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If you’re looking to get an adrenaline fix this winter, Jackson Hole, Wyoming, is the ideal destination. Not only is it home to the world-class Jackson Hole Mountain Resort, one of the most challenging ski areas in the US, it’s also an easy jumping-off point for Grand Teton and Yellowstone national parks, which offer an array of thrilling adventures alongside wildlife spotting and, of course, plenty of space for social distancing.
Nordic skiing or snowshoeing through the dramatic mountain vistas of Grand Teton National Park is a great workout and an excellent opportunity to spot wildlife. The Teton Park Road piste is a solid option for beginners, with 14mi (22.5km) of groomed trails to explore and spectacular views along the base of the mountain range. There are also plenty of off-trail points of interest, such as Taggart Lake, in one of the park’s most striking valleys, though conditions can be unpredictable, so check with a ranger before you head out.
With many roads closed due to snow in the winter, snowmobiling is a practical and exhilarating way to access some of the most notable sights in the area. Local outfitters – including Scenic Safaris and Teton Tour Company – offer half-, full- or even multi-day tours around points of interest. Speed across the snow on your personal snowmobile to locations such as the Old Faithful geyser or the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone; Togwotee Pass, on the Continental Divide; Greys River, in the Bridger-Teton National Forest; or the naturally heated Granite Hot Springs in the Gros Ventre Range.
Give your legs a rest and let gravity take control with an afternoon racing down the mountain on a snow tube. Snow King Mountain – which was established in the 1930s, making it Wyoming’s first ski area – is a 15-minute walk from Jackson Town Square. Here, you’ll find a ‘magic carpet’, which carries tubers to the top of three groomed snowtubing lanes. The mountain offers hourly rentals, or a combined pass for tubing and the resort’s Cowboy Coaster ride.
Take a thrill ride on Snow King’s Cowboy Coaster, which runs in winter and summer. After climbing 456ft (139m) up the mountain, the ride hurtles down a mile-long (1.6km) track, whipping around hairpin turns and over loops and drops, with stunning views of the Tetons in the background. Don’t worry – riders can control their own speed, though there is a minimum height restriction of 38in (96cm).
Skiers and snowboarders can zoom up Jackson Hole Mountain Resort’s Rendezvous Mountain on the Big Red aerial tram, which climbs 4,139ft (1,261m) in just 12 minutes. At the top, take in 360-degree views of the Tetons and Jackson Hole Valley, and gorge on the famous waffles at Corbet’s Cabin. There are various runs to take you back down the slope, but if you’re feeling bold, and are an expert skier or rider, take the jaw-dropping plunge down Corbet’s Couloir – a 10ft (3m) wide chute with a 20ft (6m) vertical drop that’s one of America’s scariest ski slopes.
To revel in untouched powder, go into the Teton back-country with High-Mountain Heli-Skiing, which has been taking adventure skiers on unforgettable runs for almost 50 years. During one day of heliskiing they will take you for six runs – covering a total of 12,000ft to 15,000ft (3,657m to 4,572m) – on a variety of terrain, including bowls, chutes and glades across the five mountain ranges surrounding Jackson Hole.
For a truly unmatched view of the Jackson Hole Valley, take to the skies with Jackson Hole Paragliding. Under the guidance of a certified tandem pilot, you’ll float high above Teton Village, as well as the Teton and Snake River ranges. The contrast of steep mountains and the flat valley floor makes Jackson Hole one of the best places to paraglide in the country. Flights usually last about 10 minutes, depending on wind and weather conditions.
Fat biking is an ideal winter activity when temperatures plummet and the snow becomes more hard-packed, or even if you just want to take a day off skiing or riding. It’s also a good way to work up a sweat and enjoy the alpine scenery from a new perspective. The Cache Creek trail network, just on the edge of Jackson town, offers groomed – though hilly – trails, while Grand Targhee Resort has 9mi (14.5km) of Nordic track and 7mi (11km) of single track. Most bike rental shops in town carry fat bikes and will be able to advise on routes.
Powder hounds can also head to Grand Targhee Resort, about an hour outside Jackson town, for the only cat-skiing operation in Wyoming. Sit back and admire the snow-covered landscape as one of the resort’s two snowcats transport you up the mountain to 602 acres (243ha) of light Teton powder accessible only to cat skiers and boarders. You’ll get up to 18,000ft (5,486m) of skiing and riding in one day, and as many as 11 runs. Snowcats are available to book by the single seat or for a party of up to 10 for a private group experience.
For anyone fascinated by the Iditarod, winter in Jackson Hole means the opportunity to try your hand at mushing. Jackson Hole Iditarod Sled Tours offers full-day dog sledding options, which will take you all the way to Granite Hot Springs for a dip, as well as half-day trips through the Bridger-Teton National Forest. The company works with 170 trained Alaskan sled dogs, and the experienced guides will even give you the opportunity to drive the team.
For more information and to plan a trip to this wonderful winter destination, head to visitjacksonhole.com, and be sure to check the Covid restriction information and border status before travelling.