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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

Picture 1 of 13


Population of Jackson township: 9,710

Year it was named after fur trapper David E. Jackson: 1829

Approximate number of elk that winter at the National Elk Refuge: 7,000

Elevation of Grand Teton, in feet: 13,770

Year Jackson elected the country’s first all-female city council: 1920

Acres of in-bounds terrain at Jackson Hole Mountain Resort: 2,500

Acres of gate-accessible backcountry terrain: 3,000+

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Sidecountry skiing’s secret origins

In the 1980s, the Jackson Hole Mountain Resort—or, specifically, the steep cliffs, narrow chutes and airy powder beyond its roped boundaries—was the stomping ground of a secret fraternity of high-flying ski daredevils known as the Jackson Hole Air Force. Membership patches were offered to those who pushed limits not for show but for the thrill—whether anyone was there to witness a gnarly run didn’t matter. Their motto was “Swift, Silent, Deep,” and these hotdogs are often cited as a major influence on today’s extreme skiers.

Nowadays, of course, accessible out-of-bounds terrain (“sidecountry”) is a mandatory feature of quality resorts around the globe, including at Jackson Hole, where skiers are given suggested entry points.

Hats and T-shirts emblazoned with the JHAF logo can be picked up at shops around town. The patches, meanwhile, are still extremely difficult to get your hands on.

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Wyoming makes room on the shelf for one of its own

Wyoming has long held all of the key elements for a successful bourbon business: land that can grow corn, wheat and barley; a massive limestone aquifer providing fresh water; residents with an appreciation for handlebar mustaches.

While it may come as a surprise that it took until last year for the state’s first locally produced bourbon to hit shelves, it’s no surprise how quickly Wyoming Whiskey flew off them. Last winter, when the first batches went up for sale at a launch party with local distributors in attendance, it took just minutes for all 3,000 cases to be snatched up. More batches were released in February, June and October, and in December shipments will go to a few markets outside Wyoming.

The bourbon, which is distilled in Kirby, a town of 92 residents along the Bighorn River, is the work of three attorneys from Jackson who lured Steve Nally, a veteran Kentucky bourbon distiller, out of retirement. Their efforts appear to be paying off: At the launch, Mark Gillespie, an editor at Whisky Magazine, rated it 95 out of a possible 100. “It is one of the best bourbons I’ve ever tasted,” he said.

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The inside scoop from those in the know

Tommy Moe

Ski guide and Olympic gold medalist

Start your day on Apres Vous, which has some really nice, long cruiser runs with really fun terrain—a little bit of everything. Plus there’s a high-speed quad, so you can get a couple of runs in before everybody else.”

Tenley Thompson

Four Seasons Resort Biologist

“About 1.5 miles into the National Elk Refuge there’s a hill covered in bighorn sheep. In winter they’re in their breeding season, so they’re bashing heads. They might even give you a ‘Jackson car wash’—licking the salt from the road that’s on your car.”

Gavin Fine

Owner, Fine Dining restaurant Group

“Go to Couloir, on the mountain, for lunch. It’s the same menu as dinner but costs less. They have rotating local beers on tap: Snake River, Roadhouse, Teton … and if you drink too much you can always head back down on the gondola.”

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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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