It was a last August, it was very hot in Geneva and I was thinking about skiing in the US. Strange? Maybe. What was on my mind was whether a Jackson Hole skiing holiday in Wyoming, USA is worth all the cost and travel?
When one thinks of extreme skiing there are generally two places that come to mind – Chamonix and Jackson Hole. I am incredibly fortunate to live just 45 minutes from the former, but until last winter had never been to the jewel in Wyoming’s Stetson, Jackson Hole.
I’ve always wanted to of course, which real skier wouldn’t? Like skiing in Chamonix, JH is synonymous with legends of the white stuff and therefore kind of symbolises a right of passage for any lover of the steep and deep.
As a result, when the opportunity to get over there finally came around I was line dancing with excitement. So I packed up my gear, during one of Europe’s best winters, and crossed the Atlantic.
Living in Geneva the French and Swiss Alps are on my doorstep. I can literally look out of the window and see mountains with snow on them.
In under an hour I can pack up the car and be on the slopes. Even Austria and Italy are just a drive away. I can pick and choose my days, and with Chamonix and Verbier both close I have access to two of the best off-piste ski destinations.
But I had my heart set on a Jackson Hole skiing holiday in Wyoming, USA. To get there from Geneva I would have to change flights twice to reach Jackson Hole Airport. Fortunately, I was planning to visit friends and family in the UK anyway so I flew via London.
Of course you could always fly into Salt Lake City and drive four hours north. This gives you the chance to see some more of the country and also visit other ski resorts.
Furthermore, Yellowstone and the Grand Tetons National Park are both very close. Road trip anyone? Just be aware that if you are involved in an crash you may want to call a reputable accident attorney.
I’d love to do the British thing and tell you that Jackson hole didn’t live up to hype. It’d be typically UK style to build it up then knock it down.
I could come out with nonsense such as ‘it doesn’t have the ‘charm’ of the Alps’. That ‘the American enthusiasm is insincere’. That ‘the mountains just don’t compare to Chamonix’. Or ‘the size of portions are far too big’…….blah blah blah.
As I said, nonsense! Skiing in North America and in particular Jackson Hole is truly one of the greatest experiences that you can ever hope to have in the mountains.
It’s not about comparisons, whose snow is deeper, whose peaks are higher, whose lifts are faster, whose beer is more expensive etc etc. It’s about embracing something completely different and that is exactly what a Jackson Hole skiing holiday in Wyoming, USA is all about.
It’s a fusion of old and new, it’s progressive as well as rooted in history, and it’s the birthplace of extreme ski legends. Jackson Hole is the playground of Travis Rice, Lynsey Dyer, Hadley Hammer, Forrest Jillson and many more.
It’s real. One minute you can be riding the legendary JH tram standing next to one of the fathers of big mountain skiing. And the next you can find yourself inadvertently featuring in the latest edit by the world famous action sports filmmakers Teton Gravity Research.
And all you were doing was just having a beer in the Mangy Moose. It’s not just the après-bar of choice but also TGR’s base for beer induced creative brainstorming.
We had two superb weeks over in Wyoming. And from a skiing perspective the overriding memory that I will take with me of Jackson Hole was how harsh the terrain actually is.
I’m not talking about what lies beyond the ropes which is obviously extreme. But rather the inbound stuff which is also incredibly serious terrain. The world Famous Corbet’s Couloir is just the tip of the iceberg!
With hidden cliffs and chutes everywhere, if you know where you’re going it really is extreme recreation. If you don’t……well…..get a guide. There were numerous occasions when shouts of ‘I’m going down here’ were almost immediately followed by ‘don’t go this way’.
Unless you’re on a similar skill level to pro riders, let’s just say it’s not really a place to ‘play’. In fact, any amateurish behaviour on the hill and JH will chew you up and spit you out like an angry buffalo. And rightly so, this is the Wild West after all……
Ski trips are about taking a punt. Will the snow conditions be good? In fact, will there be any snow at all? Will the weather hold out? Will the chalet/hotel live up to its tripadvisor rating?….and so it goes on.
For sure if you decide to go to Jackson Hole the stakes are even higher. Without doubt from europe it’s one hell of a long journey.
Having said that though, I honestly think that it’s worth it. And then some!
I’m done with the unpredictable conditions of the Alps. I am over the disinterested approach to customer service. And quite frankly hearts, crossed skis, and plates of bubbling cheese are well, a tad cheesy at times.
After this trip, I for one would be more than happy to make Jackson Hole my regular ski holiday destination of choice. In fact I’d go as far as to admit that I’d be totally cool to put hand on heart and swear permanent ski allegiance to the powder gods of North America.
I still live in Geneva and will of course ski locally, but for my annual holiday I am going long haul. Gawd bless Jackson Hole and all her who ski in her. I’m off to get a pair of cowboy boots……
For more information about Jackson Hole visit: www.jacksonhole.com