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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

The National Elk Refuge, with the Teton Range in the distance

Picture 2 of 13

DAY TWO | When the Four Seasons opened here in 2003, it put Jackson Hole on the luxury-travel map and helped change the perception of the area from a rugged outpost to the kind of place where a person might decide to rent a helmet cam from an on-site ski concierge while his boots warmed in a locker. Which is precisely what you do before heading outside and breezing past powderhounds cramming themselves into the tram for first tracks.

It’s not long before you arrive at Terra Café, a buzzing eatery on the ground floor of the LEED-certified Hotel Terra. The poached eggs with potato bread, roasted tomatoes, chopped bacon, chives and smoked paprika hollandaise require some recovery time, but they’re worth it.

You consider a sensible start to your day on the mountain—say, by heading to the intermediate area served by a new high-speed Casper quad chair, or some other part of the mountain appropriate for people without rubber knees. Instead, you’re seduced by the prospect of the 10,927-foot Rendezvous Mountain—and are transported to a swirling, disorienting snowscape straight out of “Game of Thrones.”

Deciding that no one needs to see what happens next, you find the off button on your helmet cam and prepare to make your way down by any means necessary. But then your skis find their edges and you begin carving the most graceful turns of your life, descending into Laramie Bowl on groomers so smooth you might as well be flying.

The rest of the day goes like this. From time to time, the mountain bares its teeth—presenting you with vertigo-inducing panoramas, narrow chutes and the occasional whiteout—but for the most part it cooperates and doesn’t leave you in an unmanageable situation. Every now and then, the bizarre feeling that you might be the only person there adds to the drama, and you hoot and holler accordingly.

An epic morning has earned you a hearty lunch. You hand your skis to the valet and tromp over to Il Villaggio Osteria, another one of Fine’s eateries, where you order wood-oven pizza with mascarpone, mushrooms, sausage, caramelized onion, Swiss chard and wild arugula, with a side order of fried Brussels sprouts topped with pomegranate. It is magnificent. Fortified, you head up to the edge of Jackson Hole’s most infamous drop, Corbet’s Couloir, and … back away slowly. The aforementioned Casper quad chair it is.

You’ve been longing for a hot tub soak since you first hit the slopes, so by the time you join a small group of fellow lightweights in the outdoor tub back at the hotel, a barrel filled with hot water would have sufficed. But this is the Four Seasons. Heated locker for your bathrobe? Check. Bar serving local microbrews? Of course. When light flakes start making a lazy descent, rendering the mountainside impossibly picturesque, you wonder for a moment if someone at the concierge desk pushed a button.

You’ve skipped the traditional après base party, but you more than make up for the lapse at dinner. What appears to be an all-snowboarder waitstaff lends an extremely convivial atmosphere to the small dining room at Teton Thai. Husband-and-wife owners Sam and Suchada Johnson swing by your table to make a few recommendations, sparking a chain reaction from nearby diners: “Definitely try the pad gar pow duck” … “Oh, and the pad woon sen” … “Do you like short ribs?” … “Oh, man, the taro root!”

Concerned that you may be about to explode, you head to après HQ and live music venue the Mangy Moose, where party-hearty local outfit Whiskey Mornin’ are just starting their second set. After an indeterminate amount of time drinking Snake River Pale Ale and bragging about your day’s exploits to everyone within earshot, you notice that the band has broken into a rendition of Led Zeppelin’s “Ramble On.” You take that as a cue. Outside, the moonlight reflects off the slopes, lighting your way back to the hotel.

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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