Vacation in the Wild Wild West (EN)

My husband has been claiming that he could stand on skis before he could walk as he grew up in the German Alps where skiing is probably in the DNA. Me? Let me put it this way: I am a beach person but I don’t mind skiing.

As such, every winter season he is drawn to go back to the mountains and to go skiing. This winter both of us were thrilled about our ski vacation as it was a first in many ways: skiing in the US, signing up Philipp for ski school, taking a plane for a ski vacation with a toddler. All the “firsts” made me actually nervous! Well, the only “first” that made me really nervous was to put Philipp into ski school. I had all these questions in my mind: will he stay in the school without us (and if not, one of us cannot go skiing), will he get hurt, are the instructors nice, will he like skiing, is he too young to start skiing?? However  I was pretty alone with my questions. My husband was confident that Philipp will love skiing because it is in his genes… What else!

The direct flight to Jackson Hole, Wyoming takes approx. 5hours and there is a time difference of 2 hours to NYC. Packing for a ski vacation requires discipline if you take the plane. There are helmets and ski boots you cannot just throw in the back of a car. On top we had our special bag filled with books, toys and a lot of snacks to keep Philipp happy on the plane. The flight went really smooth until we experienced a quite rough landing with a full braking. While we were concerned about the lack of skills of the pilot the stewardess apologized for the landing with the fact that the runway is extremely short. Thanks to the short runway and the physique of a toddler stomach Philipp threw up at the baggage claim…Mental note: short runway = less snacks for Philipp.

Now to Jackson Hole, also known as “The Big One”. Frequently ranked as the best ski spot in the US by major ski magazines. After spending couple of days let me tell you why this place became near and dear to our heart:

Landscape/Scenery: Jackson Hole as a part of the Grand Teton National Park is the valley floor between the Teton Mountain and the Snake River.  A national ELK refuge (home to 10k – 15k elks every winter) and the Yellowstone National Park is only a couple of miles away. A spectacular scenery that I only knew from the Western movies and it impressed me from the first second after landing. On our way from the airport to our hotel in Teton village we could spot an elk herd which made us forget all the hassle with traveling. Another highlight apart from skiing would be the Western town of Jackson. This is the perfect spot to experience the wild wild west.

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Skiing: the mountain ski resort is known for its beyond-expert terrain. You could do backcountry skiing, heli skiing, cat skiing or free riding and much more. A paradise for professionals and experts. However, the rest of the resort is well rounded but definitely with more terrains for intermediate-experts than for beginners.
Trail map: http://www.jacksonhole.com/maps/mountain-winter.html

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People/Hospitality: people here are friendly and extremely family-friendly. It doesn’t matter where you are, on the ski lift, gondola, restaurant, store or in the bus. Locals and tourists we met all the way were nice, supportive, curious and chatty. They are curious about how your day was, where you are from, if you like skiing here… the daily chit chat. As Germans we are not good in chit chats but after 1-2 days we went with the flow and we would learn: the names of the mountains, that Jackson Hole is even more busy in the summer season, all the activities to do in the summer, the best places to spot wildlife. Or you might just chat in the bus with the guy who serves the waffles on the peak and who told us that he never locks the door when he leaves home… because it is just that safe!

Kids Ski school/Daycare: 3 years old and completely potty trained Philipp was qualified to join the ski school (full day: 9.15am to 3pm)! Dropping him off on the first day was a bit like his first day at daycare/pre school. We were more nervous than he was. It felt overwhelming with all the other kids and their parents getting ready for the snow at 9.15am sharp. But very soon we noticed that everything is perfectly organized and the instructors are top notch! One of our best experience in Jackson Hole. For parents with kids under 3 years the ski school offers daycare starting from the age of 6 months.

Logistics: We stayed as most people in Teton village and this village is perfectly set up to take your skis in the morning, drop off the kids in ski school and go to the tram/gondola/ski lifts to ski. Everything is within walking distance 5/10mins (with ski boots). Along the way you will find all kind of ski clothing/rental stores and also a grocery store in case you need more supply. And to make sure you can share your epic ski pictures with the outside world there is free wifi everywhere. Perfection!

Mountain hosts: The concept of mountain hosts was totally new to us and we loved it! You will meet them literally everywhere. In the morning on your way to the gondola, in the gondola sitting next to you, on the slopes or at the ski school. Wearing their red ski jackets they are easy to spot (Baywatch in the mountains). Their job: being friendly, give you guidance in case needed, help you with the skis or just some chit chat. In our case doing their job included to carry Philipp the way to the ski school when he refused to walk while I was fully packed with ski equipment. Lifesaver!

It was definitely one of our best vacation experience EVER and we will come back … even it is only because of the mountain hosts.

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Places to EAT:

Corbet’s cabin (Teton Village/Top of the tram): A spectacular place to serve waffles and only waffles but a classic if you are not scared of the heights.
http://www.jacksonhole.com/waffles.html

The Alpenhof (Teton Village): if you are craving for German/Austrian food in the mountains this is the place to go. They will serve all the classics from raclette to sauerbraten.
http://www.alpenhoflodge.com

The Million Dollar Cowboy Bar (Jackson): a landmark in Jackson and the perfect place to experience the wild west atmosphere where you can play pool and have a good steak.
http://www.milliondollarcowboybar.com

The Kitchen (Jackson): Jackson Hole was more to offer than Western style. The Kitchen serves top notch modern cuisine surrounded by clean and modern interior.
http://www.thekitchenjacksonhole.com

Posted by Meng