Gnarley and Jackson Hole Mountain Resort are synonymous. Even though the mountain’s epicness usually refers to its out of bounds territory, with over 4,000 feet in vertical rise, Jackson Hole Mountain Resort’s terrain leaves something to desire for every type of skier and snowboarder. It’s the ultimate mountain with the ultimate terrain.
Something that many people are not familiar with is how it came to be one of North America’s greatest ski destinations. Skiers started scaling and descending the Tetons as early as 1929. From then on Jackson Hole became home to ski “circuses,” the Teton Ski Club, Olympic ski team members and officially opened as a ski resort in 1965.
Under all these years of history is a cool story about a secret society of expert local skiers – the Jackson Hole Air Force – who literally pushed the boundaries of skiing at Jackson Hole Mountain Resort. Founding members Benny Wilson and Howard Henderson named this fraternity of sorts after its mission: bomb down uncharted territory, huck off cliffs to get some air, bomb down some more, get some more air and repeat. In order to achieve this cycle of ski, air, ski, air Benny and his friends skied out of bounds violating Jackson Hole Mountain Resort’s strict policy against out of bounds skiing.
After years of ducking the ropes and eluding the Jackson Hole ski patrol as well as police, the mountain decided to embrace out of bounds terrain and today offers over 5,000 acres of back-country skiing in the Bridger-Teton National Forest to its guests. Ironically, the Jackson Hole Air Force paved the way for an unprecedented guiding program in the United States. You can sign up for a Backcountry Guide experience with “European style off-piste” touring including hiking, mountaineering and downhill riding. The resort guiding program also offers Backcountry Camps for those wanting to earn their Avalanche Level 1. These programs promote the same kind of self discovery that motivated the Jackson Hole Air Force members to duck those ropes some 20 years ago.
Do not fret if backcountry and avalanche courses are not what you are looking for in a ski vacation. This history is what makes Jackson Hole what it is today, but does not define it. There is something for every type of skier and snowboarder. There are nice long groomers as well as great first time terrain. Jackson Hole Mountain Resort is all about taking what you know whether it is nothing to expert knowledge and help you to grow. That might mean following in the legendary steps of the Jackson Hole Air Force or just wanting that one successful ride up the tram and down a groomer.