Now that it’s early October and it has snowed down to 9,500 feet, it’s all right to start thinking and dreaming about ski season. In less than two months, Jackson Hole Mountain Resort’s lifts will start cranking for the 14/15 season. If this year is like most others, we could be backcountry skiing—conservatively, and in non-rocky terrain please—by the end of this month. Here to help you think about your tick list for the upcoming Jackson Hole ski season are five of our favorite spots. Sweet dreams.
1. Grand Teton National Park backcountry
Often overlooked in favor of 25 Short, which is closer to the Bradley-Taggart lakes trailhead, Maverick has better skiing. At least in our opinion. (Although 25 Short is awesome too!). Maverick's location slightly south of 25 Short makes the approach about 20 minutes longer, but why do you want to hurry an approach when it’s through a pine forest and there are often moose loitering along the way? From the top, it’s an exciting 3,000-foot descent.
2. Jackson Hole Mountain Resort Side-Country
We haven’t been shy about our love for the Rock Springs Yurt . Of course we love all yurts but this one comes with a yurtmeister that does all the cleaning and cooks up a most tasty dinner and breakfast. Also, getting here doesn’t require a long skin with a heavy pack. All you have to bring is personal items. And you ski down to the Rock Springs yurt from the top of the tram or Sublette. There are bunks and sleeping bags and pads for up to eight people. Additional people are welcome, but they have to bring their own sleeping supplies. Rumor is that 28 people once stayed the night at the yurt, snow caves were built and others slept out on the wrap-around wooden deck.
3. Early season on Teton Pass
Imagine it: lap after lap of nicely pitched, wide-open powdery slopes. Of all the backcountry skiing in the valley, mellow Edelweiss and similar runs like Thanksgiving Bowl, Avalanche Bowl, and Christmas Tree Bowl on Teton Pass’ South Side , are among the first you won’t just have to dream about. This side of Teton Pass is much less rocky than peaks on the north side, like Glory and Taylor. Of course, you still want to ski gently when you’re skiing in October and November, but more often than not, on the south side, you’ll be skiing on snow atop grass instead of snow that barely covers rocks and trees. You might ask: If the South Side is this nice, then why are people taking the risk and still hiking up Glory in early November? Glory has a bootpack. The South Side is for skinners. We’ve seen some skiers and riders sans backcountry gear over there on cumbersome snowshoes—and even without snowshoes, suffering through post-holing—but it doesn’t look like they’re having that much fun. Several gear shops in Wilson and in town rent AT gear if you don’t have your own.
4. Later on Teton Pass
Ahhhh, Taylor . For this peak you start skinning up—and up and up—almost immediately from the parking lot. 3,400-feet later, you’re rewarded with amazing, 360-degree summit views. Also, there are often amazing gusts of wind to greet you. Coming down, pick from the open (avalanche-prone) East Face to south-facing trees or east-facing trees. We haven’t headed west from the summit ourselves, but there is skiing in that direction too (although it involves hitchhiking or a car shuttle). That’s one of our winter goals: West from Taylor! While you can start dreaming about Taylor runs now, you don’t want to start skiing it until there’s substantial coverage. The bottom 1,000 feet of the peak are extremely toothy and there’s a fair amount of deadfall. Taylor is worth the wait though. And your skis will thank you.
5. Lift-served skiing
SKI magazines readers have moved on from Jackson Hole Mountain Resort . Rated the #1 overall resort on the continent by SKI readers last year, JHMR has moved to the #8 overall resort this year. And locals here couldn’t be happier. While there are never any lift lines here, the resort’s base area was noticeably more crowded last year. Whether that was because of the SKI rating or not, we don’t know, but, better #8 than #1. Locals still know that Jackson Hole is the best ski resort on the continent. They’d just rather keep that to themselves. With its 50 th birthday coming up during the 15/16 season, JHMR is unveiling only minor improvements this season. It’s fine if the resort’s owners, the Kemmerer Family, doesn’t go big one year. After all, since buying the ski area in 1992, they have invested $123.6 million in it, and the results show.