Mountain Dandy Owner Christian Burch Featured in PLANET JH
Best of JH 2018: 10 Years, 10 People, Infinite Possibilities.
by Various Authors, April 11, 2018.
JACKSON HOLE, WY – When recovering from neurosurgery, Travis Ziehl experienced a level of pain he had never felt before. (Later he would learn his body couldn’t metabolize the OxyContin doctors had prescribed him.) Hobbling through the Mayo Clinic in Phoenix, Arizona, Ziehl saw a quote on the wall and the world stopped.
“My pain, just for that moment, went from a 10 to an eight,” he said. “It was the closest thing to a spiritual moment I have ever had.”
The words on the wall read: “Do all the good you can, by all the means you can, in all the ways you can, in all the places you can, at all the times you can, to all the people you can, as long as you ever can.”
Ziehl had just come out of brain surgery for glioblastoma, an aggressive form of brain cancer, and what struck him most in that moment was not his daunting prognosis or recovery, but the overwhelming notion of improving as many people’s lives as he possibly could.
He recounted this in a thank you speech he delivered to the Mayo Clinic team. It is an experience he also brought back to Jackson this week after concluding his treatment.
A valley resident of 16 years, Ziehl is among the 10 people we interviewed to commemorate 10 years of the Best of Jackson Hole. That’s the thing about living in a small (yet seemingly ever-expanding) community like Jackson. There are inspiring, compassionate people everywhere you turn. Folks with stories to tell. Of course Jackson Hole is not the only place to find them, but people are approachable here; their guards are down and they are often willing to divulge the details of their triumphs and tribulations with spectacular honesty.
And that makes Jackson an easier place to have these conversations, the ones that lend purpose and meaning to our lives. This year’s issue of the Best of Jackson Hole is a tiny window into that notion, that you can learn something of value from each and every one of your neighbors, people like 81-year-old Stephen Lottridge.
When asked how to beat Jackson loneliness, Lottridge advised, “You need to reach out with compassion and with interest to other people or other groups … No one gives a damn how many days you spent on the mountain. What matters is who loves you and who you love.”
Allow the insights contained on the following pages to remind you what matters, what you love about Jackson Hole. For us, it will always be the people.
– Robyn Vincent
Ten Folks Tell Us What They Love About Jackson Hole
1. The Poultry-Loving Poetess: Connie Wieneke
On its surface, poetry might seem too sparse for the casual reader, but it’s on that plane where Connie Wieneke thrives. The assistant director of Jackson Hole Writers is a published author and poet, a passionate vegetarian chef, and a foster mother to 10 eccentric chickens. Wieneke arrived in the valley in 1983 when she was 30 years old. Today she and her husband have a home in Wilson where she embraces the quiet life. That’s where she taps into her creativity and cuddles up by her wood stove and reads. She is full of insight on being a writer in Jackson Hole and its writing community. The author of Jackson Hole: Crossroads of the West, Wieneke also knows a thing or two about taking care of an entourage of chickens in the Wild West. They happen to be the subject of one of her award-winning poems. – Andrew Munz
Best place to write?
“I occasionally go out to coffee shops, but nothing beats being at home, sitting at my desk, sitting in my chair. I have two monitors for my computer and then just past that there’s a window that looks out at the willows. I write with music sometimes, but I love just simple, natural noises. I have a baby monitor for my chickens so I can always hear if something is wrong or if there is a hawk nearby. I just love listening to them squawk while I’m writing.”
Best way to find your written voice?
“Write and write, and write some more. That’s the best way. You also need to have readers who you trust, that don’t want to change you. Because if they’re always telling you what you should be writing or how you should do something, you should just tell them to write it themselves because that’s not helpful. The groups that get together [through Jackson Hole Writers] are great, because you have a group of people who all have a shared passion. And you want to find people who are supportive and encouraging and receptive.”
Best words to describe life in Jackson?
“Oh gosh, there are so many that come to mind. You have a lot of different aspects that you can cover, so it’s not just one thing. Transient, of course. Entitled. Complex. Self-absorbed. I don’t mean to sound negative, but you have to say those things. There are so many creative people here and so much going on… it’s easy to say that it’s beautiful because that’s obvious. But this place is so much more than that.”
Best place to see the real Jackson Hole?
“I’ve been going down to the levee [next to the Snake River]. I’ve been working on this little writing project about it and it’s great because there are so many different kinds of people who come together there. They are there with their dogs, there are families, the super wealthy, the workers, just everyone. And they’re all being themselves. I go there and I observe, and it’s so fascinating. There are these conflicts that happen between the dogs, and some days everyone is really chill, while on another given day you have, like, three people who think it’s your fault that their dog attacks you… It’s an amazing place to just take in the community in all its glory.”
Best established writer?
“It’s hard to pin it down and just choose one or two, but I think Tim Sandlin (Skipped Parts) and Susan Marsh (Cache Creek) are up there in terms of dedication and established works. Tim, because he’s just so creative and observant and his books have a really loyal following. And Susan really puts the work in and the research and has a very confident voice in her work. But like I said, it’s so hard to pick, because there are some really talented people here. If you attend the poetry group for example, there’s great writers there too. It’s a good place for it.”
Best up-and-coming writer?
“Matt Daly comes to mind. He’s really found his voice as a poet, and it’s cool because when you read his poetry you can just hear the cadence and the way he speaks in it. He has a book coming out that’s a collection of poetry, but it’s almost a novel in a way because it’s full of these perspectives of a town. He’s just so well-read and knows his stuff, and I’m always excited to read what he brings to the poetry group.”
Best place to find quality vegetarian ingredients?
“I tend to go to both Jackson Whole Grocer and Lucky’s. I switch back and forth if I’m not finding what I need. Being a vegetarian, I find both of those places have really great produce. In the summer, I have my garden and grow greens and things, and this year I have a setup for growing tomatoes. I think those farm shares are a really cool idea, but I’ve gotten into a habit of just growing more of the things that I love.”
Best way to beat the winter slump?
“You really have to just get yourself outside and enjoy the outdoors as much as you can. I go cross-country skiing when I can and go for walks at the levee, and there are days where it’s so cold, or the wind is beating at you. The other day I was just getting pelted with sleet and rain and snow, but you know, at least you’re outside and not just huddled in your house. It’s something real and tangible.”
Best Jackson Hole Writers Conference guest?
“If we could afford it, I would bring back Naomi Shihab Nye every year. She’s a Palestinian-American writer and she’s actually been here twice. I met her years and years ago at the conference in Casper. If I listed the top 10 people in the whole world, she would be on that list, up there with the Dalai Lama. She’s very generous and is such a great communicator and so inspiring. She’s versatile, she writes kids books, she writes nonfiction, she does everything. Definitely check out this anthology of poetry she selected from around the world called This Same Sky.”
Best advice for local chicken owners?
“Get to know them and spoil them and keep them safe. You have to really keep them safe here—that’s why I use the baby monitor—and it’s good to give them treats and make them feel special. They all have names and personalities and you just have to get to know them, and know how they behave on any given day. But keeping them safe is the priority. It can be hard out there for chickens in Wyoming.”
2. Man of Culture and Insight: Stephen Lottridge
In a town brimming with snowboarder bros and river guides, Stephen Lottridge is a rare man of culture. A retired clinical psychologist and a former professor of Slavic languages, Lottridge can also recite Icelandic sheepherder poetry and Shakespearian monologues from memory. And he’s only 81 years old. Lottridge moved to Jackson in 1994 and has been a local staple of the theatre community. He was recently spotted in Off Square Theatre Company’s Checkhov Unchecked. Few Jackson locals are as eloquently spoken and wise as Lottridge, and his warm heart and grace are constantly on display. A former board member of the theater company Riot Act, Inc., Lottridge talked drama, on and off the stage, and tapped into his psychological insight on life and culture in the Hole. – Andrew Munz
Jackson’s best improvement?
“What comes to mind is the greater engagement of younger people in the political system. I think with Hailey [Morton Levinson] and Pete Muldoon and Nikki Gill, who ran [for County Commissioner] there is a sense of new blood and I think that’s a positive. I don’t love all the building out—I don’t think this town can host 40,000 people and retain its character. But to have young people active in politics is a good way for us to hold onto a little bit of that.”
Best actor or actress who moved away?
“I have two: Eve Bernfeld and Todd Hjelt. Eve was very serious about her acting; she transformed herself into someone else, and her dedication to her acting was so powerful. There are a lot of gifted actors, but she was tremendous. Todd, on the other hand, was a 24-hour actor, and you couldn’t have a conversation without him going off on some acting tangent. But he could always bring it back on stage, and he was such a gifted teacher. He was great and his influence is still very strong here.”
Best thing for locals to keep in mind?
“It’s important to remember what this valley was before there were any buildings. If we lose that memory, we lose something that’s precious. We are transient on this land and in our lives. There are two attitudes people have. You can say, “I don’t give a shit, let other people clean it up,” and the other would be feeling some responsibility for those transients that come after me. To leave the place a little more attractive, a little bit cleaner, a little more open than it was before. We need to remember that this was a big open valley, and that is its essential nature and that’s the legacy we need to preserve.”
Best place to perform?
“I’m going to have a hard time getting it down to one, but I love the Black Box [at the Center for the Arts]. It’s versatile, and a lovely space to perform. You can change it around. For Checkhov, we performed in a corner, and for Water by the Spoonful we had these staggered risers. It’s intimate too, because you’re right next to the audience and they’re so engaged and you can see that. I also loved performing in Grace at Intencións [now Lotus Vibes Yoga Studio], which wasn’t a traditional performance space, but it was such a rewarding experience.”
Jackson’s best hope?
“Our livelihood depends on tourism, sure, but we don’t always need to grow, grow, grow to maintain that economic base. And I think the Awareness Project is doing great things to bring into the light the hidden population who serves our community. Many of them are Latino, and our best hope is to highlight that population and eliminate the substratum of the community, so we stop hiding the people who are building that community. We need more affordable housing for those people too, but ultimately our best hope is having an awareness that this is an issue.”
Best place to collect your thoughts?
“There are three or four places that come to mind. There’s a little meadow just past Ski Lake if you hike further up. And just beyond the two-mile marker up Cache Creek, there’s a big tree and this little piece of ground where the creek is coming by. People come by on bikes and hiking, but there are much fewer people that go beyond that marker. And if you just sit there and let the creek go by and wave to the people as they go by, it’s wonderful. It’s one of the best places to just sit and reflect.”
Best place to enjoy a book?
“Ah. Sitting in the big chair in my living room by the front window. From there I can see the willows and the aspens and the neighbors houses across the street. I have a view of Snow King in the background. It’s both quiet and the neighbors care about each other. Moose wander by, deer wander by, and you see so many magpies and ravens and robins. So in a way you’re nestled. Nestled in a neighborhood, but with a prospect of forest and mountains that you can go to. It’s the perfect nook.”
Best meal in Jackson?
“It was at the Blue Lion. They’re famous for their rack of lamb, but it was a dish of poached salmon, maybe around three or four years ago. It was poached with herbs and white wine. It was cooked thoroughly; I don’t like raw fish, so it was just perfectly cooked for me. There was a wonderful pilaf side and some asparagus that was lightly grilled, so it wasn’t dried up. I think the asparagus was poached a little too before it was grilled. If I want to go to a good restaurant you always want a good companion, and I remember I was with my friend Sharon Walls. It all sticks in my mind.”
Best at being a friend?
“You know who’s really good is Mark Barron. He’s not my best friend, but he cares for his friends, he stays in touch, he supports them. There’s something really genuine about him. He has a commitment to his wife Ruth Ann and is just a really good guy. I don’t always agree with him, but that’s all right. They both have a commitment to this town with their businesses and they do it in a way that doesn’t destroy the environment or the ambiance of the town.”
Best way to beat Jackson loneliness?
“Quick answer? Drink less, be on your cell phone less [laughs]. As the psychologist, I would say you have to realize that you are not entitled to anything. You need to reach out with compassion and with interest to other people or other groups. Because that entitlement leads to you moving here and saying, ‘Oh, I’m a good skier. I can drink a lot, I’m sexy, I can fuck whoever I want, I can do whatever I want.’ And it’s all empty. There’s no compassion. There’s no desire for genuine long-term contact.
Reach out and find a group of people that has a common interest with you that’s more than just a general activity, so that the thing that you’re doing is not the only reason you’ve come together. There needs to be a common concern rather than a just a common interest. No one gives a damn how many days you spent on the mountain. What matters is who loves you and who you love.”
3. Teton Torch-Bearer: Emily Coombs
In the most economically disparate place in the country, the Doug Coombs Foundation is making a dent. It is helping to integrate both the community and the outdoor sports spheres by providing opportunities for low-income children. Founder Emily Coombs launched the foundation in 2012, paying for participants’ lift tickets, rentals and instruction herself. Today the nonprofit receives major brand sponsorship that has helped it grow; hundreds of low-income children have enrolled in the Snow King Winter Sports School, as well as participated in soccer, rock climbing and hiking activities sponsored by the foundation.
Emily Coombs was once known for traveling the world to ski steep lines. Today she is known for making skiing accessible to the growing Latino community in Jackson. Her late husband bears the name of the foundation. They married in 1994 and had their son David in 2003. Two years later, Doug died when he fell in a couloir while skiing in the French Alps. He was one of the world’s most extreme skiers, famous for wrangling extraordinary, pioneering lines. With the Doug Coombs Foundation, Emily has created a conduit that carries his energy—his love for the mountains, snow and Jackson. – Sarah Ross
Best reason to live in Jackson?
Raising children. For Coombs’s son, David, who loves sports and people—there is no better place. He has wonderful friends, loves Jackson Hole Youth Soccer and the Jackson Hole Ski and Snowboard Club. Both teams “have been significant in providing a happy, healthy and productive childhood.”
Of course, Coombs will always love the mountains: “It’s the best of both worlds. A great place for raising a boy and still having all that access to mountains.”
Most impactful moment for the Doug Coombs Foundation this year?
It was when Coombs watched the kids who’ve been a part of the foundation interact with prominent people in the valley at their new fundraiser, Skiing With the Stars.
“The guests told me repeatedly how gracious and polite the kids were. It warms my heart to see that these people recognize how wonderful these kids are.” The stars included some of the world’s best skiers, including Tommy Moe, Kit DesLauriers and Jess McMillan.
These moments are incredibly impactful for the kids and their families, too, who may never have had the chance to ski let alone meet ski heroes without the foundation. At the fundraiser last year, Maria Vargas told Powder Magazine that her life was changed when her two kids had the opportunity to ski with the foundation. Because her kids skied, she tried it herself. The first time she took the chairlift to the top of Snow King, “I cried so much … I’d been living here for 14 years and never had the chance to go up there and do it.”
Eleven-year-old Deyna Lira said since learning to ski, she felt different, more connected with her classmates and more a part of the Jackson community.
Best valley advocate?
Coombs said that Jonathan Selkowitz embodies the best parts of Jackson. “He’s an old friend who genuinely appreciates my efforts and the significance of the work I have done in creating the Doug Coombs Foundation.” After years of volunteering for the foundation, Selkowitz now serves on the board.
The feeling is mutual: “Emily was one of my early photo mentors,” Selkowitz said. “Her photos inspired me to do the photography I do now.”
It is people like Coombs, Selkowitz said, who give him so much hope for the future of Jackson. The Coombs Foundation is tackling one of the most important issues in our valley today, he said, and it deserves all the support available.
Best young skier?
“Seventh-grader Yurial Sosa loves sports and is athletically talented, and so fun to be with,” Coombs said. “Always smiling, happy and friendly with all the other kids. He loves to do all the sports the Doug Coombs Foundation offers—golf, hiking, rock climbing and soccer. He is in the ski racing program at the Jackson Hole Ski and Snowboard Club.”
Best small business?
When Nancy Johnson moved to Jackson in 1991, she and her husband bought an old cabin that would became The Alpine House. At first it was a seven-room bed and breakfast, but now they have 21 rooms, five cottages and a spa. Johnson grew up above the motel her parents ran, so it felt like a natural fit.
Over the past 25 years, Jackson has changed all around them. There are many more hotels, and fewer places for people to live. Despite the challenges, Johnson said the rewards stay the same: “One of my favorite things are the people who work for us.” She also loves meeting guests, who are often skiers and climbers, or the parents who come to visit their children who move to Jackson. “We live here, our business is here, our kids grew up here. I feel like a part of the town.”
The Blue Lion is an institution, Coombs said. The small white cabin on Millward was bought by owner Ned Brown in 1978 before most of Jackson’s current restaurants had sprouted. Brown originally planned for a BBQ or Mexican menu, but ultimately decided on French food—its rack of lamb is famous across the land. The restaurant has spent decades refining and expanding the menu and space, and now summer patrons sip and eat on the cabin’s quaint deck.
Best community event?
As The Coombs Foundation integrates the ski slopes, the soccer fields have also become a place most representative of Jackson’s diversity. Nowhere is that more evident than the Sunday game days of La Liga de Futbol, Jackson’s soccer league, comprised primarily of Latino athletes. Mexican-American soccer players started a League in Jackson more than 20 years ago, made up of just a few teams. Now there are 27 teams.
It’s serious, competitive soccer. Some teams even fly in players from Mexico who have almost made it professionally. It’s also amassed a following—every Sunday, hundreds of fans come to the high school fields to eat at the food trucks and cheer for their team.
Best ski run in the valley?
Coombs has skied all over the world, but she loves her hometown hill. Her favorite run is the race hill at Snow King “on weekday mornings with just handful of other skiers. It’s quiet, personal and full of adrenaline. There’s the challenge of skiing gates and the inherent dangers of big mountain skiing.”
Best way to spend the off-season?
Many of Jackson’s best athletes are multi-talented. Coombs is no exception. When she’s not skiing, she can be found “riding fast and far on the mountains with my best friend and wild Arabian horse Sahara.”
“One of my most admired people is Matt Hoelscher, principal of Jackson Hole Middle School and Jackson Hole Youth Soccer coach.” Hoelscher is dedicated to Jackson’s kids, Coombs said, and he also emphasizes “providing opportunities to the typically underserved Latino kids, like taking them to soccer tournaments around the West.” He goes the extra mile, which Coombs says can make a life-changing difference for kids: “Every little gesture of kindness goes a long way with them.”
4. Madame of the Future: Nona Yehia
One of Jackson’s renowned architects and visionaries, Nona Yehia has been described as a local renaissance woman. A 2018 Bronze winner for Best Architect (she places every year in the category), Yehia co-owns the firm Gilday Yehia Architects. She brought a taste of her Middle Eastern heritage to Jackson Hole with her now legendary Lebanese pop-up dinners circa 2014. Yehia also happens to be the CEO and co-founder of one of the world’s first vertical greenhouses, Vertical Harvest, and sits on the boards of the Center for the Arts and KHOL. A Jackson resident for more than 16 years, Yehia has seen the artistic community ebb and flow. Here are some of her own personal “bests.” – Andrew Munz
Best eye for design?
“Noa Staryk [owner of Nest, the 2018 gold winner for Best Clothing Shop]. I worked with her when she was designing the shop, and it is just so good. Everything that she puts next to one another—even the most incongruous patterns that shouldn’t look good end up looking incredible. She’s so unexpected and puts these patterns and colors together that I would never have the courage to do. There’s this bravery there that is so inspiring, and I have learned so much from her and incorporated that into my daily thinking.”
Best artistic curator in town?
“Christian Burch. It’s just the way he approaches clothing, even, that is so pleasant. I think about that because really the one thing you have total control over every day is your clothing. The way you look and present yourself. Every day is an opportunity to show that. And Christian has this intent about the way he dresses and everything he does. Like you walk into Mountain Dandy [Burch’s store], and the showroom and you can tell it’s been curated with so much love and you just want to spend hours there.”
Best local role model for little girls?
“It’s definitely a tie between Ali Cohane [owner of Persephone Bakery and Picnic] and Amanda Flosbach [development director at Dancers’ Workshop]. My daughter Lucy, who is 13, looks up to them so much. And what’s amazing is that they don’t treat Lucy like a little girl, but like a friend. They speak very openly and honestly. And they give little girls a window into who they are, which is not something adults do very often.”
Best person at “adulting”?
“[My colleague] Peggy Gilday is an incredible adult. She is very practical, but at the same time she’s this visionary that is able to look at things with this unique perspective. She always will tell you straight up what’s going on. I will watch her as she interacts with other people and she listens, she evaluates. And then she comes out with these really strong, confident decisions. She’s unapologetic and she holds people accountable. A lot of adults are scared of that because they don’t want to be oppressive. But accountability can be really refreshing, and keeps relationships strong.”
Best way to beat Jackson apathy?
“You have to lead by example. I know that’s the last thing an apathetic person wants to hear, but you have to lead by example. People often ask why I have so much energy, but honestly when you really love and care about something, you can’t help but put energy towards that. I love sharing passion, and I think when you’re open about the things that make you happy, people pick up on that and they’re more likely to come out with their own passions. Empowerment through passion is the best way to beat apathy.”
Nonprofit with the most promise?
“Well, I think in terms of bringing excellence, Dancers’ Workshop is up there. There’s this valuing of the creative process and putting that process above all else. [Artistic Director] Base Case is such a visionary and the dancers are so incredible. In terms of artistic promise, Teton Artlab is such a gem in this community. Travis [Walker] is bringing these incredibly talented artists here and celebrating this idea of mutual exposure, by allowing those artists to do artist talks and integrate into the community. In a similar way to Babs, Travis has established this ability to value the process and not the end product.”
Best local happy place?
“Being on Jackson Lake with our friends. We have this rickety boat that we share with Ali and Kevin [Cohane] called the Hewitt’s Escapé. We go there pretty much every weekend. But the problem is the boat constantly breaks down, so I think the best times that we have are when we’re getting towed back to harbor by the coast guard. And we’re drinking on the way back. It’s like a sailboat ride. I think we’ve had some of our most joyous days on that lake. That’s my light at the end of the winter tunnel.”
Jackson’s best view?
“OK, so this is my favorite thing to do. I take Cricket, my dog, for a walk in the morning, and it’s right when the sun is rising, and it’s that view of the Tetons right when the light is hitting them. We have this little loop that we do and even though we’re doing it every day, there’s a different view of the Tetons depending on how the light hits them. So there’s this monotony in the act of taking out Cricket, but it’s beautiful and different every time. That sense of beauty in repetition is what has inspired me to become an architect, it inspired me with Vertical Harvest. I just love that juxtaposition.”
Best brunch experience?
“Trio. People forget this but they used to do brunch… What was it, like 10 years ago. The key to brunch is longevity, just sitting down with friends for at least two hours, and we had this crew that would go to Trio. But I guess it just wasn’t profitable for them. And yeah, you can go to Café Genevieve, which is great, and Persephone, but it’s always so busy. I feel like I need to start a movement to bring long, mellow brunches back to the Hole. Save the brunch. That’s my new local ambition.”
Best way to impact the community?
“We need to ask ourselves what we value most. Once you set that bar, you can understand how to protect the things that matter. I think right now we’re getting confused and we have a lot of things going on. It’s a hard thing to ask ourselves, but once you focus on that one thing, it has this cascading effect and starts to impact so much of what you do. I believe that if you take the time to figure out what you value, then you’ll honor that and be on a trajectory to enact change. “
Best way to express creativity?
“Jackson has so many opportunities, which is awesome, but you have to look out for them and take advantage of them. And be vocal. If I was still living in New York, there’s no way I would have had the amount of opportunities I’ve found here. It’s really important to build trust with the community and keep striving for what you want to achieve. If you are willing to work hard enough and you have good ideas, just get out there and talk about them. There are so many people here who are hungry for those new ideas, so you just have to be vocal.”
5. Seasoned Empress of the West: Clarene Law
Clarene Law has seen and done a lot in her 84 years on earth. She’s been a school teacher, a bookkeeper, an entrepreneur and a politician. She served in the Wyoming Legislature for 14 years, during which time she sponsored legislation for Jackson’s free clinic and chaired two committees. Her greatest legislation achievements, she said humbly, were “those things that affected our people. That’s what I loved doing.”
She’s also the owner of what has become a local hotel empire. She bought the Antler Inn in the 60s, and her business, Town Square Inns, now encompasses four hotels: The Antler, the 49er Inn & Suites, the Elk Country Inn and the Cowboy Village Resort.
Law is the mother to three children, grandmother to five (fun fact: she was also the first person this reporter’s grandmother met in Jackson. She loaned her a car and helped her find her first home here). She can still be found working at the Elk Country Inn almost every day, and says serving her community is still her biggest priority. – Shannon Sollitt
Jackson’s best iconic landmark?
“Snow King Mountain for me,” Law said. “I love that mountain. It’s a wonderful backdrop for the town.”
It’s also a wonderful backdrop for her hotels. When Law bought the Antler Inn in 1962, Snow King had already built Wyoming’s first chairlift, and upgraded to a double—the Summit Double. Now, a quad, a roller coaster, and a tube park offer something for everyone. Snow King is affectionately called the “town hill” by locals that value easy access to its recreation. But not without controversy—Snow King is now in the process of trying to add new developments, but is also being asked to revisit and update their master plan first.
Politics aside, to Law, the mountain serves as not only a constant reminder of Jackson’s history and growth, but also the natural beauty that lives in our backyard. Law lives by Cache Creek where she gets daily view of her town hill.
Best elected official/public servant?
Law has two answers—a current elected official and a former one. “I think Bob Lenz has done an awful lot for the town,” Law said. “He’s been very attentive to the needs of the town.” The town councilor has served as an elected official for close to 12 years. Law guesses his age to be close to hers, but things have changed since she was in office—back then “they used to publish your age. There’s no lying.”
The best elected official from the past? “Unequivocally Grant Larson.” Larson served 16 years in the Wyoming Senate, two of which he spent as Senate President. He was the chairman of the Minerals, Business and Economic Development Committee—one of the same committees Law chaired herself. He also served on the Teton County Board of Commissioners.
Most noticeable changes of the last decade?
This one’s easy for Law. “More regulations,” she said. Of course, these regulations happen in tandem with development, which is a response to a growing population. “It was demanded, because we have more people.” Which isn’t all bad—on the contrary, it brings a lot of good to the valley (more on that later). Land Development Regulations got a major upgrade in 2015, in response to Teton County Comprehensive Plan that laid out major housing, transportation and infrastructure goals.
Law has also noticed a huge shift in architecture. Classic Western style is shrinking in favor of more contemporary, modern developments. “I kind of like the old architecture,” she said.
Best town or county event?
Law still goes to the Teton County Fair every summer with her grandkids. Every year, she buys two 4-H cows. She donates one to charity. The other she keeps and splits with her family. She rides some of the milder rides. “What the heck,” Law said. “I throw balls at milk bottles to win goldfish. I love the fair.” Law’s hearty nature has rubbed off on at least one of the fish, which is still alive from last year’s fair.
Best way to spend a day off?
“I don’t take too many days off,” Law laughed.
It’s kind of a joke, but you don’t become one of Jackson’s first millionaires, especially as a woman, by taking days off.
On rare occasions, Law’s favorite summertime activity is going to String Lake. It is perhaps a crowded retreat, especially during peak season, but just 20 miles out of town, it is also accessible and family friendly. Law goes with her kids and their kids and watches them while they swim and paddle board.
Otherwise, Law can be found at home reading, or talking to one of her seven horses. She also admits her fondness for certain shows. “I always joke, I say, ‘I’m going home to watch Little House on the Prairie.” Little House is, in fact, a favorite of hers, but she’s happy with any show that allows her to unwind and escape, however briefly.
Best advice you’d give a Jackson newcomer?
“Just enjoy this wonderful place. Participate in those things that will make a difference.” Law is a big advocate of pursuing passions—people pursuing their passions are also the ones effecting change. “There’s a lot of stuff you can do if you want to help somebody.”
Best romantic spot in the valley? Or, where would you suggest taking a date?
Law paused for a moment here. Her answer isn’t a restaurant, or theater. Instead, it’s a drive.
“If I were to just take a ride, I’d go up Signal Mountain summit,” she said. About 30 miles north of Jackson in Grand Teton National Park, Signal Mountain Summit overlooks Jackson Lake. To the south, it offers views of the Snake River valley. To the north, it overlooks Jackson Lake and allows you to feel almost eye-to-eye with the Tetons. Sunrise or right before sunset, as with most scenic spots, are the best times to visit, and fall foliage offers spectacular pops of color if you can make it in the short window.
Bring a picnic, or dine in at Signal Mountain Lodge, right on the edge of Jackson Lake from mid-May to mid-October.
Best way to give back to the community?
“There are so many ways,” Law said. It starts in the professional sphere—again, by doing what you love. “You work hard in your business,” she said. And you work hard to ensure that your business has something valuable to offer the community. Law’s hotels serve visitors—but she is also committed to her employees and recognizes the critical need for Jackson’s Latino and immigrant workforce.
An easier answer, Law said, is to “volunteer in things that matter.” More importantly, volunteer somewhere you know you can do a good job. She’s especially a fan of One22, a nonprofit committed to providing resources to Jackson’s Latino/immigrant residents. One22 offers translation services, emergency aid and advocacy, and community outreach and education. “They do so much good,” Law said.
Best female leader?
Again, Law has two answers, past and present. She’s a big fan of Teton County Commissioner Smokey Rhea. Rhea, a Democrat, has championed housing and immigration as pillars of her political platform. She was also executive director of the Community Resource Center, now One22—Law’s favorite nonprofit.
Past? Former Wyoming Rep. Ruth Ann Petroff. “I thought she did a good job in legislature,” Law said. “She followed me.” Petroff, a Republican, served in the legislature for six years until January 2011. She sponsored bills to protect victims of sexual assault, raise education funding and a bill that would restore voting rights to nonviolent felons.
Best reason to be proud of Jackson Hole?
“I think it’s the people,” Law said with ease. For her, that’s what it’s really all about.
“The diversity of our population … from that standpoint there are so many contributors.” This is where she sees hope in Jackson’s seemingly endless growth. Jackson wouldn’t be what it is today without newcomers who “really wanted to give back”—she herself was a newcomer in the 1950s.
The Grand Teton Music Festival, she said, wouldn’t exist without newcomers or the National Museum of Wildlife Art. The Center for the Arts, now her neighbor at the Antler Inn, wouldn’t have happened without the help of fresh minds—and deep pockets. “I’ve always appreciated what wealthy people have done.” A check for $50,000 signed by Baroness Consuelo von Gontard, for example, allowed construction of a new Walk Festival Hall to begin. Law had not yet made her first million—nowhere near it. “What do you think my bug eyes thought about $50,000?” she laughed.
But of course it’s not all about wealth. There is at least as much strength in participation. “I believe there’s been a lot of strength that has come in with the newcomers. If they want to participate and join in the community, I think it works very well.”
6. Downhill Dame: Resi Stiegler
During one of Resi Stiegler’s winter Olympic bids, people at Jackson Hole Mountain Resort stopped what they were doing and gathered for an impromptu photo. “We’re taking a photo to show our support for Resi,” one woman called out. That was all it took for every person within earshot to jump in. Indeed, locals take pride in Stiegler. The slalom specialist has represented the U.S. at every level of racing, from Junior Worlds to the World Championships to the Olympics—three times. The born and raised Jacksonite comes from a family of skiers, including her dad, Pepi, who won an Olympic gold medal in 1964.
A skier since the age of 2, she travels all over the world to train and race, but the valley is a place that grounds her. After a crash this year ended her Olympic bid in PyeongChang, she has returned home. But few doubt her resilience, that which has helped her bounce back from multiple injuries in the past. Her love for the local landscape and its people shines through in all she does, from molding fledgling young skiers to the reverent photos she captures of the area’s wilderness.
Jackson is lucky to claim Resi Stiegler as one of its own. Here are a few of the things she loves about it.
– Sarah Ross
Best reason to live in Jackson?
Many people move to Jackson for the natural beauty. It’s obviously stunning, but for Stiegler its beauty feels profound. It’s a kind of beauty that can be experienced in the soul, if you stay aware of it, try not to take it for granted.
Her appreciation for her surroundings has never waned. “It’s the most raw beauty I have ever experienced,” she said. “Physically and emotionally, this place is everything to me. I was born here, so I have a crazy connection with the mountains and feel so alive here.”
Stiegler has always looked up to Jonathan Selkowitz. He was one of her first coaches, and has been a huge supporter ever since, willing to make a midnight run to retrieve her from Idaho Falls Airport when JAC is shut down. He’s a skier, photographer and active community member. As Stiegler puts it, Selkowitz “represents our valley in the most passionate and loving way.”
Selkowitz learned his craft under the tutelage of David Swift, the beloved photographer who recently passed away.
“I thought I’d be shooting fashion,” Selkowitz said. Instead, he became a photographer for the U.S. ski team. He has traveled the world shooting the best skiers for the last 20 years.
His photographs are striking. They capture racers carving around gates, their bodies practically parallel to the ground. “I love the challenge of capturing emotion in a still picture, I love capturing the grace and athleticism combined with composition and lighting.”
Although he has traveled the world, there’s nowhere he’d rather be than Jackson. The skiing is impossible to beat, and he’s passionate about the community. He’s loved coaching many young racers and watching them grow up. One of them, Summer Owens, happens to be his dentist. Another is pro-skier Crystal Wright who now owns her own gym.
“It’s been the most wonderful part of my time here … it is so rewardingly beautiful.”
Best small business owner?
Resi pointed to Tess Wood of Bad Doughnut. When Wood was trying to figure out a “forever” job in Jackson, she knew a few things: “I like using my creativity, I like making things and I like being in charge.” She realized starting her own business would meet that criteria. Then, she started thinking about doughnuts. She loves them, and so does everyone else. “It felt like a no-brainer!”
Bad Doughnut was the result. Wood’s ‘nuts are as witty as they are delicious. Her flavors are unique and finely-tuned for the Jackson community. One of her favorite creations is “The Wilson Mom,” a spicy blackberry margarita doughnut.
She also bakes seasonal goodies. Her 2017 Eclipse treat was first dipped in vanilla, and then in chocolate, just enough to let the white glaze show barely at the edges. She’s working on Gaper Day specialities, like The Snow Bunny, glazed with vanilla and topped with shredded coconut and a neon Peeps bunny.
Who can train an Olympic athlete? Rob Shaul with Mountain Athlete is more than up to the job. Stiegler explained: “He has taken me under his wing and really pushed me to be a better athlete and person. He challenges me and doesn’t let me get away with anything.”
Stiegler is training to be the fastest, strongest and most precise skier she can. This is exactly what Shaul wants. He trains his athletes for maximum performance in the sport of their choice outside of the gym.
As a 5th generation Wyomingite, Shaul calls it a blessing to work and live in a place he cares so much about, and to work with athletes like Stiegler who love it as much as he does.
Stiegler says Shaul manages to both support her and to call her out. Meanwhile, he is blown away by her “humility, her grit and her resilience. Resi doesn’t take anything for granted. No one outworks her in the gym.”
Best style icon?
During the summer months, plenty of tourists wander town in brand new, unscuffed cowboy boots. Few of those boots have been near hay let alone a horse. Cowboy has become costume in Jackson. There are a few places to go to where you’ll be guaranteed the real thing, though, where true cowboys still wear Stetson hats, Western shirts and well-worn boots.
These are Stiegler’s fashion icons, especially the cowboys at the Coach on Sunday nights: “They’re authentic and true to the roots.”
Best young athlete?
As a Jackson Hole Ski Club alum, Stiegler derives joy watching young skiers flourish. She had the chance to work with some of these athletes last summer and said she’s “rooting for all of them.” Brothers Oliver and Holden Parazette stood out. They are both ranked as some of the best youth skiers in the country. The brothers managed to push Stiegler during dryland workouts too.
Best off-season activity?
Stiegler likes to trade snow for water: “I love hiking to water, swimming, floating, boating, or anything that has to do with water.”
Best coffee shop?
Pearl Street Bagels. “They are probably annoyed. I sort of need to give them some space sometimes.”
Best place for drinks?
“For beer, I grab a case of gluten-free beer at Hungry Jacks and sit outside and talk to everyone that walks by. For a drink, I love to go up to Amangani and play a game of chess. The views are stunning.”
Best childhood spot?
Jackson is replete with Instagram-able locations. Every summer, local and visitor social media feeds are flooded with images of hikers at Delta Lake, kayakers at Oxbow Bend and bikers shredding wildflower-filled trails. In a community that can sometimes feel image-based (it’s hard to resist), it’s important to have hideaways, secret spots, places that are precious. Stiegler’s favorite childhood spot is one of those places. “It’s a secret,” she said, “and has stayed that way since I first went there.
7. The Power of Perspective: Travis Ziehl
Travis Ziehl is no stranger to challenge. He has sweated across miles and miles of trails and pavement in ultra-marathons; he ran for public office (the Conservation District seat in 2016), worked as a Weed and Pest warrior for years and owns two small businesses. Recently he faced his greatest challenge yet.
One morning last December, he crashed his car. A tumor, he discovered, had caused the grand mal seizure that made him crash. The diagnosis was glioblastoma, an aggressive brain cancer. What followed was a medical whirlwind. After brain surgery, Ziehl began treatment at the Mayo Clinic in Phoenix, Arizona. Just last week he concluded that treatment and came home to prepare for several more months of chemotherapy. Jackson Hole, he said, gives him the energy to fight for his life.
Indeed, Ziehl loves Jackson and Jackson loves him. Friends have raised money, sent a constant stream of packages and well wishes and even traveled to hospitals. “As the news got darker and darker, the light in our life from Jackson shone brighter and brighter,” he said. “Everyone was sending positive energy. It charges you.”
What is most striking about speaking with Ziehl is his irrepressible enthusiasm. Though he admits the diagnosis was “kind of a bummer deal, a real bad draw,” he is filled with delight and gratitude. “Life gives you these things, and the only way you can deal with it is by shifting your reaction and perception,” he said. – Sarah Ross
Keegan Pfeil, RN, in the St. John’s Emergency Room and a Search and Rescue volunteer.
During one of the worst nights after Ziehl’s diagnosis, he landed in the St. John’s ER. He was experiencing what he learned were typical symptoms of his brain tumor—paralyzing terror and an overwhelming sense of deja vu.
In that night of need, Ziehl was met with compassion and expertise from one nurse in particular. “Keegan was a compassionate champ … I’ll always remember his level of caring. He gave us his full attention and helped when we needed it the most.”
Pfeil is from Port Orchard, Washington, and like Ziehl, moved to Jackson for one season but stayed for 16 years. Working at the hospital and volunteering with SAR allows him to pursue both his passions, helping people and outdoor adventuring.
At any point during work or on a rescue, he will help people in various degrees of physical and emotional trauma. It is his goal to “be sympathetic, empathetic, and compassionate. There’s only so much you can do, but I can try to listen … try to give them all the time I have,” Pfeil said. He sees himself as an advocate for patients and their families.
The small ER offers the highest level of care within 100 miles. Pfeil and his team are like family, and they strive to treat each patient with a high level of care and commitment. Ziehl certainly felt the love.
Best local conservationist?
Leslie Steen, the Snake River Headwaters Project Manager for Trout Unlimited. Though Steamboat the bronco may be the animal most associated with Jackson, a more fitting mascot might be the Snake River fine-spotted cutthroat trout, which are only found in the waters surrounding Jackson Hole. It is very rare for the dominant trout in an area to be native, Leslie Steen said.
Steen and her team at Trout Unlimited—the country’s largest grassroots organization focused on coldwater fisheries and their watersheds—are dedicated to conserving the habitat of these special fish.
Their team rehabilitates habitat and reconnects streams by removing migration barriers. The Snake River Headwaters Project was launched in 2016 and their initiatives have been successful. In 2017, they restored 2.5 stream miles and reconnected five miles of habitat.
This work requires the cooperation and support of many different people, including funding partners and landowners. So far, the environmentally conscious folks of Jackson have been eager to help.
In a time when environmental news can be grim, Steen’s work is hopeful. Her team’s efforts directly protect an important native species. “Every project we do feels worthwhile,” she said.
Best small business owner?
Matt Miller is a builder for every season and reason. Interior, exterior, roofing, flooring, windows—anything a residential remodel or house addition needs, he’ll build it. Miller opened Teewinot Construction about three years ago and has made it his mission to offer quality craftsmanship and customer service.
And the customers he serves run the gamut, from people with millions of dollars to working class folks struggling to stay in Jackson. He provides the same quality of service to everybody. “I want everything to be perfect and want to make customers happy,” he said.
He loves helping families make Jackson Hole home, just as he has. “We just had a little girl, and it’s a lot of fun getting to meet new families and see a lot of people in similar situations as yourself.” It’s not always easy to live here, he added, and it feels good to be able to help people. “The energy in this town is awesome, everyone is always great to work for, and you get to meet people like Travis.”
Best local artist?
Many locals are familiar with Nicole Gaitan-Felton’s large, bright canvases of multi-colored owls, wolves or fish outlined with bold, black lines. Those signature outlines started as an experiment. Felton was trying to figure out how to translate her paper drawings onto large canvases, but nothing looked quite right until she filled a ketchup bottle with black paint and started to drip the outlines.
Her style matches her approach to life. She values adventure and spontaneity. “You can express yourself so wildly with the dropper bottle that I use, and you never know how it’s going to turn out, which is just like life.”
It is exactly this quality that draws Ziehl to Gaitan-Felton’s work. It reminds him of comic book art: “To me, that bold style of dark lines and color popping off the page is the best form any artist has used to express their subject. Throw in bright colors and you have my full attention.”
Raised in Jackson, Gaitan-Felton has a special appreciation for her hometown’s natural beauty and wildlife since she moved back to the valley five years ago.
“When you’re young you take it all for granted,” Gaitan-Felton said. Now, she feels enormously grateful. “The community is number one for me, people have been so supportive and I would never be where I am without them.”
Best elected official?
Democrat Andy Schwartz has represented Teton County in the Wyoming House since 2015.
He’s been involved in politics for much longer—since 1992 when he was a Teton County commissioner. (Bob McLaurin, who has 23 years of town government service under his belt, strongly encouraged Schwartz to throw his hat in the ring.)
“Andy is a really inspiring guy,” Ziehl said. “He’ll respond and let you know how he’s going to vote and why.”
Transparency is one of Schwartz’s goals: “I think people deserve to hear from me whether I agree with them or not. That’s how representative democracy works.”
Schwartz represents a unique portion of Wyoming’s population. As one of the few Democrats in the legislature, he finds it “a little bit liberating because there is not an expectation that we have to conform with what Republican leadership expects.” During the most recent legislative session, for example, only Schwartz and Teton Country Rep. Mike Gierau–D, voted against a bill regarding guns in churches.
Best coffee shop?
Pearl Street Bagels has hundreds of regulars, Ziehl among them. In fact, he hasn’t changed his order in five years. His go-to is a tumbler full of dark roast coffee and an everything bagel with sundried tomato and olive cream cheese.
Pearl Street has been boiling and baking (but not toasting!) bagels since 1990 at its two locations—one on Pearl Avenue, and one at the base of Teton Pass in Wilson. Polly Filice, now a co-owner, started at Pearl Street as a barista. Through Pearl Street, she found a sense of belonging in Jackson. The other baristas became her closest friends, and one of them, Heather Gould, became her business partner. “I found my place when I started working here,” she said. Now, she strives to give every customer and employee (this author included) that sense of belonging. “It’s great to really know your customers, to watch people grow up, to watch employees’ lives and see where they go,” she said.
Filice finds simple pleasure in her work, too. “I love serving coffee. Watching someone get a hot bagel with a hot, good cappuccino just makes me happy.”
Best town event?
As a runner, it is no surprise that Old Bill’s Fun Run is Ziehl’s favorite community event, but he loves it for other reasons, too. In fact, he thinks it might be responsible for building the town’s sense of community: “It creates a zeitgeist which runs throughout the entire year.”
Old Bill’s is certainly an extraordinary effort. To date, it has raised $121 million dollars for local nonprofits. The run started in 1997 with an anonymous donation of $500,000 meant to create “an innovative, collaborative fundraiser that supports all local nonprofits.” Now, one out of three Jackson households participates in the event.
Best thing to miss when you’re not in Jackson?
Ziehl’s treatment has taken him everywhere from Idaho Falls to Rochester, NY to Arizona. What he missed most was his group of friends, but specifically their weekly Sunday brunch at The Bird, where he might order an omelet with cream cheese and bacon. “It’s good food and good times,” Ziehl said.
The Bird’s menu politely invites fun-suckers (the “uptight, unhappy, or demanding”) to eat elsewhere. It is has amassed a local following for its decadent burgers, dangerously spicy wings (“no refunds for wimps”) and $15 bottomless bloody marys and mimosas during those epic Sunday brunches.
Best place to leave your problems behind?
Phillips Ridge early morning or evening. As a trail runner and co-president of Teton Trail Runners with his wife, Monica, Ziehl loves the beauty and accessibility of the valley’s trails.
He goes to the trails to get away and to appreciate nature. With the Teton Trail Runners, the Ziehls want to “connect to the resource we use and give back to it.” They’ve fundraised for Friends of Pathways and launched trail maintenance projects.
Though Ziehl has run ultra-marathons, he says he’s not a particularly good runner. “I’m not one of the fast guys,” he said. He just loves pushing himself and being outside.
It is with this humble persistence and strength that he’s approached his diagnosis and treatment. He’s been training to beat this for years, he said, and “like an Olympic athlete, I expect to medal.”
Best impactful moment of the past year?
There have been many impactful moments since Ziehl’s diagnosis. Jackson has “really let us know they’re not forgetting about us … it’s nice to be a part of a real community, a place where people still give a damn about each other,” he said.
Perhaps the most powerful moment, though, was also the first of Ziehl’s long journey. The day his life changed and he crashed his car, a team of first responders pulled him from the wreck.
They saved his life, but they’ve also stayed in touch. A few people from the first responder team have emailed him periodically to see how his cancer treatment is going. “It’s pretty cool to meet real life superheroes and then see that they still want to make sure you’re doing all right,” he said.
A quote often attributed to John Wesley has been Ziehl’s mantra during treatment, and it reminds him of those first responders: “Do all the good you can, by all the means you can, in all the ways you can, in all the places you can, at all the times you can, to all the people you can, as long as ever you can.” PJH
8. DJ Justice: Rosie Read
Rosslyn “Rosie” Read is known for her work at Trefonas Law, but she’s so much more than a badass immigration lawyer. She’s a self-proclaimed “music obsessed KHOL programmer turned wedding DJ,” a 20-year vegan, and mom to an “adorable curly-tailed black cat.”
Still, the legal services she offers the community set her apart. Read is an attorney at Trefonas Law Firm specializing in immigration law. She understood her passion for immigrant rights after interning at an immigration nonprofit in Seattle. “That turned me into a diehard immigrant rights advocate, and kicked off my immigration law career,” Read said. She’s been in the valley for 17 years, only leaving to attend law school at Seattle University School of Law, where she found her internship, and spent a summer in Nicaragua learning to speak Spanish. She has been at Trefonas for nine years since then.
Daniela Peterson. Peterson, a counselor at “La Familia Counseling,” offers her services to Spanish-speaking families. “She’s one of the valley’s only bilingual mental health professionals, and, in my opinion, one of our most unsung heroes,” Read said. “She works quietly and tirelessly every day to make sure her clients, and the Spanish-speaking community at large, get the care they need, and her help is invaluable to the advocacy I do on behalf of my Latino clients.” Peterson has been recognized twice for her contributions to the Spanish-speaking community. She received the Starfish Thrower award from the Wyoming Department of Health in 2007 for creating the Spanish Speaking Substance Abuse Outpatient Treatment Program, and received an award from the Division of Victims in the State of Wyoming in 2014. “I truly don’t know what this town would do without her,” Read said.
Best way to “unplug?”
Read doesn’t seem to have any vices, even coffee or alcohol. Instead, she leaves her worries behind by getting outside. “I like to spend as many hours as I can wandering around the Tetons during the summer,” Read said. She has a collection of “secret” spots where she likes to hike, camp, backpack and climb. In the winter, “snowboarding does the trick.” And when the “inside” calls, “my wife and I do a lot of puzzles,” Read said.
“There are so many nonprofits doing extraordinary things for our community that it’s pretty tough to choose,” Read said. Teton County is home to more than 200 nonprofits, so it is indeed a hard choice. But, Read said, “Vertical Harvest is especially close to my heart.” Vertical Harvest opened in May 2016, and produces 100,000 pounds of produce each year, all within 13,500 square feet on the side of a parking lot. The three-story vertical greenhouse uses 90 percent less water than than traditional farming practices. Vertical farming is making waves around the world as a sustainable, efficient way to grow produce and support local business. Vertical Harvest also employs 15 Jackson residents with different abilities. “What Nona [Yehia] and the gang have done not just for Jackson, but for all the other places where the vertical greenhouse idea is being replicated, is mind-boggling,” Read said.
Best local business?
“It’s a tie between Relief Technologies, who has saved the day on super short notice over at our office more times than I can count, and Daily Roots, whose organic sauerkraut will change your life,” Read said.
Relief Technologies offers a broad spectrum computer-related services. Matt Balogh and his team can fix hardware, software, network problems, and most any other technical difficulties a computer presents. Daily Roots, meanwhile, is a business built on the pillars of health and healing. Their focus is on a healthy gut, and founder Poa Jacobsen Van Sickle makes fermented vegetables that help populate the gut with healthy bacteria (probiotics). Their kraut flavors are always changing, and always delicious. They also make a variety of sauces, honey, tonics and a body salve called “Poa Potion.”
Best local musician(s)?
Head to Head—half percussion, half electronic, 100 percent electrifying. Head to Head is a duo made up of two born-and-raised Jacksonites Otto Wieters (Ottomatic) and Dan Sanford (Souly Hitz). They both have a background in percussion instruments, but as Sanford started producing more electronic music, they soon realized their combined talents had the potential to create something genre-defying and altogether new. Percussion is arguably underrated in live performances—and that’s all they do. Sanford’s produced beats back up the two drummers in a show that is at once physical, visual, rhythmic and melodic. They’re now technically based in Seattle, but as born-and-bred Jacksonites, we’ll count ‘em.
Best backyard escape?
“I have a bunch of top-secret spots in the Tetons,” Read said. Alas, we may never know them.
“In the true ‘backyard’ sense, Crystal Butte is an awesome escape right at the edge of town.” Crystal Butte is arguably as steep and physically challenging as Snow King—in fact, they’re almost identical (Crystal is 1,500 at its highest point, Snow King is just under 1,600, both just more than 1.5 miles). But Crystal Butte is almost Snow King’s antithesis—no chairlift at the top, only a single-track trail, and (so far) significantly smaller crowds. Snow King faces North, Crystal faces Southwest. From Crystal Butte’s summit, Gros Ventre wilderness stretches for miles to the East/South. On the other side, views of the Tetons and the Valley are as breathtaking as they get.
Best way to get involved in advocacy?
“Join Shelter JH!” Shelter JH is a local nonprofit that advocates for workforce housing. They started strong, with a housing march that took them to Jackson Town Council chambers to demand councilors prioritize housing for low-income workers. They’re also behind the push for tenant protections—there are none under Wyoming state statute. Shelter is a membership program, meaning funding doesn’t come from wealthy donors, but from members who pay dues and have a say in decision-making. The goal is to create a network of “hundreds or thousands” of invested local workers who collectively can impact change. Still, housing is a local crisis, but it’s not the only one. There are plenty of other issues in which to invest energy.
“More generally,” Read said, “I’d suggest going to Jackson Town Council or Teton County Commission meetings, getting informed, and voicing your opinion on issues that matter to you.”
This one is another two-way tie: “Anika Youcha and Katy Fox.”
If you were to draw a Venn Diagram of the two artists, the middle ring that shows what they have in common would include medium—both primarily work with oil paints— and an appreciation for the natural landscapes that surround them. But stylistically, the two are completely distinct. You might recognize Youcha’s handiwork on the 2014 Art Fair poster. She uses sharp lines and vivid colors—but interestingly, she’s color blind. Her paintings are often a palette of similar shades next to each other in a way that looks sharp, almost blockish. But to her, it looks the same. Fox, by contrast, blends color and texture in a way that is at once soft and vivid. The landscapes and the subjects are unmistakable and peaceful up close, but the lines that shape them seem malleable, even chaotic.
Best town or county event?
“I look forward to St. John’s Community Health Fair every year like it’s Christmas,” Read said. And it is a little like Christmas, Santa fills your stocking with healthcare-related goodies like “Band-aids and tiny sunscreen dispensers.”
“I can’t get enough of all the awesome information and schwag you can actually use,” Read said. The Health Fair fills the gym at the Rec Center every summer with booths offering medical information and even services. Free screenings are a big draw—last year, St. John’s offered skin cancer screenings, atrial fibrillation, vision, diabetes, memory, blood pressure, and adult concussion baseline testing. On-site physical therapists offered free injury assessments and functional movement screenings. Visitors can tour emergency vehicles, learn from the sprawl information booths, and sample snacks. “And candy, of course,” Reed said. Because, you know, health.
Best thing to come out of 2017?
It was a rough year for many, but especially immigrants and their advocates. President Trump’s administration has already enacted a ban on immigrants from certain “Muslim majority countries,” has plans to build an “impenetrable wall” on the border between Mexico and the US, and repeal Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), an Obama-era program that protects certain upstanding young people who immigrated as children from deportation.
For many women, too, the administration feels like a constant threat to their rights—insurance policies are no longer required to cover birth control, the Department of Education amended Title IX restrictions that aimed to make it easier for women to report assault, Trump is currently (and constantly) under fire for an alleged extra-marital affair and making crude remarks about women’s bodies. But Read is hopeful.
In response to what many see as oppressive politics, as many have risen up in resistance. The Women’s March, Read said, is the best thing to come out of 2017. And it’s one of at least 30 national protests of Trump’s presidency. Meanwhile, local progressive politicians are building on this momentum. “Progressives locally and nationally being fired up in general” is encouraging, too, Read said.
9. Beyond Best Dressed: Christian Burch
Readers often vote Christian Burch one of Jackson’s Best Dressed (this year included), but his stylish ensembles complete with red leather shoes aren’t the only reason we stole a few minutes with him.
A pillar in the valley’s creative and educational community, Burch moved from Kansas to Jackson in 1995 for the Teton Science School graduate program. He has worked as a gymnastics coach (he was a competitive gymnast at Brigham Young University) and a nanny. Being a male nanny—a “manny”—was the subject of his two young adult novels, The Manny Files (2006) and Hit the Road, Manny (2008).
Burch also taught world literature and art at the Jackson Hole Community School. But that wasn’t enough for him. He has dabbled in painting, too—one of his whimsical, vivid pieces still hangs in the Snake River Grill.
His most recent turn is as co-owner of MADE and Mountain Dandy with his partner John Frechette. “I rode life like a river,” he said, reflecting on his nontraditional career path. “I chose the place and the people and built work around that.”
The longtime local with impeccable taste shared some of his favorite things about Jackson. – Sarah Ross
Best way to describe Mountain Dandy?
Burch says his favorite stores are not only stores, they are experiences. “These stores are somebody’s curation, their point of view. People want to be a part of it for a while, and then they want to take a piece of it home.”
He thinks of Mountain Dandy as curation rather than business. It’s an unfussy and approachable but always stunningly-crafted space. The combination of vintage and handmade pieces appeal to a wide variety of customers—some live in yurts, others in Greenwich Village brownstones.
Walking through Mountain Dandy, one is reminded of childhood, of sifting through your mother’s jewelry box—it’s familiar but a bit mysterious, and everything is a treasure.
Even a seemingly basic item contains a secret, something that makes it a little more beautiful or unique. A knitted blanket has such thick yarn that each loop is the size of an apple. A piece of cardstock is rimmed with bright gold. There is attention to each detail, from the bottle openers to the furniture to the books and art.
Best change in Jackson?
“An evolving style,” Burch said. When he moved here 24 years ago, “it was all antlers and fleece. I like that people are putting forth more effort when attending weddings and going to dinner. It’s surface stuff but I think it’s important to dress for events, to give big life moments formality.”
Jackson certainly has transformed over the past decades, even earning a spot in the Travel section of Vogue last year, where it was celebrated as a bastion of good food and style that has “retained a genuine charm and sense of place that can often get lost as ski towns explode in popularity.”
Best thing that hasn’t changed?
“Almost in opposition to my last answer, I love that you can still run into the Snake River Grill in jeans and a button-down. Jackson Hole has an unfussy elegance, and I find that nice,” Burch said.
Best local artist?
Scotty Craighead and Mike Piggott.
Craighead was raised in Kelly. The influence of Western art is evident in his work, which might take a traditional Wyoming image, like a mounted moose head, and deconstruct it. His skull might be made out of old pieces of furniture, table legs broken up and hammered into an instantly recognizable silhouette.
Last year he took 4,000 photos of ice on the Snake River. The river has been captured countless times by countless artists, but he found a new way to depict it. The photos are constellation-like, revealing the micro-bubbles and cracks that make up ledges of ice.
Like Craighead, Piggott makes the familiar unfamiliar. His paintings give humble objects prominence. A golden rectangle of butter on a grey-blue plate, an open book on a table. They’re quiet and capture how it feels to walk into a room mid-afternoon when the light is just right and a shadow reflects on glass. They’re so devoid of context one can’t help but imagine a whole world around them.
Best place for a night out?
Burch and Frechette’s shops are located in some of the busiest parts of town, especially during the summer months. During the busy season, they have almost no time to get away from work. If they can make it just a few blocks down Broadway, though, “an evening at the Snake River Grill gives us a respite from the grind.”
He also pointed to some of the newer restaurants in town. One of his favorites is Glorietta Trattoria, famous for cocktails and pasta.
“It’s just nice to have restaurants with great food that make an ordinary evening feel special,” Burch said.
Best style icon?
The award-winning dresser nominated Chris Koch, a local chiropractor. “He’s found what works for him and it’s become his uniform. He looks sharp and has his own style.”
Best place to get away from everything?
Burch escapes the downtown hustle and bustle by unwinding at the Snake River Sporting Club. Members enjoy private fishing access, a golf course, a pool along with myriad other amenities. “It’s away from the crowds, and so beautiful all year long in the canyon,” Burch said.
Best elected official?
Like Travis Ziehl, Burch declared Andy Schwartz Jackson’s best.
Tayloe Piggott Gallery brings together prominent and emerging artists and jewelers from all over the world, as well as from Jackson. Exhibitions have included Wolf Kahn’s striking nearly fluorescent landscapes and Rakuko Naito’s intricate, kaleidoscope-like pieces, all made out of paper. The caliber of art would be impressive anywhere, but particularly in small-town Wyoming.
Burch appreciates the interesting shows and the opportunity for people in Jackson to experience such a wide breadth of art.
Best reason to live in Jackson?
“It’s a small town with culture,” Burch said. Despite Jackson’s size, “we have great food, a thriving art scene, and a wonderful library. Still, especially during the off-season, we are a tiny, tiny town that supports and loves one another.”
As a small business owner, Burch is particularly aware of the need for locals to support locals. “Possibly one of the most impressive characteristics of Jackson is the support for small businesses,” he said. There are far more small businesses than when he moved to town, and “credit should go to the people of Jackson who shop locally, who support their neighbors over big businesses and who make the effort to purchase gifts, books and goods in town when it is so easy to find these items online.”
10. Jackson’s Mad Scientist: Bland Hoke
Bland Hoke’s workshop on Gregory Lane is marked by a giant metal tree that stands in the parking lot. He made it from metal he had left over from another installation: the display of the Snake River at Jackson Hole Airport. Inside his workshop, Hoke works on one of any number of projects for any one of his numerous creative undertakings. He has an extensive resume: he’s the owner and manager of Bland Design LLC. He’s the resident artist for JH Public Art and has spearheaded events like POP—Power of Place, where pedestrians take over busy streets in the name of art-centered activities, music and lounging. He’s one of two founders of The Grand Pan, which makes huge wok-style “kick-ass cookware.” And he is also co-creator and “Chief Amazement Officer” of the Hammocraft, a metal frame that can hold as many as five hammocks and travel over land and water. His art is as functional as it is aesthetic, and it’s all over the world. How could we not be interested in what lurks in Hoke’s creative mind? – Shannon Sollitt
Best backyard treasure?
“A time capsule!” Hoke said. Just kidding—he’s never actually made a time capsule. His real answer is Garaman Park. Perched along Flat Creek and right off the bike path, Russ Garaman Park has it all. “You’ve got the river right there, and hiking, and biking, everything.”
It’s close enough to town to be easily accessible, but tucked away enough to offer peace and quiet. Enjoy a picnic on the lawn, dip your feet in Flat Creek’s cool waters after a hike or mountain bike ride on one of the backyard trails.
Best hangover cure?
Nora’s Fish Creek Inn. The award-winning Wilson eatery serves hearty food and bottomless coffee guaranteed to soothe your pounding head—or at least provide a temporary distraction from it. Nora’s is the spot “if you’re really going for a serious hangover cure.” Hoke’s new favorite remedy is the cinnamon toast, which is a recent addition to the menu. “You can’t even see the toast ‘cause there’s so much cinnamon,” he said.
His second favorite meal is whatever his friends are getting—no matter what, it’ll turn out great. And decisions are hard to make hungover. “The less thinking the better,” Hoke said. The Huevos Rancheros is probably Nora’s most popular dish. The James Beard Foundation named Nora’s one of five “American Classics” in 2012.
Best way to spend a night out?
You’re less likely to find Hoke out at a bar than out exploring his backyard. “Anywhere during a full moon is wild,” he said. Full moon adventures are his favorite nighttime activity. Or, were, until he started experimenting with Swedish torches, or “self-propelled fire tornadoes.” They’re not as terrifying as they sound. In fact, like most of Hoke’s art, they’re actually pretty cool, and very scientific. “It’s so science!” said the self-proclaimed pyro.
He demonstrated by rolling a long strip of mesh into a tall tube and hanging it from a metal structure so it suspended above the ground. Then, he cut a piece of metal to fit on the bottom of the tube—this is the base. He secured a tiny stove fueled by denatured alcohol onto the base before lighting it up.
Eventually, he will figure out how to make a base that can easily affix to the mesh tube, but for now, he just uses duct tape. Finally, he placed a propeller on top of the tube. The propeller doesn’t move, but as the heat rises, it deflects off of the blades. Hoke gave it a little nudge, and the tube began to spin. The flames spiral, too—that’s the art of it (and why it’s coolest to do at night). It’s an impressive display.
Best place to take a date?
“The Wind Cave because it’s so weird and awesome,” Hoke said.
The Darby Canyon Wind Cave is weird all right, and your worst nightmare if you’re claustrophobic or afraid of the dark. But fear, or your survival instincts and adrenaline, has been proven to release alluring hormones—so maybe Hoke is onto something.
You don’t have to enter the cave either, you can observe safely from the outside and delight in the waterfall that runs out of its mouth. It’s a five-mile trail roundtrip and if you’re feeling brave, have the right gear, and enough time, you can venture into the cave. It does get dangerous the further in you go, though, and is recommended for experienced spelunkers only.
Hammocrafting is also a pretty romantic endeavor, and in fact is how Hoke and his current partner spent their first date. The hammocraft frame can safely sit atop a pair of paddleboards or even a raft. Hoke’s favorite float is the stretch from the Jackson Lake Dam to Pacific Creek.
Best local artist (besides you)?
This one’s easy. Ben Roth, Hoke said. “I learned a bunch from him.” Roth and Hoke do have a lot in common. Both are sculptors whose primary medium is metal. They make functional art that is very aware of its relation to the space that surrounds it. You might recognize his stingrays suspended above the Rec Center pools, or the trout and insect bike racks at Rendezvous Park.
“[Roth] is really committed to pursuing his own type of creativity,” Hoke said. Hoke admires what he sees as an “above and beyond” effort to create pieces that fit his vision, no matter how risky or unusual. “It’s a good way to approach life,” Hoke says. And it has inspired Hoke to strive for the same. “Like, I give myself permission to make self-propelled fire tornadoes,” Hoke laughs. “I’m inspired by his goin’ for it.”
Best local event?
Hoke is a “big fan” of the Fourth of July. Not necessarily for the parades or the patriotism, but for the summer sun, river floats (often on a Hammocraft), friends, and fireworks. He remembered his favorite Independence Day. He brought three Hammocrafts onto the lake/pond at Shooting Star, and watched the fireworks at Jackson Hole Mountain Resort while listening to Sigur Rós. “I’m getting shivers just thinking about it,” Hoke said.
Best local musician or DJ?
Chris Howl, a.k.a. Mr. Whipple. Whipple is a DJ of legendary valley status for his ability to read a crowd and his unqiue, bass-driven music selections. “I just like what he plays,” Hoke said. Whipple is known for spinning songs that get people dancing and Hoke really likes dancing. It’s really his only expectation of good music, especially live. Acoustic shows bore him—they’re too quiet, too sedentary. But a good beat, he said, pretty much guarantees a good time.
“The goal with local music is to be dancing,” Hoke said.
Best outdoor activity of all time?
Again, Hoke has a few answers here, both about Hammocrafts (he’s predictably stoked about his invention, this isn’t an intentional sales pitch). The first was a winter float on a Hammocraft, from South Park to Astoria, with a little Swedish torch. “It was gorgeous,” Hoke said.
But the “best of all time was land sailing the Hammocraft on the park road when it was open for bikes.” It was kind of an accident. He and a group of friends thought they would tow the Hammocraft on bicycles. It was rigged with two big wheels in the back, and two small, swiveling wheels (like on shopping carts, Hoke explained), on the front. It was a struggle fest. “The wind is blowing, we’re crunching along… it was a pain in the ass,” Hoke said. So they turned around. And as soon as they did, the hammock in the front filled with wind and pushed the Hammocraft away from them. “We grabbed sticks to put in the swivel rears to steer, and started cruising back,” Hoke said. The wind did all the work—they just kicked back and enjoyed the ride. “We were going like, 15 to 20 miles per hour,” he said, “listening to music, just land sailing. It was the coolest adventure of all time.”
Your best installation?
“Right now, I’m pretty in love with Otto the goldfish,” Hoke said.
Otto is the giant inflated goldfish that lives in the little courtyard—his fishbowl—at the Center for the Arts. He’s based off of the fish in the children’s book Fish Out of Water, which he didn’t really realize until it was done. The book tells the story of a boy who feeds his goldfish, Otto, too much food, until Otto grows to the size of a whale. The resemblance is uncanny.
What Bland loves most about Otto, and really all his favorite art, is the ability to add to it. He’s never completely finished. “Being able to add new layers to a piece of art is really refreshing and really interesting,” Hoke said.
Best thing to come home to/thing you miss most when you’re gone?
Hoke’s answer likely resonates with anyone who has ever flown into Jackson on a clear day. His favorite part about coming home is that final descent through Grand Teton National Park. “That flight in, when you’re looking down at everything, then just getting off the plane and looking at the Tetons…” Hoke trails off. “I’m like, this is why I live here. It gets me every time.”
And then, of course, Hoke said it’s pretty cool to walk past his Snake River installation at the airport. It’s an aerial view of the river, with a compass and an arrow pointing toward town. The project and its placement are meant as a visual representation of historic and modern modes of travel into the valley.