For over 50 years, Jackson Hole has attracted thrill-seekers keen to ski “the big one.” The nickname is credited to the region’s vast terrain and famous drop of over 4,100 feet—the greatest continuous vertical in the United States. Fresh powder and challenging runs earned the Teton Range a place on many a bucket list, but it is Jackson’s local feel and luxury offerings that keep visitors returning. In this western town, it’s commonplace to enjoy a craft beer with a Wyoming rancher après ski, before heading to the spa at the Four Seasons Resort Jackson Hole. Add dozens of art galleries, high-end shops, and the proximity to Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks to the mix, and you’ve got the makings for a well-rounded winter vacation. Wildlife and stunning landscapes thrive—after all, the valley was originally named “Jackson’s hole” for Davey Jackson, a mountain man who trapped in the area during the 1800s.
Today, Jackson Hole Mountain Resort is the main draw. The property is still a family-owned business, a rarity in the big resort game. Since purchasing the property in 1992, the Kemmerer family has invested upwards of $110-million in expanding the terrain, amenities, and lifts. The newest is the Sweetwater Gondola, which has increased access to several runs suited to beginner and intermediate skiers. Hop on the Aerial Tram heading up to expert runs like Corbet’s Couloir and you’ll likely witness the community in full swing, with die-hard ski bums chatting up resident athletes like Travis Rice and Tommy Moe. The mom-and-pop-feel extends into the town of Jackson, where the old west aesthetic—complete with wooden boardwalks—co-exists with modern developments. While historic establishments like the Wort Hotel and its Silver Dollar Bar have been mainstays since the mid-1900s, Jackson has also attracted a slew of transplanted entrepreneurs. For a ski town with a population of just over 10,000, sustainability is a strong focus. Upmarket boutiques like Made and Mountain Dandy carry pieces from Wyoming-based artists, while many of the restaurants source their ingredients locally.
“We’ve had some national fast food chains open but they don’t really last. Taco Bell went out of business here,” says Kendra Alessandro, director of communications at Jackson’s Fine Dining Restaurant Group. “It’s interesting to see what entrepreneurs come up with. A lot of the concepts are food-based. It’s difficult to get local produce in the winter, so people have thought of some really creative solutions.”
The Jackson Hole Mountain Resort is still a family-owned business, a rarity in the big resort game.
Vertical Harvest, a three-storey stacked greenhouse, is an innovative example. The indoor farm aims to replace 100,000 pounds of produce per year that would typically be trucked into the community. In addition to providing fresh produce to Jackson area restaurants, grocery stores, and consumers year-round, it employs 15 people with developmental disabilities.
“Jackson Hole has a short growing season of about four months, and land is a huge commodity because of the presence of the national park,” says Vertical Harvest co-founder Nona Yehia, a trained architect from New York. “There are other vertical farms in existence but we are completely unique in terms of the social impact that we have on the community.”
The impact is seen at restaurants such as The Handle Bar at the Four Seasons Jackson Hole, which serves salads made with Vertical Harvest’s vibrant greens. Beyond produce, several restaurants mix their cocktails with gin and vodka from Jackson Hole Still Works, a company that uses Wyoming-sourced grains and mountain water to produce their small-batch spirits. These details may be small, but they resonate in Jackson’s atmosphere of local love.
The feeling of carving down Rendezvous Bowl may be what brought most Jackson Hole devotees to Teton Village in the first place, but often, it’s the community that’s kept them firmly planted—be it for a few years, a week, or just long enough to ski the big one. In the vertically charged Wild West, almost anything is possible.
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