By Annie Fenn | February 28th, 2018
Just because I live a snowball’s throw from the Jackson Hole Mountain Resort doesn’t mean my life is one big ski vacation. Except on Tuesdays — the day I ski with my local ski group, the Hucklebetties. From early tram to late lunch, we explore as much of the mountain’s steeps and deeps as our legs can handle before the lifts close or our quads give out, whichever comes first.
And then there’s my ski group: Will Ski For Lunch (WSFL). This band of friends is all about searching out hidden snowy trails in and around Jackson Hole. Even though many of us love to backcountry ski — which requires avalanche know-how and special gear — each Thursday we leave our beacons, shovels and probes behind, heading out no matter the weather, usually with a pack of our four-legged friends in tow. The WSFL pace is more leisurely, the terrain more accessible. Our skis are skinny and light, and our packs are full of snacks. It’s the slightly less extreme, softer side of experiencing Jackson Hole on skis. And there is always, always a plan to après ski with a proper sit-down lunch.
Phelps Lake, Grand Teton National Park
This classic cross-country ski into one of Grand Teton National Park’s most celebrated lakes is always on the WSFL early-season agenda. Soon after the Moose-Wilson Road between the park boundary and Moose is close to motorized traffic, it becomes a haven for walkers, runners and cyclists. Then when it fills with snow (and is groomed for cross-country skiing by the park), it becomes a magical snow globe of trails. Our favorite one leads right into Phelps Lake Overlook, less than a mile from the groomed trail.
Where to Lunch
Teton Thai in Teton Village is the obvious choice for lunch when headed back from Phelps Lake. This tiny outpost of authentic Thai food (located near the Ranch lot parking at the resort) is packed with après skiers later in the day, but in the early afternoon, it is an oasis of calm. Don’t miss the duck noodle soup, the Thai street ribs or the stir-fried green beans. Order 5-star spicy if you like to live dangerously; the 3-star pad kee mao has me shedding layers as my eyes well up with tears.
Mail Cabin Creek, Teton Pass
Our WSFL group gives Mail Cabin Creek high marks for dreamy snow globe vibes and easy access. It’s a great choice when time is short — the trail is only 3 miles in and 3 miles out, and just a few minutes from Wilson on the other side of Teton Pass. Park at the Coal Creek parking area, and take your skis across the road to the trailhead. Head east along the trail on your classic cross-country skis (there’s no grooming for skate skiing here). Ski in the tracks laid down by backcountry skiers, who use the trail to access peaks with names like Windy Ridge and Columbia Bowl. Soon you’ll be passing over wooden bridges between pillows of snow next to the trickling creek. When the trail gets too steep for skinny skis, you’ll know it’s time to turn around and head back.
Where to Lunch
My tiny hometown of Wilson (population: 1,482) boasts an impressive number of great lunch spots (four in all) at the base of Teton Pass. You can’t go wrong by heading to Chippy’s Kitchenfor a hearty sandwich and soup, Pearl Street Bagels for lox on an everything bagel; or Nora’s Fish Creek Inn for an old-school patty melt. But when we come in from the snow, mostly we crave Street Food eats — authentic tacos, the crispiest falafel, truffle fries and my new favorite, the miso glazed salmon bowl with garlic rice and roasted broccoli.
Two Oceans Lake, Grand Teton National Park
It’s a bit of a trek to get up to Two Oceans Lake, but the towering views of Grand Teton and Mount Moran are definitely worth the drive. Located about an hour north of Jackson, the trailhead to Two Oceans Lake is near the town of Moran. Be sure to stop at the ranger station as you enter Grand Teton National Park to ask if the lake is frozen (it almost always is mid-winter) and get a good map. It’s just 3 miles to the lake from the trailhead. From there you can ski along the edge of the lake or venture farther to its sister lake, Emma Matilda. Keep an eye out for moose bedded down in the snow beneath the trees and wolf prints crossing the ski tracks. If you’re lucky, you could spy a wolf padding along the frozen lake.
Where to Lunch
Even with an early start, the ski tour up to Two Oceans Lake gets you back to Jackson for a late lunch. If you make it back to town by 3 p.m., head straight to Persephone Bakery for a hearty bowl of coq au vin stew, a grown-up grilled cheese or my current favorite lunch: the warm winter chickpea salad. Persephone is popular; sometimes the line snakes out the door, even in the winter. If so, head to Picnic, Persephone’s sister café. Located on the other side of town, this is where locals congregate over coffee and tea, salads and soups, savory toasts, and breakfast served until 3 p.m. I usually get the crunchy hippie (egg white soufflé, broccoli and beet chips on an English muffin). But after a big ski day, the breakfast burrito (chorizo, eggs, black beans, avocado) really hits the spot.
Other WSFL-Approved Ski Tours and Lunch Spots:
Caption: Snake River levy at Emily’s Pond
Just because we leisurely ski around the backcountry doesn’t mean we head out unprepared.
Always in my pack: an extra puffy jacket or vest, hand warmers, extra gloves, an extra hat, extra water, high-energy snacks (nuts, granola, chocolate), a charged cell phone (plus a small charger), bear spray in early winter and late spring and a thermos of hot tea. Adult beverages: optional.
We love including our pups in areas where dogs are allowed — national forests, wilderness areas and some groomed Nordic trails in Jackson Hole. Leashed dogs are allowed on some trails in Grand Teton National Park. Always check where dogs are allowed first and bring a leash and Mutt Mitts to pick up the poop.
For detailed maps, directions to trailheads and current ski conditions, visit jhnordic.com.
Guiding services are readily available in Jackson Hole. If unfamiliar with the area, it’s a good idea to hire a guide.