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Visit to Jackson Hole, WY… Snowland!

Author: BDoster
Date of Trip: February 2010

We rose early on Thursday Feb 25th, 2010 to catch our Delta flight to snowland. After a short hop to ATL, we quickly loaded up for our 3 plus hour flight to JAC…well we thought we were on our way when the pilot let us know there was a problem with the computers that controlled the flights, and it was being done manually, so there would be about a 45 minute delay….true to his word it was about a hour later before we got in the air.

We landed about 3.5 hours later to light snow. The mountains were shrouded in clouds; we could not see the peaks. The airport is quaint and uses stairs to deplane. You walk to the terminal through an antler arch similar to those in the town square. Made it to the shuttle call area, gave the hotel a quick call and collected our luggage. We had reservations at the Wyoming Inn from recommendations from the Snowmobile Company we had booked. Further reviews online had listed the Wyoming Inn as a good place to stay.

Our shuttle arrived about 15 minutes after we called; the airport is in a bit of disarray as they are adding gates according to the shuttle driver. We headed toward Jackson Hole which is a short 15 minute drive. Jackson Hole Airport is the only airport that is located in a National Park….Grand Teton National Park. It sits on the flat plain area with the Teton Mountain Range just to the west of the airport.

The town of Jackson lies south of the airport with the National Elk Refuge to the west, a huge portion of land where the elk migrate to winter. Incredible describes looking out over a vast landscape and seeing herd after herd of majestic elk. It is evident as we drive into Jackson this is a small town with big attitude. The buildings are reminiscent of those seen in western movies where gun slingers walked the streets ands saloons beckoned patrons in to have a drink.

Our hotel did not disappoint, upon entering the lobby you notice a huge moose antler chandelier that hangs over the wooden registration desk carved with an elk and dall sheep. A large room that is warm and inviting, a fireplace with comfortable chairs is to the left and the breakfast area to the right. Breakfast was served daily with a hot entree dish…English muffins, eggs and Canadian bacon, pancakes, hot oatmeal, boiled eggs, granola and yogurt, coffee, tea, juice. Warm bread pudding was served after noon and soup every evening at four. The food is good, hot and especially nice on days you travel.

Our room is a king with a fireplace; spacious, the bed comfortable, delightfully decorated with bear and cowboy lamps and a fine corner fireplace that you flip a switch to light. The Inn is being remodeled with a planned breakfast dining area, a exercise room and a restaurant.

After an afternoon nap to recharge we caught the free shuttle into town to explore and find supper. The shuttle stop is a short half block walk and runs ever 20 minutes. You can also catch the bus out to Teton Village at the same stop for $3 each way, it is evident they cater to the tourist with easy to access transportation at such reasonable prices. The shuttle stops one block north of the town square where the famous antler arches are found. As promised the arches are lighted at night with light blue lights, creating a fantastic wonderland effect.

We chose the Cowboy Steakhouse for supper and was not disappointed, elk sausage appetizer, filet mignon, New York strip along with a house baked sour dough bread with cream cheese spread….very very good. A little shopping for bring home to the kids, cute shirts, sales as they are nearing the end of the winter season. We grab a cab from the square back to the hotel…$12.00 may be three miles…ouch.

Saturday’s excursion is a sunset sled ride to supper, so we chose to check out Teton Village in the morning. A short bus ride with many locals heading over to catch “slope time” before work, while chatting three of us discovered we all were from the same area in the south…small world. We arrived around ten and purchased the Gondola/Tram combos which allow rides to the top of each once. The tram holds one hundred people….yes one hundred and the Tram operators believe in pack’em full. The view of the summit was shrouded with clouds as we ascended….then we broke through the clouds and what a beautiful sight. The top had several directions to ski but every one required nerves of steel…what appeared to be straight down. The Grand Teton Peek was due north of the tram, with the Snake River valley below. Everything covered in snow, the vista is sparkling crisp. For southern kids this was a treat. The trip down was a private tour…we were the only two riders with the tram operator. As we descended he pointed out the various mountain peaks, the Sleeping Indian was due east.

We rode the gondola up to the club house, restaurants and ski shop, enjoyed watching snowboarders and the skiers cutting through the new powder areas. Most of all the kids in a straight line like ducklings; while enjoying a hot drink from the deck area. A group of about ten children that looked about six or seven led and followed by ski instructors heading out on the trails….so cute. After a lunch of chili and baked potatoes we are ready to head back to the Inn for a rest and dress for our sled ride.

A short cab ride ($20) to Spring Creek Ranch was our starting point for the hour sled ride. We were greeting warmly at the stables, our sled was waiting and we were the only riders today. Our guide described the area, mountains and views as we plodded by. The sled was a large wooden wagon with sled runners, the horse team accustomed to the trails. This was a great way to reach our supper destination, The Granary. What a view, we were seated by the window with a view of the Tetons just beyond the valley below. The food was average, desert very good, but by far the view was the jewel of the evening.

Saturday we had our planned snowmobile excursion in Yellowstone. Started out at the office right across the street from our hotel, we were outfitted with gear to protect and keep us warm. Breakfast was served and we were off. The Southern entrance of Yellowstone is about an hours drive from Jackson. Along the way we saw coyotes and moose. The landscape was pretty amazing…along the road snow was about four feet high pretty impressive. After arriving at the southern gate we gathered to get our safety information, zipped up and began our day of snowmobiling.

Our guide was a seasoned Wyoming resident, who owns a ranch west of Jackson. Bob has worked 10 years now doing daily snowmobile tours in the winter, horseback trail rides in summer. We rode single file at a steady speed of 35 miles per hour. I never really got cold, the worst problem was the shield fogging, but ridding a few minutes with the shield up stops the fogging. We rode to Old Faithful, parked the snowmobiles. Lunch was served in canvas structures called a Yurt. After lunch we walked out to the viewing area and waited about 15 minutes, as it is called, it faithfully erupted; lasting about four minutes. On to the bison grazing spot to ride among the bison, where they never even turning their head our way. Our last stop was the West Thumb Geyser Basin, here the geyser pools keep the snow at bay, some boiling. Beautiful colors of gold, green and aqua are a stark contrast to the snowy landscape. Arriving back in Jackson we grabbed a quick supper and headed to bed, after a great day of adventure, but exhausting.

Sunday is our last day; we head into town after a late breakfast exploring art galleries, home furnishing and clothing. Our last excursion was the sled ride at the National Elk Refuge. Jackson Hole Town was built on the winter migration route of elk. So they fenced off the southern end of town and created a refuge site which became a protected habitat in 1912. It is a thrill to ride out among the herd, elk are everywhere. They are fed daily alfalfa pellets. They shed their antlers in spring, the boy scouts are the only people allow to gathers the antlers, which are sold in the town square. The large matched set can bring two thousand dollars. The monies raised help fund the feed for the next year. Supper tonight was at the Gun and Barrel Club, known for serving wild game….we ate beef and it was very good.

Monday was travel home day. Waiting at the Jackson Hole terminal was so nice, as the Tetons were in full view out the windows. Our flight home was uneventful, what a great way to spend five days in February.

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