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Wild Western Wonders

Wild Western Wonders

Getting To Know Jackson Hole, The American West’S Premier Year-Round Resort Town

As anyone who has visited Jackson Hole can attest, this particular section of Wyoming—the valley between the Teton Range and the Gros Ventre Range—is truly one of the most spectacular settings in the American West, if not all of the U.S.

To some, it’s a winter playground for the international jet set, while others think of it as a companion stop when exploring Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks. But now more than ever, Jackson Hole has become a year-round destination appealing to visitors from all corners of the globe.

“There has been an increase in demand to be in Jackson year over year; all four seasons in Jackson provide new and different opportunities to experience the beauty of this area that keep people wanting to stay here,” explains Brandon Spackman, associate broker, Jackson Hole Sotheby’s International Realty. The region makes such an impression, it leads many visitors to look into putting down roots. “There is a strong trend nationally to move to mountain towns for the lifestyle offered, and Jackson seems to be at the top of the list. In addition, there are significant tax advantages to becoming a Wyoming resident which many take advantage of. Most of the land in the Jackson Hole valley is permanently protected from development. Less than 3% can be developed, so we have a very limited supply and a high demand.”

Antelope Flats at Grand Teton, an area that offers an abundance of outdoor activities
Antelope Flats at Grand Teton, an area that offers an abundance of outdoor activities.

Regardless of the season, any first-time visit to the area should start in the town of Jackson, which serves as a hub for the entire region. With a year-round population of only around 10,000, the historic town is filled with inviting boutiques, galleries, and eateries. During peak tourist periods in the winter and summer, the area’s roads and rooms are filled with thousands of visitors, leading to the kind of hassles—traffic, parking, reservations—that locals don’t have to deal with the rest of the year.

“We have more visitors in the summer than winter since we are a gateway town to Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks,” Spackman says. “There is also an abundance of outdoor activities to do in the summer, when the climate is very comfortable.”

Both Yellowstone—created in 1872 as the world’s first national park, it now receives more than four million visitors annually—and Grand Teton have grown in popularity in recent years. The surrounding area has become a magnet for serious fly fishers, cyclists, hikers, mountain bikers, rock climbers, and other outdoor enthusiasts.

In recent years, more than 450 inches of annual snowfall have blanketed the landscape from November through spring. Nonskiers find other ways to enjoy the white stuff, namely snowshoeing and snowmobiling, while many visitors are merely content to enjoy the quiet, solitude, and fresh alpine air that this part of Wyoming—the least-populous state in the U.S.—delivers in abundance.

As with any top-tier ski area, Jackson Hole’s roster of high-end resorts—all of which position themselves as year-round, family-friendly destinations—features some of the world’s biggest names in luxury hospitality. Serious skiers swear by the Four Seasons Resort and Residences Jackson Hole, which offers ski-in/ski-out access to some of the area’s most famous trails. An on-site ski concierge makes life easy for skiers of all levels, handling lift tickets, advising on conditions and trails, assisting with equipment, and more.

The view from a room at the Four Seasons Resort Jackson Hole.
The view from a room at the Four Seasons Resort Jackson Hole

Another resort that attracts the global jet set is Amangani, one of only two Aman Resorts in the U.S. Situated on the edge of the East Gros Ventre Butte—perfect for couples and families looking for a discreet hideaway—the resort is filled with sandstone columns and redwood beams. Cowhide chairs, ample fireplaces, and lots of wood, leather, and stone add to the Old West atmosphere. The concierge team inspires guests to try their hand at any number of activities, including horseback riding, white-water rafting, hot-air balloon rides, and wildlife excursions led by naturalists during which wolves, bears, bison, and birds of prey can be spotted. (As a general rule, nature spotting is best in the spring, when animals emerge from their winter hibernation.)

Less than a mile away, the Spring Creek Ranch offers a less opulent, yet no less comfortable resort experience on a wildlife sanctuary set almost 1,000 feet above the town of Jackson. A variety of rooms, townhouses, and mountain villas appeal to multigenerational family groups, and many guests never leave the resort, with so many activities available—from wildlife safaris to sunset sleigh rides to dog-sledding.

For the less adventurous, there are plenty of pursuits worth enjoying. Most of the area’s resorts offer top-notch spa facilities with locally inspired treatments. Spring Creek Ranch’s Wilderness Adventure Spa offers a High Altitude Hot Stone Heaven massage, while The Spa at Four Seasons Resort Jackson Hole is famous for its après ski spa ritual, which starts with a high-altitude body soak and a glass of Champagne, moves on to a hot-stone massage, and finishes with a willow bark wrap (a natural anti-inflammatory).

Downtown Jackson is lined with inviting shops and eateries. The best place to start is in the town square, famous for its giant elk-antler arches, a local fixture since the early 1960s. Start with a stroll past impressive art galleries, showrooms, and boutiques—many of which have locations in Aspen and Beverly Hills—and end on a saddle-topped stool at the legendary Million Dollar Cowboy Bar. Filled with an incredible assortment of vintage Western and cowboy memorabilia, this local institution has been welcoming celebrities, politicians, working cowhands, and everyone in between since 1937. Live music and Western dancing are featured most nights of the week.

Any time of year, no visit to Jackson Hole is complete without a stop at the National Museum of Wildlife Art, whose distinctive facade was inspired by the ruins of Slains Castle in Aberdeenshire, Scotland. Once visitors have perused the 14 galleries and sculpture trail, many stop to enjoy the view of the National Elk Refuge, where thousands of elk gather in the winter.

Fishermen take to the water in Jackson Hole
Fishermen take to the water in Jackson Hole.

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