Jackson Hole has some of the most extreme in-bounds terrain of any ski hill on the planet. The infamous Corbet's Couloir is said to be the most extreme run on any hill in North America and, after peering down on it from above, I'd have to agree. This means that Jackson Hole regularly appears in top-notch videos of skiers and snowboarders doing extreme stunts. That's excellent PR.
The majority of people, however, don't go looking double black diamond neck-breaking runs. They just want to make a few turns during the day and have a nice dinner with the family in the evening. Jackson Hole has that covered as well. Jackson Hole has some exceptional restaurants one of which has been said to serve the best burger in the United States.
The real difference, in my opinion, lies in Jackson Hole's remoteness. Far from any urban centre or meaningful outside influence, the town of Jackson has developed a character all its own. Most other major resorts are located somewhat close to large population centres. This is not so in Jackson. Thus, the only people who move to Jackson to live, play, and run businesses are those who truly appreciate small town life. People in Jackson are friendly. I don't mean to say that the residents of other ski towns are not, but people in Jackson are excessively so, like the guy who was walking to work in a snowstorm at 6:30 am and cheered for me when he saw me in my gear, waiting for the bus, on my way to take advantage of the fresh powder.
Jackson also has an authentic western atmosphere that can only be found in small remote towns, and no amount of planning, investment, or design can fake. The people out there are hearty, salt of the earth folks, and their town feels like you may see a horse drawn sleigh come clomping up the street at any second.
Actually, you might.
Jackson Hole is known as a destination for extreme thrill seekers, and for good reason. It has one of the largest average annual snowfalls in North America. It's boundaries contain 2500 acres of terrain, half of which is black and double-black diamond. Jackson Hole also has an open gate policy, and another 3000 acres of backcountry terrain may be accessed from its boundaries. That means one thing for powder hounds and adrenaline junkies: bliss.
Then there is the miracle of ski technology known as the the tram. The tram is a 100-passenger cable car that carries visitors 4,139 feet to the peak of Rendezvous Mountain in less than 10 minutes. It's the longest continuous vertical in North America and, unless you're a racer, this is one of the few places in the world where you'll spend significantly more time going down the hill than up.
For those who prefer gaps and features to steeps and cliffs, Jackson Hole has one superpipe, two terrain parks, and several Burton Stash parks -- the only ones in the Rockies. For those who are unfamiliar, Burton Stash parks parks that take advantage of natural landscape features and supplement them with features and obstacles created from local timber and materials, giving each park a flowing, organic feel.
Jackson Hole is not only for the hardcore. Half the mountain is made up of beginner and intermediate terrain. In fact the build of one entire mountain -- Apres Vous -- is comprised of blue and green runs, while the Caspar Quad chair and Bridger Gondola access many more. Admittedly, Jackson Hole is not the most ideal hill in the country for beginners -- the focus here is definitely on the extreme -- but you'd be mistaken to think there's no good terrain for them. There's plenty. You just didn't see it because you spent all your time plundering the bowls off the tram.
I spent two days in Jackson Hole and my departure from the resort was bittersweet.
You see, I arrived in mid-December at the beginning of a two-day snowstorm. At the time, most of the ski hills in the country were worried about a thin winter. Jackson Hole -- which had the most reported snow in the country at the time -- was a white out.
The snow was deep and dry and the terrain was everything I'd heard. The only problem was that I couldn't see. Given the state of other resorts around the country, however, I was glad, rather than annoyed, to be blinded by snow. So, got to sample the sprawling bowls and steep chutes on Rendezvous Mountain accessed by the tram, but that's all I got -- just a sample. I didn't even have a chance to edge my toes up to the drop-in at Corbet's Couloir and look into the abyss.
On the second day the epic snowstorm continued. Many of the staff at our hotel were sure the mountain would be all but closed because of the heavy snow and high winds. A bellboy checked his JH Tapped iPhone App (a must -have for any iPhone owner visiting Jackson Hole), and was surprised to learn that much of the mountain was open. There were plenty of fresh tracks to be had, which was amazing. There was, however, a drawback. The tram and much of Rendezvous Mountain had been closed because of avalanche danger. Such are the risks of having the most snow and some of the steepest terrain in the country.
So, I spent much of my day on the Thunder Chair and riding with a group of gregarious locals. The terrain and snow were fantastic, don't get me wrong, but it pained me to know what I could have been doing on the epic steeps accessible only by the tram.
That night the storm dissipated. In the morning we carried our bags to our car under bluebird skies. As we drove away, a knot formed in my stomach thinking about the all the fresh powder on Jackson Hole's best terrain that I wouldn't get to ski. We pulled onto the highway at 8:30 am and I swear that looking back toward the hill, if I squinted right, I could already see people lining up for the tram.
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.