Cross Country Skiing in Jackson Hole: How to Get Gliding

Jackson Hole has plenty of options for cross country skiing.
Jackson Hole has plenty of options for cross country skiing. Clark Weber
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Downhill skiing isn't the only way to enjoy winter with skis on your feet in Jackson. Outdoor enthusiasts also will find plenty of opportunity on local trails, with a pair of skinny skis. Whether you love gliding along on classic tracks, punching through untracked powder on a tour, or sliding along on skate skis, you'll find plenty of options in Jackson to satisfy all your kick and glide urges.

With the tips below, you'll have the beta and the gear you need to get started cross country skiing in Jackson Hole. With Teton views and plenty of wildlife to spot—from elk to foxes to moose—you'll have an epic Teton adventure wherever you go.

1. Learn From the Experts

There are plenty of places to cross country ski in Pinedale.
There are plenty of places to cross country ski in Pinedale. Pixabay

As with any sport, a great way to get started is to take a lesson. Phil Leeds, co-owner of Skinny Skis , says getting intel and instruction from a pro helps newbie skiers maximize their efficiency and have a lot more fun on the trail.

“Cross-country skiing is really quite easy to learn because of the natural cross-country striding- walking motion,” he says. “However, you can become a lot more efficient with your striding by taking a lesson.”

Instructors from the Jackson Hole Mountain Resort offer free Nordic skiing lessons at the trails around the Stilson parking area on Saturdays and Sundays from 10 am-2 pm. Teton Pines also offers lessons locally.

“[Instructors will] teach you to feel more comfortable on the skis and glide more efficiently instead of just shuffling or walking,” says Leeds. Another bonus to learning proper technique? It helps save energy, so you can enjoy a longer ski without getting tired.

2. Get Geared Up

Cross-country skiing is a great way to enjoy nature.
Cross-country skiing is a great way to enjoy nature. Jocelyn Durston

A casual Saturday ski in a groomed track requires different gear than making your way across uncharted, un-groomed territory. Having the right gear is key to enjoying a day out on the trail. And selecting the right gear isn't just snagging a pair of skis and hoping for the best.

“There's a variety of gear in different widths on cross-country skis and a variety of different boots with different amounts of support,” says Leeds. “It's not too different from the hiking world where you have everything from a very lightweight hiker for casual walks in moderate terrain all the way up to stiffer boots for hikes in more rugged terrain. The same is true for Nordic skiing.”

Generally, flatter groomed tracks are best skied with lightweight narrow skis and boots, while more rugged adventures are best-suited for wider skis with metal or partially metal edges and more supportive boots, says Leeds. He adds that skiers who will be breaking trail a lot will often prefer wider skis with better flotation.

“The whole notion about selecting the right gear and cross-country skis revolves around where people anticipate skiing most of the time," says Leeds. "It's not so much beginner or intermediate or advanced skiers, it's really more terrain-oriented.”

3. Hit the Trail

Jackson Hole is full of great trails for cross country skiing.
Jackson Hole is full of great trails for cross country skiing. Timo Newton-Syms

Now that you're geared up and have practiced your techniques, it's time to find a place to go for a ski. JH Nordic provides an in-depth website that features numerous trails in the Jackson area including everything from how steep the trail is, if and when it's regularly groomed, and information on what other trail users are allowed (such as snowmobiles, dogs, and snow bikes). Below are a few picks for a great day out.

Track Skiing

If you're looking to slide and glide along freshly groomed trails, take a look at the Jackson Park and Recreation Department's grooming schedule to get out right after the groomer or check out these great local options:

Teton Pines: Enjoy 15 kilometers of track skiing at Teton Pines, where the summer golf course transforms into groomed terrain for both skate and classic skiing.

Trail Creek: At the base of Teton Pass, this Nordic racing center is primarily for the local youth program, but skiers can either buy a season pass from the Jackson Hole Ski Club or pay-as-they-go.

Stilson: The Stilson parking area at the corner of Highway 22 and the Teton Village Road offers groomed ski trails. Try the route from the parking area to Wilson School and back for a relatively flat, easy ski.

Touring Adventures

Ski touring is another excellent option for a winter workout.
Ski touring is another excellent option for a winter workout. Wikimedia Commons

If touring is more your style, check out the three Grand Teton National Park tours Leeds recommends:

Moose-Wilson Road: Just north of Teton Village, park at the Granite Canyon trailhead and ski along the unplowed road. You'll often find skier-set tracks along this route. Enjoy an out and back ski or veer off to tour Phelps Lake if you're looking for a longer adventure.

Jenny Lake: Drive into Grand Teton and park at the Bradley-Taggart trailhead to ski along the inner park road. This route is typically groomed about twice a week by a cooperative effort between the park service and local nonprofits. “It's flat so it's great for beginners,” Leeds says. It's an eight-mile roundtrip to Jenny Lake from the Bradley-Taggart trailhead, but people can still get some great views on a partial tour.

Taggart Lake: Park at the Bradley-Taggart trailhead and head on a three or four mile roundtrip journey to Taggart Lake. With a few rolling hills, this is more varied terrain best-suited for more experienced skiers who are prepared for some up and down.

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