By Apres Noon | February 4th, 2020
True, skiing in Jackson is unlike anywhere else in the world. But so much of Jackson’s beauty is found off the slopes. Winter in Jackson is magic. The valley’s piercing blue alpine lakes and green foliage drape themselves in a blanket of white. The Tetons, too, wear snow like a favorite sweater. It’s a different kind of drama, and it’s awe-inspiring.
It’s not all about skiing here. There are countless ways to interact with Jackson Hole in the wintertime — with its scenery, its wildlife, its culture. We spent a weekend exploring our hometown and were reminded of all it has to offer.
An oasis in the snow
Winter can transform a place, from appearance to ease of access. Granite Hot Springs in the Bridger-Teton National Forest is a gem and is only more beautiful in the dead of winter. Nine miles into a narrow snow-consumed valley and past a roaring waterfall, getting to the emerald waters of the naturally fed hot springs isn’t for the faint of heart. Choosing transportation is the name of the game. You can get there by snowmobile, dogsled or, for the extra hearty, fat bike.
We prefer the DIY approach: renting a snowmobile on a trailer from Leisure Sports in Jackson and creating your own journey.
Surrounded by rock ledges and a view of the valley below, Granite Hot Springs is fed by a natural spring piping 114-degree water into an artificial pool. Throw your swimsuit on in the primitive yet heated changing rooms, head down to the inviting waters, and find yourself in a remote slice of heaven. Give a friendly hello to the full-time site attendant, and don’t forget they only take cash for entry. $8 per adult.
We packed a lunch from Sweet Cheeks Meats and brought a hot thermos to refuel before completing the out-and-back trip. If you’re lucky, a steady and silent snowfall will cover your tracks on the way in. Take it from us, the road out is just as magical.
Dimmy sum more
Skip the eggs and bacon for brunch. We promise that dim sum brunch at Teton Tiger is more fun. It’s also rare — the popular Asian-fusion restaurant and bar only recently reintroduced dim sum brunch by popular demand, and it’s only available for three hours on Saturdays, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Dim sum is a Chinese-style meal that consists of bite-sized servings in steaming tin baskets. The most popular dish: dumplings. At Teton Tiger, dumplings are filled with shrimp, chicken, pork or a combination of the three. The pork buns are also sinfully sensory: sweet, savory, sticky, doughy. Dim sum invites — no, demands — you to use all five senses with every course.
Even those intimidated by the experience can find comfort in a familiar brunch favorite: Teton Tiger’s bloody mary is out of this world.
Tag(gart), you’re it
If you’ve ever wondered what it would feel like inside a snow globe… we imagine it feels something like snowshoeing to Taggart Lake.
Ancient wisdom says the best way to know a place is simply to walk through it. Walking through Grand Teton National Park during a gentle snowfall, the world seems to slow down. Nestled at the base of the Teton range, Taggart Lake is a stunning reward for the walk. But every step of the journey is just as breathtaking. The trail takes you over and alongside an icy creek, across alpine meadows and through a dense evergreen forest borne from a 1985 wildfire — proof that life can thrive out of devastation.
The trail to Taggart Lake is just over 3 miles round-trip, which makes it the perfect hike for a half-day escape. We rented snowshoes from Teton Backcountry Rentals that allowed us to travel easily and efficiently over the newly fallen snow. On our snowshoes, we could travel at our own pace, slowing down to take it in when we wanted and charging ahead when we felt so inspired.
Pro tip: Bring a daypack with snacks, lots of water and extra layers. In the mountain west, you never know when the weather will turn from bluebird to blizzard.
It’s rare that a brand-new restaurant gets everything right on the first try. Somehow, Cultivate Cafe pulled it off. The cafe opened in June to serve breakfast and lunch food that is locally sourced, organic and entirely vegan if you want it to be. The owners, siblings Sky and Vanessa Garnick, are vegan themselves. There is meat and dairy on the menu — all organic — but honestly, you won’t want or need it. Cultivate Cafe is proof that healthy, vegan food can taste good. We’re not vegan. Not even vegetarian, and we’ll devour every bite of anything on the menu.
What makes Cultivate especially unique is its setting. It’s in the oldest-standing building in Jackson. Before it was a cafe, it was a saloon — and in fact, it still is. The Garnick family owns the historic Jackson Hole Playhouse and Saddle Rock Family Saloon, which entertains guests with classic western shows like Annie Oakley in the theater and a live musical dining experience in the saloon. The motif is classically western. It’s the kind of place you’d expect to see animal trophies mounted on the walls — there almost certainly were such decorations once upon a time. There are still antlers. It’s a stunning contradiction to the superfood lattes with house-made dairy-free milk served from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. each day. And it’s delightful. We really can’t recommend this place highly enough.
Jackson’s (un)official sport
It’s Friday night in Jackson. Ski bums, young professionals, parents and kids are all in one place: the Snow King Sports & Event Center. The Jackson Hole Moose Hockey team is playing.
Moose hockey games are the place to be any weekend the team hosts a game on its home ice. Plenty of fans in the crowd are hockey aficionados. Just as many don’t love sports, but they do love the Moose. Regardless, they’re all pounding on the glass in a show of thundering support. There are few other activities in Jackson that bring so many segments of the community under one roof. That alone is a magical thing. The local beer, pizza and live music are others. All you have to do is practice the phrase “Let’s goooo, Moose!”
After a big weekend, nothing tastes better than heaps of hand-made pasta and Italian delights. The unassuming side-street eatery Glorietta Trattoria is our favorite spot to indulge. Glorietta exudes warmth and friendliness from the outside in. Barely beyond the touristy Town Square offerings, Glorietta boasts a wood-fired grill, exceptional food and seasonal elixirs to die for. Ask for a corner table and recap your weekend of adventures over the dim candlelight. We’d recommend a favorite, but the menu changes by the season. Your server will know best and will quickly make you feel at home. Because, after all, they promise, “You’re a stranger here but once.”