Winter in Jackson Hole, Wyoming means skiing and snowboarding, right? Well, for an awful lot of people that’s true: The Teton slopes framing this postcard-perfect valley offer some of the most coveted powder in North America–heck, the world. As top-shelf as they are, however, it’s hard to say the ski runs are the main draw: There’s so much going on in the area during the snowy season that it’s basically impossible to exhaust the possibilities.
As you browse through this general roundup of Jackson Hole wintertime fun for the non-skier, keep in mind that, no matter what you do on your visit, you’re going to be drinking in some of the most magnificent scenery anywhere. From the horn of Grand Teton to the moose-wandered meanders of the Snake River, this is a heart-stirring country of the highest order.
Nearby Natural Wonders
Look around you during a stay in Jackson Hole, and you’ll see millions of acres of the federally protected wilderness: the Rocky Mountain glories of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem. You’ve got not one but two world-class national parks at your doorstep: Grand Teton and Yellowstone. Winter in these magnificent places comes with its own unique scenic stamp: the steam plumes of one of Yellowstone’s geothermal basins, for example, or the great elk and bison herds of the Lamar Valley, or the sunrise glow on Grand Teton’s iconic icy spires. And you’ve got far fewer crowds to contend with than during summer, so there are lots of opportunities for solitude amid the grandeur.
Whether you’re out on a ranger-led snowshoeing expedition in the Grand Teton backcountry or taking a snow coach ride out to Old Faithful in Yellowstone, playing in the snow in these national parks makes for lifelong memories. And then there’s the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service-managed National Elk Refuge, where a horse-drawn sleigh ride gives you up-close views of thousands of wintering elk–not to mention bison, pronghorn, coyotes, eagles, and maybe (if you’re lucky) even a wolf or two!
Commune With the Snow & Ice
Touring Yellowstone, Grand Teton, or the National Elk Refuge is only one way to get out and about in Jackson Hole’s winter paradise. Many local companies offer guided outings of diverse nature, from snowmobiling to dog-sledding. You can even rent a “fat bike” for some two-wheeled adventures out on the multi-use trails that are so easy to reach from anywhere in the valley.
Jackson Hole’s also the perfect place for another quintessential wintertime activity: ice skating! You’ve got numerous rinks to choose from, perhaps most prominently JH Winter Wonderland in Jackson’s Town Square: With the iconic elk-antler arch and other town landmarks festooned with holiday lights, it’s impossible to resist lacing up your skates and doing some figure-eights to celebrate the seasonal cheer.
Arts & Culture
The town of Jackson certainly offers front-row seats to some of the finest outdoor recreations anywhere in the country, but there’s also a remarkably rich cultural scene complementing the mountain marvels. Art lovers have a slew of galleries and museums to take in, including the renowned National Museum of Wildlife Art. Want live theater? Try the famed Jackson Hole Playhouse for starters. Hungry or thirsty? You’ve got the full spectrum of dining options in Jackson, from high-end eateries to the Old West revelry of the long-running Million Dollar Cowboy Bar (which features regular live music, too).
Honestly, we’ve just scratched the surface of Jackson Hole’s winter-season delights away from the ski resorts. And that’s all right, too, because the spirit of discovery that helps define the American West is still alive and well out here in northwestern Wyoming: You’ll get to blaze your own trail through the snowdrifts with some stop-you-in-your-tracks views around every corner!
Angie McNeil works as a community coordinator and is a Jackson Hole regular. She likes to offer her tips and ideas on how to make the most of your time on and away from the slopes and writes for several online tourist and travel resources.