A cowboy town with a big skiing problem, Jackson neatly melds the best of the old and new in one spectacular setting, at the base of the mighty Teton mountains. With the highest vertical drop in the United States and some of the sport’s most infamously difficult trails – beyond double black runs like Corbet’s Couloir – the Jackson Hole Mountain Resort has a reputation as an expert’s playground. But while its sternest stuff is the most challenging in the sport, there is plenty of skiing for every ability, and recent years have seen a vast expansion of beginner and intermediate terrain, with new lifts and grooming.
Fresh off its 50th birthday last winter, yet another new lift, the Sweetwater Gondola, was just added. Significantly increasing capacity out of the base area, this will access a new dedicated teaching area and facility next season at the Solitude mid-station. From there the new gondola continues up to the Casper Restaurant – one of several standout on-mountain dining options spread across the resort.
In fact, the area’s dining slate has grown in step with the many millions in ski resort and town improvements over the past decade and is now better than ever. Once known for T-bone steaks, burgers and chili, Jackson now has one of the most vibrant culinary scenes in skiing and it just keeps getting better. Because of the immensity of the ski mountain, the resort’s nickname has long been “The Big One,” but now dining is of similar scale, and when you get to Wyoming, deciding where to eat will be as hard as where to ski.
What makes the destination confusing to first time visitors is that it is really two towns, 12-miles apart: Jackson proper is the Old West gateway to Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks, with its wooden sidewalks and signature welcome arches made of shed elk antlers ringing the town’s central square, and is home to the bulk of the restaurants, bars and shops. Teton Village is the ski-in/ski-out modern resort enclave at the base of the ski resort, with a smaller but high quality selection of eateries that has grown considerably in recent years. Teton Village is more convenient to the slopes, Jackson has more of everything non-skiing, and most visitors find themselves splitting their days between the two.
The morning meal is the weakest link in Teton Village’s offerings with no must-eat standout. Osteria Café has a decent grab and go egg sandwich and breakfast burrito lineup, while the better hotel restaurants (especially Spur and Westbank Grill) do full service sit down breakfasts. But the insider’s local way to start your day here is to jump on the “Red Sled,” Jackson’s iconic tram, and at the summit, pop into Corbet’s Cabin for “Top of the World Waffles,” a winter tradition at 10,450 feet. Options include waffles slathered in everything from Nutella to brown sugar to peanut butter and bacon.
In Jackson proper, breakfast choices are much richer, but the number one spot has to be the five-year old Persephone Bakery, which has loyal fans lining up in droves for its house made breads and upscale breakfast twists like a French Croque Madame sandwich with ham from locally raised pigs and organic eggs. The longtime classic destination is The Bunnery, with a large diner style menu and generous portions to match, but with most everything made from scratch and a focus on standout baked goods.
Where to stay in Jackson Hole
The Jackson Hole Mountain Resort has excellent on-mountain dining and the newest offering is Piste Mountain Bistro, which opened last year atop the main Bridger gondola. Piste takes lunch standards and elevates them with fancy touches and lots of locally sourced artisanal ingredients: think taleggio grilled cheese with peach gastrique and watercress or a burger with locally raised grass fed beef, house cured bacon and tomato jam, and gruyere on a brioche bun. Upstairs from Piste is Couloir, the mountain’s fine dining option with a seasonal menu and heavy focus on ultra-local, ultra-high quality ingredients, with Idaho trout and Wyoming raised bison and produce. Many locals feel that the white tablecloth Couloir is not just the best eatery on Jackson, but in all of Jackson period.
Town is a long commute for skiers seeking lunch, and Teton Village has some great options that are much easier, like Spur, just steps off the slopes, where Chef Kevin Humphreys has been voted the area’s top chef by locals eight years running. Like so many top local spots, Spur sources the best regional ingredients, like heirloom breed kurobuta pork for its take on the classic torta sandwich, cures its own pastrami from locally raised beef, and offers a fantastic array of small plate apps like Devil’s on Horseback: dates stuffed with goat cheese and bacon. The sole celebrity chef with a Jackson outpost is James Beard Best Chef winner Michael Mina, whose ski-in/out The Handle Bar takes a whimsical and Western approach with cowboy boot beer mugs and dishes like elk chili, elk & bison meatballs, and soft pretzels with a cheese dip made from local beer. The classic base area lunch spot is the Mangy Moose, serving standard ski resort fare like burgers, nachos and wings. One of the most iconic bars in the sport, it is better for après…
The Mangy Moose is the oldest and most famous spot in at the resort, and worth a drink. Partying here goes late, often with live music. But for après ski scene, top honors go to lively Handle Bar, with outdoor seating, live music many afternoons, and true ski-in/ski out convenience. The best food and mixology is at Spur. Just outside Teton Village is Q Roadhouse & Brewing Company, a barbecue specialist that recreates all of America’s chief regional styles of BBQ, plus some odd “local” touches like Bison Banh Mi. They have a huge slate of beers on draft, including their own recipes made in house, but also carry taps from friendly local rivals.
In Jackson there are two must-visit historic bars, both of which are perfect for après but also go all night long. The bustling Million Dollar Cowboy Bar is famous for its barstools topped with saddles, and has pool tables, while the quieter Silver Dollar Bar features a drinking surface inlaid with over a thousand uncirculated 1921 Morgan silver dollar coins. If you want food with your drink, the Silver Dollar Bar is the tastier choice. Another great option is Snake River Brewing, the oldest beer maker in Wyoming, and two-time winner of “America’s Best Small Brewery” at the Great American Beer Festival.
The best kept insider secret in Jackson – and maybe in all of skiing – is Teton Thai, a tiny eatery oddly hidden a few hundred yards from the rest of Teton Village in the resort’s employee parking lot. Its Thai co-owner cooks everything from scratch, extremely fresh and authentic cuisine beloved by local customers, and while there is always a wait, devotees and homeowners call in for takeout. Otherwise, many of the top lunch spots carry over into the evening, like high-altitude Couloir, which comes with free nighttime gondola ride. Spur is also a great dinner choice, and Il Villaggio Osteria does surprisingly authentic and excellent Italian in the Tetons. Barbecue (and beer fans) looking for a casual night out should check out Q Roadhouse.
In Jackson, the two top fine finding eateries are the Snake River Grill, the town’s longtime gourmet favorite for Old West elegance, showcasing trout, steak, and game, and Rendezvous Bistro, doing Wyoming and Western influenced riffs on French classics. A hidden gem beloved by locals is Bin 22, a warmly welcoming wine bar attached to a liquor store with tons of interesting and delicious small plates, house cured charcuterie and cheese platters, lots of wine and beer by the glass, and the option of buying a full bottle from a vast selection at regular retail prices to enjoy with dinner. Think of it as Jackson-style tapas. At the casual end of the dinner spectrum, Snake River Brewing’s thoughtful menu features Jackson raised beef cattle from Mead Ranch that are fed the spent grain from the brewery mash, while the pulled pork sandwich is from natural producer Snake River Farms.
Families are also in luck, as Jackson has some of the best reasonably priced eats of American ski towns. Locals love Pinky G’s Pizzeria, serving both New York style slices and specialty pies like the Funky Chicken, with roast chicken, artichoke hearts, red onions, and ricotta cheese set on a layer of from-scratch pesto. This attracted TV food celebrity Guy Fieri, who showcased Pinky G’s on his popular show Diners, Drive-In and Dives. For this season, Jackson cured its black hole of in-town BBQ with a new outpost out of excellent but very casual Alabama smoked meat specialist Moe’s, a chain born in another ski town, Vail, but now with dozens of locations across the West and South.
Where to stay in Jackson Hole