Located in Wyoming on the western side of the Tetons, just minutes from the Idaho border, Grand Targhee is a large, family friendly, value-focussed resort. Anywhere else, a 2600+ acre ski area with over 2200 feet of vertical that revives 500+ inches of snow is a major attraction. Grand Targhee, however, lives in the shadow of it's better-known neighbour, Jackson Hole.
Since there are no large cities near the hill, and the majority of skiers that visit Wyoming head for Jackson Hole, Grand Targhee -- which actually gets more snow on average than its famous neighbour -- remains off the radar of many snowboarders.
That's a real shame, as I learned when I visited the hill two weeks ago.
During my visit I found a world-class ski resort with a homey atmosphere, friendly locals, and, most importantly (to me), great value.How Grand Targhee Stacks Up
To show exactly how great this hill is, I'm going to compare Grand Targhee with a few well-known hills.
At 2600 acres, Grand Targhee is big. It's not as big as some of the behemoth resorts that combine what were formerly two separate resorts like Whistler/Blackcomb (8,171 acres), but is definitely comparable in size to many world-class resorts such as Jackson Hole(2500 acres), Telluride (2000+ acres), and Squaw Valley(3600 acres).
Grand Targhee averages more than 500 inches of snow each year. That's a lot. To put that in perspective, Vail receives an average of 450 inches, Telluride 309 inches, Whistler/Blackcomb 469 inches, and Jackson Hole 459 inches. Few hills receive more snow each year than Grand Targhee, and those that do tend to be close to the coast and get wet heavy snow. It's entirely possible that Grand Targhee receives more dry whitesmoke powder each year than any other hill.
WIth 20% expert terrain, Grand Targhee doesn't have as many steeps and cliffs as some of the other resorts I've been comparing it to. Jackson Hole, for example, is 50% expert terrain, Whistler/Blackcomb 27%, Telluride 41%, and Vail 30%. That shortcoming, however, is mitigated by the lack of visitors and relatively low proportion of expert skiers and snowboarders that visit the hill. When I was on Grand Targhee it had been nearly a full week since the last snowfall, and I was still able to find lots of untouched lines. Hardcore skiers and snowboarders flock to Jackson Hole because of its reputation, leaving the extreme terrain at Grand Targhee to the lucky few who opt to got there instead.
The arena where Grand Targhee really stands out from other ski areas of similar calibre is value. A mid-winter adult day pass to Grand Targhee costs $69. The same day at Whistler/Blackcomb will run you $99, Squaw Valley $99 - $104, Telluride $100+, and Vail $129.
That's right, a day pass to Grand Targhee is almost half the price of one to Vail.
And then there are the accommodations. Some slopeside rooms can be booked for as little as $99 per night, and come with free lift tickets for bookings of four or more nights, which means that staying on the hill effectively costs about $30 per night.Room for Improvement
The only area where Grand Targhee significantly falls behind other resorts is in its terrain park. Although the locals that I spoke to said that it had been bigger and better in years past, when I visited in December, 2012 Grand Targhee's terrain park was very small.
The other aspect of a vacation to Grand Targhee that some may find lacking is the character of the nearby town of Driggs. Many people are attracted to ski resorts as much by the charm of the local towns with boutique shops a quaint eateries. Jackson has it. The village at Whistler has it. Aspen has it. Driggs, however, looks much like any small town you're likely to drive through (without stopping) in Idaho.
That's didn't bother me. I came for the mountain. The restaurants in Driggs were good, the accommodations were inexpensive, and the people were friendly. But, those who are looking for a quaint ski town experience would be well advised to look elsewhere.Destination of the Future
Grand Targhee's greatest attribute is the fact that few people know about it. That means that even at the busiest of times lift lines are practically nonexistent, powder sticks around for days, and prices remain low. If you're looking for an epic snowboard vacation with a reasonable price tag, Grand Targhee may very well be the best resort in the United States right now.
Grand Targhee seems to be in that magic time when something is awesome yet remains unknown.
It's still the secret of a lucky few (which now includes you).
As is common in the travel industry, the writer was provided with a complimentary lift ticket for the purpose of reviewing this resort. While it has not influenced this review, About.com believes in full disclosure of all potential conflicts of interest. For more information, see our ethics policy.