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
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
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.”
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.”
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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