Wyomings Jackson Hole Mountain Resort has
a reputation. Iconic ski guidebook author Charles Leocha described
it this way: If youre like many skiers and riders arriving in
Jackson Hole, your very bumpy plane landing is just a precursor to
the adventure waiting for you on the mountain.
Despite that fair
warning, for first-time visitors, the abrupt ascent of the
mountains flanking the hole for which the area was named can come
as a shock.
Were not talking
about hotels tucked into the base of a ski slope here but rather
properties dwarfed by peaks that simply rise abruptly from the
flatlands around them.
enthusiastic skier whose abilities have never quite caught up with
her love of the sport, the spectacle was daunting.
You ski; Ill
spend the weekend in the spa, I told my companion, somewhat
cravenly, as we checked into the Snake River Lodge, at the base of
the mountain in Teton Village.
The lodge is
managed by RockResorts, despite having been sold by parent company
Vail Resorts to Chicago investment firm Lodging Capital Partners
River Lodge lacks the cathedral-ceiling great room typically found
in an upscale Rocky Mountains resort ski hotel, its public rooms
are inviting enough to keep visitors indoors for at least part of
chandeliers made of antlers to Frederic Remington-style sculptures
and bears carved into unexpected places in the woodwork, the lodge
decor exudes cowboy chic.
chairs flank one of several fireplaces that warm the lobby area,
and bistro tables and chairs line up in front of another. All were
filled with people in either ski gear or casual wear enjoying
cocktails, reading books or working on laptops in obvious
As we waited by
the tiny, somewhat rickety lodge elevator to get to our
fourth-floor digs, a group of guests trooped by wearing spa robes
Were casual here,
our bellman explained, adding we should feel free to wander the
property in pajamas if so inclined.
The lodges 88
rooms and 44 suites feature beds puffy with goose-down comforters,
in-room fireplaces -- depending on room category -- and bathrooms
with granite countertops.
Ours also had a
balcony with views of horses and dogsleds, but prospective guests should be
aware that rooms on the uphill side of the property no longer offer
views of the pristine mountains -- but rather of new competitor the
Four Seasons Jackson Hole, which opened in 2003.
nothing says upscale like a full-service spa, and here the Snake
River Lodge goes all out, with the largest such facility in all
Wyoming, the five-story, 17,000-square-foot Avanyu Spa.
Avanyu features a
grotto-like, free-form hot tub under a waterfall; a heated
indoor/outdoor pool; and the requisite sauna and steam room on the
Male and female
clients have their own floors -- with more hot tubs and such -- and
the remaining two levels house gym equipment and treatment
treatments range from gentle to heavy-duty, as witnessed by names
such as Fields of Wildflowers and Rolling Thunder.
the options, I made the inspired choice of the Avanyu River Stone
Massage, a soothing treatment that combines the use of hot and cold
stones and aromatherapy oils. Recipients can choose 25, 50 or 80
minutes, priced from $80 to $190.
Just as youd
expect in the Wild West, the menu at the lodges GameFish restaurant
includes plenty of high-protein, on-the-range fare such as smoked
game and locally raised Angus steaks -- served up with a serious
buffet, meanwhile, offers game sausage, grits and house-cured
salmon, alongside the more traditional pancakes, egg dishes and
A highlight of
the visit was the Solitude Cabin Dinner Sleigh Ride. Guests
assemble at the base area at an appointed hour and then bundle into
sleighs drawn by a team of Belgian draft horses.
They then ride up
the mountain to a tiny cabin for a four-course meal served with a
full bar, accompanied by live folk music. Prices are $66.95 for
adults and $36.95 for kids 10 and under.
The real draw of
Jackson Hole in winter is, of course, the menu of on-snow
activities, ranging from dogsledding and guided snowmobiling to
some of the best skiing and snowboarding.
True to its
reputation, Jackson Hole Mountain Resort doesnt offer a lot of
terrain for beginners, although the Teewinot Quad and the Eagles
Rest lifts serve a selection of green trails.
will find a wide trail network. In fact, there is so much
intermediate, or blue terrain, that the mountain divides them into
two categories -- blue and dotted blue -- the latter presenting
The reason for
the distinction is that the plentiful expert black diamond terrain
is serious stuff, with steep pitches and chutes that resort staff
prefer to set aside for those who can handle it.
Lodges televised mountain report described one such run like this:
Advanced intermediates may, under certain conditions, make it down.
Take it as a promise or a warning. For us, it was enough
reporter Felicity Long, send e-mail to [email protected].