Off-Season is the Best Season

Yes, Jackson Hole’s trails are at an in-between stage during April and early May. They’re not yet snow-free or dry enough for hiking or biking. Also, the ski lifts at Jackson Hole Mountain Resort and Snow King Mountain have closed for the season. Still, there’s plenty to do in the valley, including these favorite spring activities of ours. A bonus of the spring off-season? No crowds!

Wyoming Stargazing

Photo Courtesy of Wyoming Stargazing

“We have some of the darkest skies of anywhere in the country,” says Dr. Samuel Singer, the founder of Wyoming Stargazing, which does year-round stargazing safaris. “A few places are darker—national parks in the Southwest, which have drier air and are father from cities—but Jackson Hole still has amazingly dark night skies.” Singer says his favorite moment of every stargazing program is when he parks at the spot he will set up the telescope and the night’s stargazers exit the van. “I turn the headlights off and everyone steps outside under this big, dark sky and they’re just blown away. I think some people get dizzy when they look up. It feels like you’re in a fishbowl.”  

Photo Courtesy of Wyoming Stargazing

“It’s like a wildlife tour, except we go out and see stars,” says Dr. Samuel Singer, who has a PhD in science education and founded Wyoming Stargazing in 2013. “We get people to explore the extraordinary in the ordinary. The sky is always above our heads, we normally just don’t look up, and there is so much cool stuff up there day and night, especially here, where we’re lucky to have pretty dark skies.” The reason dark skies are so hard to find today? Light pollution, a collective term that includes all forms of artificial light, but most conspicuously the perpetual sky glow that hovers over urban areas.

Book a stargazing safari at wyomingstargazing.org, $500 for up to 2 people, $175/person for groups of 3 to 13


National Museum of Wildlife Art

Photo Courtesy of National Museum of Wildlife Art

Most people passing through Jackson Hole do so without realizing the valley is home to the wildlife art equivalent of the Louvre, Hermitage, Metropolitan, and Prado. Included in the National Museum of Wildlife Art’s 5,000+ piece permanent collection is Auguste Rodin’s The Crying Lion—yes, the same Rodin famous for The Thinker. This piece was inspired by a visit Rodin took to Jardin des Plante (the Paris Zoo) in the company of Louis-Antoine Barye, founder of the European movement known as les animaliers (“the animal sculptors”) and also represented in the NMWA’s permanent collection alongside perhaps the most heralded animalier, Rembrandt Bugatti. “Yes, we’ve branched out significantly from Rungius and the Big Four,” says Dr. Adam Duncan Harris, the museum’s Joffa Kerr chief curator of art. “These are the very same artists you’ll find in the Louvre. They’ve been fun acquisitions and artworks that elevate wildlife art to a different level of appreciation and understanding.”

Wildlifeart.org, open 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. Tuesday – Saturday and 11 a.m. – 5 p.m. Sundays through April; May – October, open 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. daily, $15 (adults), $13 (seniors), $6 (first child), ($2) additional children


Jackson Hole Eco Tour Adventures

Photo Courtesy of Jackson Hole Eco Tour Adventures

While many local human residents leave for part of the off-season, it’s a totally different story with the valley’s wildlife. “Much of the wildlife is concentrated in the low valleys where there is little-to-no-snow and spring green-up is beginning,” says Taylor Phillips, a wildlife biologist and founder of Jackson Hole Eco Tour Adventures, which does 4- to 12-hour wildlife tours in and around Jackson Hole. “Spring is amazing in the Jackson Hole Valley. With copious amounts of snow in the high country and bluebirds signing in the valley its a great time to explore Grand Teton National Park for Wildlife.” Specifically in April, “The spectacle is strutting sage grouse,” Phillips says. And also, “If one is lucky then the first bison calves can be seen!”  

Photo Courtesy of Jackson Hole Eco Tour Adventures

During the spring off-season, bighorn sheep haven’t yet migrated out of the valley into the mountains.  Taylor Phillips, a wildlife biologist and founder of Jackson Hole Eco Tour Adventures loves taking clients to the Elk Refuge to see sheep. “The back side of Miller Butte is a great place to go for raptors and bighorn sheep,” he says. “They haven’t made their spring migration to Sheep Mountain [aka Sleeping Indian] yet.”

jhecotouradventures.com, 307/690-9533, 4-hour tours in Grand Teton National Park from $140/person, 8-hour tours from $240/person


Jay Goodrich Photo Adventure

Photo Courtesy of Jay Goodrich

“Even in the mud season, there is so much to photograph here,” says Jay Goodrich, a Jackson-based professional photographer who offers half- and full-day photo tours and whose own work appears in Outside, The Washington Post, Outdoor Photographer Magazine, Mountain Magazine, and Powder. “It’s a matter of honing your eye. There is always something compelling to shoot, you just need to find it.” Goodrich wants to teach you how to find it on a custom photo tour. “I’ll help people go beyond just holding up a camera and taking a photo of a pretty scene. I look at every photo as a design opportunity—think about lines and shape and contrast, and the differences between highlights and shadows.” If this sounds intimidating, “Some people who comes on tours only have their iPhones, so you don’t need to have much experience or expensive equipment,” Goodrich says. “Whatever you’re using to take photos, I’ll help you discover settings that will allow you to take much better photos.”  

Photo Courtesy of Jay Goodrich

“The valley might be muddy and brown, but the peaks all around the valley never look that way,” says photographer Jay Goodrich. “They’ll have snow up on them that usually lasts through mud season. This is the time of year I skip the wide, vast image and instead zoom in and look for dynamic things happening up high.” Goodrich also says he likes to photograph animals in the spring. “They’re starting to migrate, so tight, detail oriented shots of bison or elk are great.” Because each of Goodrich’s half- and full-day photo tours is custom, if clients are interesting in photographing wildlife, he goes to different spots than when clients want to focus on landscapes. “I’ve had clients tell me, ‘I want to find a fox,’ while others say, ‘I want to get interesting shots of the Tetons.’ I like helping people do both.”

Book a photo safari at Jaygoodrich.com or 970/376-8883, From $450/3 people


Biking in Grand Teton National Park

Until May 1, Grand Teton National Park’s Inner Park Loop Rd. is open only to non-motorized travel. This traditional was started in 1977, by then-GTNP deputy superintendent Jack Neckels. At that time, after that park’s road crew cleared the snow from the 11-mile stretch of road between the Bradley-Taggart Lakes Trailhead and Signal Mountain Lodge that is closed to cars all winter, the road surface had to dry for several weeks before cars could drive on it (without damaging it). Neckels—who went on to become the park’s superintendent—decided that someone should be able to enjoy the road during this “drying out” time and a tradition was born.

In the 1980s and 1990s, the road was redone, and even rerouted a bit. When this was finished in 1992, some park workers suggested the road no longer needed to be plowed so early, as the material it was made of it no longer had to dry out. Neckels, superintendent by then, said no to that idea. Biking the Inner Park Loop Rd. had become a rite of spring and would remain. nps.gov/grte/planyourvisit/bike.htm  

Clearing Grand Teton National Park’s Inner Park Loop Rd. this year took longer than in years past. Last spring, it was cleared in 2 days. This year, plowing 16 hours a day (broken into 2 shifts), 2 drivers took about 6 days. At times, they were clearing the epic winter’s worth of snow at speeds as slow as one-tenth of a mile per hour. Cyclists, runners, walkers, roller-skaters, skateboarders—any type of non-motorized activity is allowed on the road. Dogs are also allowed, on leashes no longer than 6-feet. buckrail.com/teton-park-road-open-to-non-montorized-use/


New Eats in 2019

The Phoenix and Dragon

After operating as a pop-up inside Jackson Whole Grocer for almost a year, husband-and-wife owner/operators Eric and Zarina Sakai, who have lived in the valley since 2010, wanted more space and a bigger kitchen. So, like many aspiring small businesses, they launched a Kickstarter campaign. Their campaign was to help fund a remodel of a former restaurant space at 140 N. Glenwood. The couple raised almost double their goal and The Phoenix and the Dragon opened January 9.
The Phoenix and the Dragon serves food inspired by what husband-and-wife owner/operators Eric and Zarina Sakai each grew up eating. Eric, a chef, has a Chinese mom and a Japanese dad and grew up in Oregon. Zarina is 100 percent Filipino but grew up in the San Francisco Bay area. “Our menu is a mash up of our Asian cultures,” they say. Expect beef Pho, several varieties of handmade dumplings, dan dan noodles, and (a favorite from their pop-up), Sichuan spicy lamb and rice. When asked which one of them was the phoenix and which one the dragon, Zarina says, “Depends on the day! We all have a little phoenix and a little dragon in us. There’s a strong belief in both our cultures that there is a balance to everything, like yin and yang. The phoenix typically represents a cooling, soothing energy and the dragon represents a fire element. Each is essential.
145 N. Glenwood St.
307-200-6436

Open daily from TK – TK


RPK3

Comfort food rules at the new lunch and après spot in the tram building at the base of Jackson Hole Mountain Resort. The Backcountry Burger is topped with cream cheese and roasted chilis. The Korean beef bowl—steamed rice topped with roasted Brussels sprouts, kimchi, kale, and beef—proves comfort food crosses international boundaries. You can get sweet potato fries topped with bacon aioli and green chili,  or a cup of the green chili, which is hearty and decidedly not vegetarian.  Sure to become a local favorite is the fried chicken, which is brined in pickle juice and buttermilk, and available on several different sandwiches or as a plate.
RPK3’s specialty cocktail menu is short, but that’s just fine since it includes the best adult spiced hot chocolate we’ve ever had, Fireball spiked cocoa topped with cayenne and whipped cream. If Fireball isn’t your thing, honor local Betty Woolsey and try the Woolsey Woods, scotch and mescal with pine-infused syrup and pineapple. Betty was an early settler to the valley who was an avid skier and competed in the 1936 Olympics, she also founded Trail Creek Ranch at the base of Teton Pass. Oh, and did we mention that all the cocktails are only $10?
In the tram building, on the mountain side

Open daily from 11 a.m. – 6 p.m.


Suda

Dustin Rasnick has been one of the valley’s best itamae (sushi chefs) for years at Sudachi on the West Bank. But, “there is so much more to Japanese cuisine,” he says. Rasnick, wife Liz (front-of-the-house manager), Jonathan Cohen (head chef), and ShopCo (the owners of Aspens Market and Pearl Street Market), aim to show you how much more there is to Japanese cuisine at SUDA, which opened in downtown Jackson in late January. SUDA is inspired by izakaya, a type of Japanese restaurant that focuses on simple, good food and often has shared plates … but no sushi. Instead, look for things like kushiyaki, marinated chicken, beef, and vegetables on skewers, and katsu samos, traditional Japanese sandwiches on crustless white bread and stuffed with meat that is somewhere in between a schnitzel and a hamburger. “For us, katsu sandos is a take on hamburgers, being as we are in America,” Dustin says.
In what is sure to be a first for the valley, SUDA serves yakiniku, also known as Japanese barbeque. Order yakiniku and you’ll find a small grill brought to your table so that you can grill your choice of beef and vegetables. While the beef on grills is from Wyoming (either Carter Country Beef, which is based near Tensleep, or locally raised Lockhart Beef), the charcoal in the grills comes all the way from Japan. SUDA imports binchotan, a type of white charcoal made from oak and used in Japanese cooking since the 17th century, directly from Japan. “This is something we will spare no expense on. [Binchotan] has a distinct flavor you can taste,” Dustin says. “But not any ‘bad’ flavors, like those that come from gas or woods that impart their flavors on the ingredient being cooked.”

140 N. Cache

Open Monday through Saturday for dinner in the winter and, in summer, lunch and dinner


Persephone (In The Aspens)

Locals have long dreamed of a second location of Persephone, the popular bakery/café that opened on the Town Square in 2014. This spring, these dreams become a reality when Persephone opens an outpost in the Aspens. It will serve all of your favorite pastries and sweet treats from the downtown location and more. It’ll have “some West Bank specialties as well,” says Ali Cohane, who founded Persephone with her husband Kevin, a Cordon Bleu-trained pastry chef. Inside, “it will still be a mix of rustic meets modern much like [the original] Persephone, but with more of a French cafe vibe,” Cohane says. We can’t wait!
3445 N. Pines Way # 102, Wilson

Open daily, hours TBD


Everest Momo Shack

As of January 9, locals’ favorite Everest Momo Shack finally has its own space in Jackson. The restaurant first opened by sharing space with Down on Glenwood (D.O.G., a walk-up take-away spot known for town’s burliest breakfast burritos). Eventually it got its own space, but in Teton Valley. But now Sange Sherpa and his wife Rita are back in Jackson, serving Nepali food, Thai dishes, and salads. Sange calls the menu “international cuisine” and says everything on it comes from Rita’s recipes.  Rita’s brother Dawa that is the chef; Rita is the manager. We are lucky this one is across the street from our office, lunch meeting anyone?
245 W. Pearl Ave.

Open Monday – Saturday, lunch from 11 a.m. – 2:30 p.m. and dinner from 5 – 9 p.m.


Roadhouse Brewing Company Pub & Eatery

The new Pub & Eatery opened on the Town Square by Roadhouse Brewing Company has regular chicken wings on its menu. But there’s also fried duck wings with plum sauce and spicy mustard. There is a flatbread topped with pomodoro and mozzarella and another topped with prosciutto and apples. And then there’s a Bahn Mi flatbread, which is exactly what it sounds like—a Vietnamese Bahn Mi sandwich (crispy pork, hoisin, slaw, and pickled veggies), but served pizza style, and with white cheddar cheese. Tacos? Of course, and served on fresh, house-made tortillas. A partnership between Gavin Fine (a restaurateur; this is his ninth restaurant) and Colby Cox (a home brewer), Roadhouse takes its food as seriously as its beer. And it takes its beer seriously; it has 60 beers on tap, including many from other area breweries.
Behind glass walls running the length of Roadhouse Brewing Company’s dining room are eight five-barrel fermenters. “This brewing system isn’t just for show, it’s going to let us try more recipes and more styles,” Roadhouse co-founder Colby Cox told the Jackson Hole News & Guide. “You’ll still see nice, big Belgians, and big, hoppy IPAs, but also lots of interesting new recipes. We’re looking forward to lesser-known beer styles from around the world, and even beers from ancient recipes.” While Roadhouse will be using the brewing system in the Pub & Eatery to make session beers, its flagship brews will continue to be produced in a bigger facility in West Jackson.
20 E. Broadway

Open daily 11:30 a.m. – midnight


Stillwest Brewery & Grill

 
 
Stillwest opened earlier this winter, and it’s great. But it’s going to be amazing in summer. This brewery and grill is right at the base of Snow King Mountain, aka the “Town Hill,” and has what might be town’s nicest deck. Until the deck opens, Stillwest’s rustic/contemporary interior is a cozy setting for a wide ranging menu that includes a Nashville Hot Chicken sandwich, braised pork shank cassoulet, chicken marsala, Wagyu flank steak, and, during Sunday brunch, Southern eggs Benedict, Dixie waffles, biscuits and gravy, and a smoked bison sausage bowl. And then there’s the beer: year-round Stillwest pours its flagship brews—Kolsch, Malty Red Ale, American Pale, Pilsner, and Baltic Porter. The brewery also does seasonal beers.
45 E. Snow King Ave.

Closed Mondays, Tuesdays – Sundays 11 a.m. – 10 p.m.

Giving Back – Jackson Hole Nonprofits Take The Lead

Jackson Hole’s nonprofits are as diverse as wildflowers in the high Tetons in late July and include environmental, wildlife, and conservation groups, a children’s museum, a wildlife art museum, numerous arts organizations, TK, and a search and rescue team on call 24 hours a day 7 days a week every day of the year.

Do Yourself a Favor

Self-care may seem indulgent, but it is critical for maintaining our physical, emotional, and mental health. Join us as we discuss the importance of a healthy mind, body, and spirit with experts in Jackson Hole’s health & wellness industry.

A world-class orchestra calls Jackson Hole home for 7 weeks every summer

Musicians from New York, Philly, Atlanta, San Francisco, Chicago, Minneapolis, and dozens of other cities across the country gather in Jackson Hole every summer for a 7-week symphony season.

Updating Log Homes, or Undertaking New Construction with Timber

Traditional log homes, from small retreats to family estates, are everywhere in the valley; from downtown Jackson to exclusive subdivisions like John Dodge and Solitude. These materials mixed with stone, plaster, barn wood, and steel windows can create a stunning, rustic retreat. With the right touch, log-design can retain the heritage of the materials, while still providing that authentic Western feel.

The Artistic Heart

Jackson is a home to stories—many that have been shared repeatedly, and many that have never been told. Being a center for tourism, conservation, and natural splendor, this small Wyoming town nestled in the Rocky Mountains is rich with characters and activities, a proverbial land of opportunity that has made a habit of resetting and recharging with each variation of the temperature.

Place + Design: A conversation with Architect John Carney, Principal of Carney Logan Burke

Phoenix Rising: The Town Hill

Four years ago, The New York Times chronicled the uncertain future of Snow King Resort under the ominous headline, “In the Shadow of Grand Resorts, a Town Hill Struggles.”

The article told of the Town Hill’s history as the first ski area in Wyoming and one of the oldest in the nation. “The ski slope that rises up the mountain just off downtown, called Snow King, dates from the 1930s, when this corner of the West all but folded up in winter, isolated and dark, and local people needed something to do,” wrote Times reporter Kirk Johnson. Snow King has long been loved by locals for the runs its close proximity to downtown allows them to sneak in before work, during lunch, and after hours.

“‘It was never meant to make money,’ said Bill Ashley, 89, [in the Times article] who owned and ran the Snow King ski school for many years and met his wife, Mary, at the top of the mountain in the early 1950s. “‘It was meant to be for the town.’”

“For the town” remains the motto of the resort, even now under new ownership. When the Timesarticle was published, the long-time owners of Snow King had quietly put the resort up for sale because the math just didn’t add up: With less than 400 acres of steep, skiable terrain (miniscule by modern resort standards), Snow King operated at a $800,000 winter deficit, a loss partially recovered by steady year-round convention and hotel business and popular summer activities like the alpine slide. After several years on the market and much civic discussion, Jackson resident Max Chapman took over as Snow King President last November. His goal: To create a ski hill that serves locals but also holds its own against other first-class resorts in the region and beyond.

Snow King’s phoenix rising can be felt on any given summer day as the base buzzes with activity. From the weekly Wednesday People’s Market to the periodic free concert series JacksonHoleLive!, from the intrepid hikers crisscrossing its steep slopes to the revolving door of athletic competitions, Snow King plays host to a panoply of activities open to locals and visitors alike.

In addition to cultivating the resort as a community hub, the new Snow King leaders are busy redeveloping. Phase one improvements include the brand new Rafferty lift, the under-construction ropes course, and – coming very soon – the Mountain Coaster. Boasting Teton views and corkscrew loops, the rollercoaster will race through the forest along 3,000 feet of fixed track. Having raised nearly $20 million from investors, Snow King has currently focused on beefing up profitable summer operations so as to grow winter activities in the future. To underscore Snow King’s summer potential, approximately 70,000 people ride the alpine slide each summer compared with 40,000 skier days. That said, Snow King remains committed to winter having installed new lighting and snowmaking machines last winter to allow for early-season race training. Beyond servicing the alpine slide, the new Rafferty lift will provide access to two new intermediate ski runs. And a new base lodge will boast a restaurant and bar.

The recently-revealed yet years-off phase two includes a gondola, a summit restaurant, lift-accessed mountain bike trails, a summit-to-base zip line and a boundary expansion that would make the resort two-thirds larger (from 370 acres to 614). “The vision is to make Snow King a world-class mountain resort right here in Jackson Hole,” Chapman said in a June 17 feature in the Jackson Hole News&Guide. “We’re really trying to build a whole new Snow King.”

Back in 2011, Kirk Johnson questioned the future of tiny resorts like Snow King: “What place do ski hills like Snow King have in the modern world?” he wrote. “What are they worth to a community or an economy? Has the chemistry between town and town hill been changed by tough times?”

Johnson’s rhetorical questions can now be answered in the affirmative. The chemistry between Jackson Hole and Snow King has indeed changed with tough times, but not in the way Johnson may have imagined. Instead of diminishing in importance, the bond between the Town of Jackson and its Town Hill has only grown stronger.