Known for its daredevil black diamonds, this high-altitude resort also offers family adventures for the less fearless.
For serious skiing and snowboarding families, Jackson Hole Mountain Resort is at the top of most must-visit lists. With its notoriously steep terrain, legendary aerial tram, and unmatched scenery, the resort is considered home to some of the most challenging and exhilarating slopes in North America. Conquer JHMR, and your family will be bragging about it for years to come.
Located in Teton Village just outside of Jackson (also called Jackson Hole), JHMR boasts an average 459 feet of snow every year on the longest continuous vertical rise of any ski area in the USA and views of Grand Teton National Park. Skiers, snowboarders, and snowshoers can choose to explore 133 trails spread out across 2,500 acres of in-bound terrain, in addition to another 3,000 backcountry acres. The resort also has two terrain parks, four Burton Stash parks, a halfpipe, and a Kids Ranch for young skiers of all abilities. Yes, beginners can ski here too, though runs are more limited.
That’s just the excitement that you’ll find on the slopes. At the base of JHMR is famed Teton Village. The Village offers slopeside lodging for every budget and even more off-slope, family-friendly activities to complement your ski vacation.
KidTripster Tip: JHMR isn’t just a winter destination. During the summer months, families can take a tram trip up the mountain to bike, hike or paraglide. It’s also the premier jumping-off spot for memorable visits to Grand Teton National Park, Yellowstone National Park, and fishing and float trips along the Snake River.
Photo courtesy: JHMR
What to do on the slopes?
To get to the very top of Rendezvous Mountain, take the 9-minute tram ride for a breathtaking view at 10,450 feet above sea level. Those families just interested in a photo opportunity and the top-of-the-world waffles served at Corbin’s Cabin are welcome to ride. On the trip back down, don’t be surprised to find a few skiers and boarders who had second thoughts. When the tram announcer says it’s for “experts only,” he really does mean it. In addition to the tram, JHMR offers two high-speed gondolas to various locations up the mountain along with 11 chairlifts and a magic carpet.
Kidtripster Tip: Get to the tram right as the resort opens. The line can get long. Luckily, at 100 people per trip, it moves fairly quickly, but no one wants to spend a chunk of the ski day standing in line.
At JHMR, it’s helpful if you and your kids have previous experience on the slopes. Half of the runs rate at an expert level. The remaining 40-percent of runs are ranked intermediate with only 10-percent for beginners. With what seems like no fear, you’ll see kids whizzing by you on almost every run. If you’re the type to ski a few times a year like me, expect to feel your thighs burn for a few days after you traverse the steep slopes. Also, don’t be in a hurry! Stop at the trail transitions, take in the incredible views, and snap a few selfies to prove that you’re indeed at Jackson Hole. Just make sure to really evaluate your family’s skills and choose trails accordingly. There’s a JHMR app to help with that; it also will guide you back on course, if you happen to veer off your intended trail.
Now comes the price. Think of this as a splurge. After all, you’re skiing at an epic location. One-day lift cost: Youth $88; Adult $144; Two-day lift cost: Youth $169; Adult $277; check online before you go, as discounts are often offered for advanced tickets. Also, before you book your hotel, inquire to see if it offers a stay-and-ski package.
Kidtripster Tip: If you’re renting equipment, you can pick up your gear until 8 p.m. the night before, so you don’t waste valuable ski time the next morning.
KidTripster Tip: Want to experience what it feels like to ski alongside an Olympic athlete? Then the Tommy Moe Olympic Day Experience is for you. Moe takes private groups on his own personal tour of the mountain, even revealing a few of his secret spots. To keep up, you’ve got to be a true expert skier. Five people can share this epic seven-hour ski adventure for $1,000; a half-day adventure is $750.
Photo courtesy: JHMR
More to do on the slopes?
Don’t let the black diamonds scare you away, even if your ski and boarding skills aren’t advanced. The resort offers a variety of options for intermediates and even beginners. At the Mountain Sports School, there’s two-day ski camps plus group and private lessons (age 3 and up) to help you build your skills and navigate the resort’s epic terrain. Adult beginners can get a full-day lesson, lift ticket, and ski rental for $188; prices increase based on skill.
For parents who want a grown-up, kid-free ski date on the slopes, there’s the Kid's Ranch. Your kids will have a great time on the mountain learning to ski from top-notch instructors, while you have peace of mind, knowing they’re well taken care of. Think of it as babysitting built around ski lessons and snow adventures. Children (age 3 and up) can spend the day playing and learning on the slopes alongside kids their own age. Prices for a full-day start at $195 and include lunch. Bonus: some of the kids get to wear costumes provided by the resort. Yes, it’s a great way for the instructors to keep track of their students, but come on! What kid doesn’t want to ski around pretending to be a super hero, Jedi knight, or dinosaur?
For babies and toddlers (age 6 to 36 months), Kid’s Ranch provides a state-certified, half- or full-day program at Wrangler Daycare. The little ones get lunch and play time in the snow. The toddlers even take a memorable (yes, escorted) ride on the gondola. My almost-3-year old couldn’t stop telling me about how high up he got to go on his “on-doo-lah” ride. It made such an impression that we bought a working gondola toy to bring home. Cost: Half day $120; Full day $165.
Photo courtesy: JHMR
What to do off the slopes?
Here’s my biggest piece of advice when visiting JHMR: don’t shortchange yourself! You’ll definitely want to plan a long weekend or maybe even a week to give your family time for all the fun that you can have off the slopes in Teton Village and Jackson.
Only at JHMR, book a paragliding trip that takes you right over the slopes to give you an unforgettable view of the mountain, the Tetons, and the Snake River. It will make you the envy of the skiers below. Flyers must weigh between 40 and 220 pounds and be fit enough to run. Tandem rides with a pro start at $225 with a lift ticket.
The Teton Mountains provide a scenic backdrop to cross-country ski or snowshoe. With the Grand Teton National Park Ski and Snowshoe Nature Tours, your family can hire a naturalist to guide and enrich your trek with local history and wildlife expertise. Cost: Half-day tours $210; Full-day $335; Sunday group tours are discounted at $135.
You don’t have to travel all the way to Alaska to experience the Iditarod. Jackson Hole Iditarod Sled Dog Tours will take you on a memorable trip to Granite Creek Canyon or Bridger Teton National Forest, pointing out wildlife along the way. Want to mush? Run a team yourself! Both full and half-day trips are available.
KidTripster Tip: Book early! These tours sell out. We tried to reserve a weekend ride during our vacation, but they were already full; weekday trips seem to have more availability. And for parents of younger children, we were pleasantly surprised to learn our 2-year-old was allowed to ride.
Prefer to provide your own power? Check out Teton Mountain Bike Tours. It offers guided fat bike tours into Grand Teton National Park and elsewhere. Two people can ride all day for $400, which includes the fat bike, helmet, lunch, and transportation. Half-day tours are $240/two people.
If you have one extra day, in my opinion, there’s only one-way to spend it: snowmobiling through America’s first national park, Yellowstone. Cruise alongside bison so close you can almost reach out and touch them, spot bald eagles perched in treetops, and be in total awe of the steamy landscape that comes alive in the cold. Most roads through the park close to vehicles come winter. That keeps the bulk of tourists away. The only way to see Old Faithful is by guided snowmobile or snowcoach. Several companies are authorized to provide these tours, and prices vary. The best place to start for more information is Yellowstone National Park’s website.
KidTripster Tip: Snowmobile tours are best enjoyed by families with teenagers who have a valid driver’s license and can actually drive their own machines. Why? Sitting on the back of a snowmobile without the benefit of the heated hand grips can get very cold. And let’s face it, the fun in snowmobiling is driving.
When you’re back in Teton Village after a day of snow adventures, the family can sled at the snow park, stop by the ice castle for photos, and huddle around the firepit while you sip cocoa or coffee from a nearby cafe.
Plenty more family-friendly activities await just a short 25-minute drive away in the town of Jackson.
Photo courtesy: JHMR
Where to eat?
Challenging runs work up an appetite, but you won’t have to leave the slopes to get a hearty meal. JHMR offers foodie-approved, on-mountain restaurants like Casper, which serves classic gourmet ski comfort food and locally-sourced, free-range meat. The warm fire at Piste Mountain Bistro invites tired skiers and boarders inside, while the floor-to-ceiling windows provide a spectacular view while you rest up for your post-lunch runs.
Don’t miss the Idaho salt baked potatoes and toppings at Rendezvous Lodge. Grab a beer and sit out on the south-facing deck for the fantastic view of the gutsy adventurers launching down the famous Corbet’s Couloir. The legendary chute intimidates most with its daring free-fall drop and upside down funnel shape, garnering the reputation as “America’s Scariest Ski Slope.” Count me… out!
Kidtripster Tip: Even non-skiers can eat at Rendezvous Lodge with a sightseeing gondola ticket. Ticket cost: $20; includes a $10 food voucher.
The view to beat is from Corbet’s Cabin atop Rendezvous Peak. Order a traditional waffle topped with peanut butter, Nutella, bacon or all of the above and step outside for the dizzying, high-altitude, 360-degree view. This also is the point where I nearly chickened out and hopped back on the tram for the easy trip down. The initial drop is a steep one. But the waffle (and maybe a beer) provides the needed courage to say, “let’s do this!”
Kidtripster Tip: Watch the weather. It’s windy up here, and because you’re at 10,450 feet, don’t be surprised if the clouds block your view.
You’ll find 20 different post-skiing dining options in Teton Village. Dip in to Alpenhof Bistro and Bar for fondue and a wide selection of European beers and wines. The Alpenrose offers traditional Swiss food including schnitzel. Gamefish Restaurant treats diners with traditional western décor and entrées like buffalo burgers and elk chili. Mangy Moose with its funky antique decorations and kid-approved menu is a hit with families. And for those grab-and-go snacks, stop at Jackson Hole General Store.
If you decide to venture outside of the Village, you’ll find the popular Q Roadhouse & Brewing Company just off Moose Wilson Road on your way to Jackson. All kids meals come with enough fries to share with mom and dad and an ice cream sandwich that they’ll want for themselves.
Head into town to find eateries diverse enough to please even the most picky of toddler’s taste buds. If it’s meat you crave, choose laid-back Moe’s Original Bar B Que. Pick from one of the jars of card games or play tabletop shuffle board, while you wait for servers dressed in pajamas to deliver your eats. The menu is simple, and the potato salad is just like mom’s (or maybe even better!).
On the opposite end of the culinary spectrum is Lotus Organic. In the land of meat and taxidermy, this mainly-vegetarian restaurant is a refreshing alternative with its light and airy décor and food to match. The lunch box of toys is an appreciated offering for travel-weary toddlers, and the creative cocktails are just what mom and dad needed.
Photo courtesy: JHMR
Where to stay?
Whether you want to ski right to your door in Teton Village or settle down in a quaint, secluded cabin, there’s no shortage of lodging options for families visiting JHMR. To be honest, it can be a little overwhelming.
Teton Village offers slopeside accommodations at the Teton Mountain Lodge and Spa, just a short walk from the famous tram. The kids will love the indoor and outdoor pools and hot tubs, including one on the roof! Mom (and maybe Dad) will want to spend time at SpaTerre. Average room rates range from $230 to $1,100/night.
If you prefer more of a condo feel, Snake River Lodge and Spa offers two- and three-bedroom residences with full kitchens, in addition to traditional guest rooms; condo rentals are available next door at Crystal Springs Resort, too. Prices start at $199/night for a two-queen room. Three-bedroom residences start at $719/night.
Moose Creek Townhomes is another slopeside option for those families who need to sleep six or more or just want more room to relax. It offers condos and homes, ranging in size and price from $412/night and up.
The same goes for Jackson Hole Resort Lodging. The property management company can link you to just the right-sized vacation condo, townhome or full house. With multiple properties spread out across several different locations, your family will have plenty of options.
For more budget-conscious families, The Hostel is another option. It boasts the lowest rates in Teton Village. While The Hostel does offer traditional common areas to mingle with fellow travelers and four-person, shared bunkrooms, smaller families can opt for one of the private guest rooms that includes a private bathroom. Rates run $49 to $139 for the private rooms.
Still don’t quite know where to stay in Teton Village? Don’t panic! There’s help for that. Jackson Hole Central Reservations can assist you in finding exactly what space and amenities you’re looking for, while working within your budget. Call (888) 838-6606.
If skiing or boarding at JHMR all day is enough, and you’re looking for a change of scenery away from the ski slope crowds, you’ll fall head over heels for the Fireside Resort. The 23 tiny, LEED-certified cabins give you just enough privacy without feeling too isolated. Jump in the hot tub, sip a glass of wine by the fireplace or make s’mores at your own outside firepit. The rustic yet modern cabins sleep four to six people and have a kitchen. If you fly in and opt not to rent a car, your family can rent one of the resort’s jeeps. For a full review of Fireside Resort, click here. Rates start at $444 for two nights.
KidTripster Tip: Take the kids on an evening or morning moose hunt. During the winter months, two moose use the resort as a shortcut and resting spot. This Kidtripster mom nearly spilled her morning coffee when one walked right into the driveway, giving the toddler his first glimpse of a real moose.
If you choose to drive yourself, JHMR is five hours northeast of Salt Lake City off and about six hours east of Boise.
The 35-minute drive to Teton Village will take you through the town of Jackson; many hotels offer a complimentary shuttle service.
Anita Kissee is a former television journalist based in Boise, Idaho. After two decades of city living, she and her husband decided their 2-year-old son should grow up hiking hills, fishing rivers, and riding bikes in a more laid-back, family-focused community. This self-professed bad-dancer and shower-singer has traveled everywhere from Swaziland to Cambodia. She’s excited to now experience the world through the eyes of her toddler and is looking forward to once again, someday, enjoying a full eight hours of sleep.