 not 10,927 – wherever that number came from. To your credit though, Wikipedia says its over 12,000 which is waaaayyyy off. Thank God you didnt go with that number.

    Also, Wyoming Whiskey is garbage and that editor at Whisky Mag was either paid off or just very drunk. Have you ever heard of a 3 year bourbon? I never had until WyoWhiskey rushed their whole process and put out that godawful young batch. Id rather drink moonshine… and I frequently do. 3 year bourbon is a joke, quite frankly.

    I respect the fact that you wanted to mention the Air Force (which I am not a member of), I just felt obligated to point out some rather glaring false information in your article. Despite the obvious fact that your readership, the folks who can afford to eat at all the amazing restaurants you reviewed and stay in the posh 4 Seasons, will neither notice or care!

    Joseph Paine
    HostelX Housekeeping / Professional dirtbag skier

    Ski fast. Take chances.

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