By Kim Fuller Published in the Vail Daily
Snow falls gently outside the windows of Persephone Bakery in Jackson, Wyoming, on a beautifully crisp November morning. The cafe is always bustling, but it’s especially busy now after its two-week offseason closure. Locals line up for baskets filled with brioche cinnamon rolls and croissants ranging from sweet to savory, not to mention ribbon-tied bags of homemade granola and packaged gingerbread men.
While months of powder dreams are beginning to wake into the dawn of winter, Jackson is as lively as ever. The local scene barely fades here, sustaining a year-round mountain town surrounded by miles of countryside to admire and explore.
“I think what makes Jackson different from any other ski area is the separation you have from other towns and cities,” said Cameron Barker, who has lived in Jackson for more than 10 years. “It’s really an adventure out here because you’re so far away from other places. There is sort of a different pace here than anywhere else I have ever been.”
It’s a pace that Barker said took some time getting used to after moving to Jackson from the East Coast — a cadence that moves according to the season, the weather, the powder.
Barker is the owner of Jackson Hole Yoga Therapy and an instructor at the Inversion Yoga studio. She says that unlike in her faster paced past, a majority of her days now start smoothly instead of abruptly — which might seem a little decadent, like the scents wafting every morning from the Persephone.
DIAMOND IN THE ROUGH
Jackson Hole is the name of the valley that’s home to the towns of Jackson and Teton Village, among others, and rests at the base of the breathtakingly beautiful peaks of the Teton Range in Grand Teton National Park.
The area is busiest during the summer months, as Grand Teton National Park and nearby Yellowstone National Park hold all the wonder and wildlife for which the vast lands of the West have always been known. Winter brings a lot of visitors, but not nearly as many as summer, which makes the rugged terrain even more enticing to ride rigorously or to quietly admire.
Jackson Hole Mountain Resort shows its steep faces to onlookers below in Teton Village. Most hotels and restaurants sit right in the action, and there’s even a hostel about 100 yards from the base of the mountain for the budget-minded to enjoy. If you’re looking for a little luxury, Teton Mountain Lodge and Spa is an apres-day haven. Soak your ski legs in the open-air balcony hot tub, or settle into a fireside apres at the Spur Restaurant.
For dinner, just steps away from the resort you’ll find Italian comfort and flavor at Il Villaggio Osteria in the Hotel Terra. Start with the pineapple prosciutto carpaccio, then a primi course of the papparadelle bolognese. The seared elk chop with calabrian potatoes, haricot vert and balsamic red onion is tender and savory as a main, ideal with a glass of bright Barbera.
Teton Village is just a little more than a 10-minute drive from Jackson, so it’s easy to pop back and forth. If you want to be in town, stay at the recently renovated Snow King Resort, which is just steps from the central scene. The resort sits at the base of the ski hill for which it is named, so have a hearty breakfast, cast-iron cinnamon roll or a green smoothie at Hayden’s Post restaurant, or an outdoor Jacuzzi dip, all in the company of Snow King Mountain’s slopes.
As in Teton Village, the town of Jackson’s culinary scene has certainly not gotten lost in the dust of the west. It actually feels quite cosmopolitan, or more appropriately, “mountain modern,” especially when you hit the hot spots like Bin 22 Wine Bar and Trio American Bistro.
Locals share the fun all around, but you’ll definitely spot lots at Local, a “contemporary take on the Jackson Hole steakhouse,” and the Snake River Brewery. The food is awesome at Thai Me Up and tie on a glass or two of ginger beer (not the kiddo kind) to leave as happy as Melvin, the tipsy Thai elephant you’ll see on the restaurant’s sign.
The Million Dollar Cowboy Bar on Cache Drive is a classic, complete with dollar coins embedded in the bar. It’s a must to at least stop by to get a photo sitting on one of the bar stools, which are topped with saddles.
WHERE SELDOM IS HEARD
Cowboys certainly had room to roam in the early days of Jackson, and they still do, just like the animals. At any given moment on a drive through the area, keep an eye out for moose, deer, pronghorn and bison — bears too, but only in the summer. For years, many people have been creatively drawn to capture all that roams wild, and the National Museum of Wildlife Art, located just outside of town across from the National Elk Refuge, is a nice place to enjoy what those muses have inspired.
Once the base of snow has been established for the season, you can see the nation’s largest elk herd from a horse-drawn sleigh. Dogsled tours are also available through the national forests surrounding the area’s towns, Grand Teton and Yellowstone national parks.
Rolling through snow feels just as great as sliding on it. Dave Hunger runs Teton Mountain Bike Tours, and in the winter he guides tours through snow on bikes with 4-inch fat tires. Hunger takes groups to the Antelope Flats Area in Grand Teton National Park, through areas such as Kelly Warm Springs and to the base of Shadow Mountain.
“Riding a bike in Grand Teton National Park allows a visitor to see and experience the wonders of the area,” Hunger said. “It’s truly a novel way to experience the national park; it’s great exercise and creates a slower pace than when you’re driving in a car.”
The tours provide great opportunities to see wildlife, especially moose, bison and pronghorn. Once your ride is complete, continue on a scenic drive up toward Jackson Lake, or head back to town for a refreshing and revitalizing drink from Healthy Being Juicery, right next to Persephone.
Back at the ranch, as some might say, Jackson has a lot of fun modern shops such as Mountain Dandy and The Bootlegger boutique, along with a wide range of galleries. If you didn’t get enough of your wildlife art fix at the museum, check out Thomas D. Mangelsen’s flagship photography gallery on Cache.
While Jackson settles into ski season, all you have to decide now is to take a lengthy road trip or a quick flight. Road conditions aside, the West wasn’t built on convenience, at least in the beginning, so there’s something to be said about seeing all that lies between the here to there.
If you decide to drive, check the weather first, and then leave it to a writer like Louis L’amour (by audio accompaniment) to set your pace to the spirit of the land. It’s likely you’ll see, for miles and miles, why it’s always so good to go West, young man, go West.
Jackson Hole is just less than 500 miles from Summit County. With no inclement weather conditions, the drive takes about eight hours and 20 minutes. Visitors can also look at direct flight options from Denver International Airport.