1. Jackson Hole Mountain Resort, Wyoming — PAF: 99.0
We have crowned Jackson Hole as the preeminent place to ski not only in the United States, but also within the whole of North America. More skiers are finding out that Jackson is the right place for more than just the hucker/powder set. Jackson established a record for its skier visits last year with 563,631, a 12% increase compared with the previous season. Despite that uptick, Jackson has not yet become a place where overly crowded lift lines, outside of the tram on a powder day, should be expected. Consider that Jackson’s record year for visits still only comprises about a third of the visits that the mountains at Breckenridge or Vail see in a year.
Jackson retains its Pure Awesomeness title
Even with the addition of Canada to our rankings, the tram at Jackson Hole remains the finest ski lift at any of the resorts we consider. It scales 4,139 feet in 9 minutes while carrying 100 passengers. The tram operator selects the music played through its ceiling speakers, although it’s a near certainty that a day riding the tram will bring some Rolling Stones, AC/DC and, on rare occasions, Frank Zappa.
Classic Jackson moment: Led Zepplin filling your ears while the tram skims the treetops above Tower 3 Chute, snow hammering at the windows, erasing your last set of tracks.
Unlike most ski resorts and ski towns, summer is the big tourist season in Jackson with people pouring into Teton and Yellowstone National Parks, which means plenty of lodging is available, close to the resort, for prices lower than you might see elsewhere. The tradeoff, of course, is that a flight into Jackson is going to cost more than a flight into Denver or Salt Lake City. That being said, the resort is an easy 35-minute drive from the airport in Jackson, which makes it one of the easier airport-to-mountain commutes in North America. And with direct flights from most major hubs in the U.S.—Chicago, New York, L.A., San Francisco, Dallas, Denver, and more—Jackson has the best ski-town airport in America.
As for the resort, big plans for more lifts in seminal locations, beginning next winter (2015-2016), will keep things fresh. The Teton lift, on which construction has begun, will take skiers to a ridge near the crags area, a spot that currently requires a hike via bootpack to access. As with any lift expansion at any ski area, there exists spirited opposition to the move.
You can further peruse the Web to read more commentary on the matter, but know that much of the invective is over-charged and unfit for reading by intelligent people. As the caretakers of the Pure Awesomeness Factor, we understand why Jackson is making the move, and we also understand why some people aren’t happy about it.
Skiers tend to forget that ski resorts are businesses, something that has been made all the more clear during the last several years (see Vail/Park City spat and sale). Jackson, in our estimation, is one of the more responsible stewards of the spirit of skiing. They’ve expanded their operations while staying true to the thread that made the place great before the Four Seasons ever showed up.
To be clear, we love the Four Seasons, especially the Handle Bar. And we also love the guys drinking Ranier tall boys on the snow in front of the Mangy Moose. The mingling of these two dynamics makes Jackson what it is.
Staying on the infrastructure topic, we’re more excited for the lift that will come after Teton, for the winter of 2016-2017. Jay Kemmerer, who owns the resort, told us in August that he has plans to install a second gondola that would embark from near the base of the current gondola and follow a path up and further north, touching down near the base of Casper lift. This would alleviate much of the line pressure seen on big mornings at the current gondola, and it would give skiers seeking blue intermediate terrain an easier, swifter journey to the mountain’s main stash of such runs. Anything that gets people up the mountain and out of the fracas at the bottom quicker is good by us.
Jackson continues to produce bumper years of snow during this last decade, with the biggest years coming 2008-2012. It has not at any point seen the kind of drought that has stricken the Sierras during several different years or even much of Colorado in 2011-2012. That could be dumb luck, but historical powder probabilities, which can be seen here, tell us Jackson is a pretty good spot to camp out for a high quality dump.
The Place to Stay: Hotel Terra—the first LEED hotel at Jackson, is in a plum spot, a two-minute walk from the tram.
The Place to Eat: Spur Restaurant & Bar—the grass fed organic Wyoming beef burger has risen to the top of the meat-on-bun hierarchy of northwest Wyoming, which is a feat. The dry aged buffalo sliders are also worth your time.
See the original article, and complete top ten list HERE