Ski Showdown: Aspen vs. Jackson Hole

Ski Showdown: Aspen vs. Jackson Hole

The wild wild west, or refined rockies?

Ski season is right around the corner, so it’s time to choose which slopes you’ll be sliding down this winter, and (perhaps) more importantly, what you’ll be doing once the trails are closed for the day.

Ski towns tend to take on a distinct personality, even if they are a part of the same mountain chain. Jackson Hole is your quintessential country town — it’s rugged, wild, and laid back — a true nature lover’s paradise. Aspen, on the other hand, has a glamorous vibe and a hint of city cool. Both places, of course, are surrounded by snow-capped Rocky Mountains and boast world-class skiing. There’s much more consider than a cowboy hats or ushanka when making your choice between Aspen or Jackson Hole, and we’re here to provide all the information you need just in time for the first snowfall.  

The Mountains

skier-in-aspenAspen: Aspen’s claim to fame is that you’ll never have to ski the same run twice. With four different mountains encompassing the Aspen-Snowmass ski area, we’re tempted to believe this claim is true. Buttermilk mountain is the home of the annual X-Games, and attracts extreme skiers and boarders through the season with its several parks equipped with rails, advanced jumps, and boxes. Aspen Highlands is geared toward experts ready and willing to hike steep inclines to access the Aspen Bowl, while Snowmass Mountain has many runs for beginners; here, you’ll find lessons for little skiers as young as 2 years old. And, since Aspen is a firm favorite among movie stars, it’s is also highly populated with celeb-approved ski instructors ready and willing to bring your skills to the next level.

skiers-mountain-rangeJackson Hole: The Jackson Hole Mountain Resort is known for its black diamond runs and rugged backcountry terrain. The Resort has over 100 runs, 50% of which are for experts. It comprises two mountains, Apres Vous and Rendezvous. Confident skiers ready to take on a serious challenge will be satisfied with Rendezvous, where roughly 4,1000 vertical feet of bowls and chutes await. Apres Vous is more well-suited for the intermediate, but regardless of skill, we recommend reserving one day for the resort’s Mountain Sports School so you can get a good handle on what the mountain offers. If you’re on the market for an adrenaline rush like none other, Jackson Hole’s deep backcountry powder makes for excellent Heli skiing; yes, that’s when you jump out of a helicopter onto the mountain. Not for the faint of heart!

The Verdict: This is a hard one. What mountain has the “best skiing” is a contentious subject among skiers, so the best way to truly crack this equation is to go out and test them for yourself. But, if you’re traveling with beginners or intermediate skiers, Aspen has slightly more variety. 

The Accommodation

wp-colorado-starwoodestate-02Aspen: Having a comfortable place to call home after a long day out in the fresh alpine air is a key ingredient to any successful ski getaway. In Aspen, variety is the name of the game, and the abundance of choices is perhaps one of the reasons why it’s a longstanding favorite among the high-rolling ski enthusiasts. It begins with imposing mansions such as Starwood Estate, outfitted with all the bells & whistles: a heated driveway, indoor pool, home theater system, steam room, and stacked wine cellar. For something a little more low-key yet equally as chic, you have cozy log cabins with outdoor spaces made to charm; fire pits, lounge areas and hot tubs combine to make the perfect post-ski retreat. If you’re a fan of modern architecture, you can stay in an ultra-contemporary space filled with Jeff Koons-inspired artwork and one of a kind features like glowing bedframes.  Those who love the cozy cape cod style with wraparound porches and being within walking distance of Aspen’s downtown core, there’s a place for you here, too.

Where to stay in Aspen        

wp-wyoming_ontheelkrefuge_19Jackson Hole: Love to really get away from it all? Are quiet dinners by the fireplace with views of the snowcapped mountains in the distance exactly what you dream of when you think winter getaway?  Then Jackson Hole has the right hideaways to provide the peace you crave. Often built on a massive acreage, Jackson’s log mansions are dotted throughout the base of the majestic Teton Mountain range. Rustic decor is consistent throughout, with patterned animal rugs, south western style throw blankets and pillows, and picture windows bringing the essence of the outdoors inside. While mountain views are guaranteed wherever you are, you can take your pick between a backyard that’s a pristine golf course at homes such as 8th Fairway under the Tetons, or On the Elk Refuge, where moose, elk and more run wild just steps away from the back porch. Wherever you lay your head, expect a cozy feel and a country outlook.

The Verdict: If country living in its truest form is up your alley, there’s no question that Jackson Hole is for you. But if luxurious amenities close to downtown delights is more alluring, off to Aspen you go.

                                          

The Apres Ski

aspen-downtownAspen: Sure, a ski getaway is first and foremost about that addicting, exhilarating feeling of drifting down the mountains. But the mountain fun can only last so long, leaving plenty of time to explore what’s beyond the runs. Aspen is arguably the most see-and-be-seen ski town in the United States, it can be considered L.A.’s satellite office come winter. Frequented by A-listers like Jack Nicholson, Cameron Diaz and the Kardashian crew, the town is outfitted with all finer things in life like top-notch dining, excellent shopping and spas. Tuck into sushi at Matsuhia Aspen or sip incredible French wines at The Little Nell. Browse the shops from Prada and Gucci on Galena Street to Ralph Lauren on Cooper Avenue, then round out your day with a show at the Wheeler Opera House. You might be tempted to stay out on the town, but be sure to get to bed early because early birds get the freshest powder.

couloir-mountain-bistroJackson Hole: A much more laid-back atmosphere in comparison to Aspen, Jackson Hole has fewer glam options, but there are still plenty of options. Our favorite way to relax after a day on the slopes is at the Granite Hot Springs, just an hour south from Teton Village. Any trip to Jackson wouldn’t be complete without going to the Mangy Moose — rated the best après ski spot in the US by SKI Magazine. If you’re in the mood for a fine dining after all of that rugged mountain activity, take a starlit gondola ride up to Couloir, where you’ll find a heated terrace, breathtaking mountain view, and a $100 prix-fixe menu from award-winning chef Wes Hamilton.

The Verdict: This boils down to what you think of when you hear the word “stargazing.” Does it mean relaxing at 5-star restaurants and keeping an eye out for celebrities? Or, do you imagine sitting back and gazing at the night sky? If you take the term more literally, then steer your skis toward Jackson Hole.

Where to stay in Jackson Hole

Photographs: f11 photo/shutterstock; The Little Nell
Colleen McNamara