We visited Jackson Hole February 17-24. Living on the Gulf Coast in Alabama, snow is never in our forecast, so we wanted our kids to have the chance to experience it. We definitely picked the right week for it!
We stayed the first part of our week at The Lodge at Jackson Hole. Although it wasn’t in the center of downtown, we could be to the shops and restaurants in minutes. We rented a car, but they had a shuttle that took guests downtown as well. We loved the feel of downtown. We enjoyed browsing the shops and trying out various restaurants. We rented ice skates our first night there and had a blast skating.
The next morning we were picked up from our hotel at 6am by Scenic Safaris and taken to their office to get suited up for our full day snowmobiling tour of Yellowstone where we would be seeing Old Faithful. They provided all the warm clothing and boots we needed with the exception of gloves, socks, and balaclavas. After getting dressed, we were back in their van on our way to Yellowstone. They provided grab-and-go breakfast for us to eat on the way, and the ride there was so incredibly beautiful.
We were able to see the sun rise over the Tetons, and our driver even stopped and let us get a picture in front of them. We rented 3 snowmobiles for our family of 5. My husband rode alone, my 16 and 18 year old step sons rode a double seater, and I shared a double with my 9 year old daughter. Although the temps were in the negatives that morning when we arrived, we all had so much warm gear on that we weren’t cold at all. The heated handles for the drivers were AMAZING. Our hands would actually get too hot and we would have to turn the heaters down. Unfortunately, the passengers on these snowmobiles don’t get the same luxury.
They have handle warmers too, but our guide told us before we started that they don’t get anywhere near as warm as the drivers. He also told us that the passengers feet would also get colder than the drivers. We found this to be very true as my 9 year old said her hands were frozen completely. Our guide was nice enough to take his own gloves and put them over hers for extra protection, as well as giving her more hand and foot warmers. I can’t say enough about how amazing our ride was that day. We stopped at various places on our way to Old Faithful, and spotted bison, river otters, swans, deer, and coyote. Our guide informed us on the way that there had been an earthquake here a few days prior, and it had really thrown things off with Old Faithful.
The times between eruptions had become longer and longer with each day since. We arrived at old faithful 30 minutes before they expected it to go off, and just so happened to walk over to it instead of going to the restrooms first like most of the snowmobilers that were there to see it. Sure enough, it went off 20 minutes early and we were probably 5 of 20 people that actually got to see it. Everyone else missed out and we hated that for them! For the rest of the day we referred to it as Old Un-Faithful.
Afterwards, they served us lunch and we headed back towards the park entrance. Our guide stopped at a place where we were able to go down various slides that had been made to take us down to a gorgeous waterfall. We had so much fun doing the slides over and over, and the snow that was coming down while we were there just made it that much more magical.
The next day we headed to the Elk Refuge for the sleigh ride. This was such an amazing experience, but I can’t emphasize enough to bundle up if you do this. The wind was so intense out there and we were freezing. They sell blankets at the ticket booth for around $60, so if you are able to bring your own I highly recommend it. Although we froze, we would do it again in a heartbeat.
After the Elk Refuge, we decided to head to Snow King and try out the snow tubes. All 5 of us had a blast doing this. You can go down on your own or in groups up to 4. You can ask them to spin you as you go down for an extra thrill. We had so much fun that we decided to go back a few days later, but since it had snowed heavily in the days in between, the slides weren’t nearly as fast and stopped quite a bit sooner than they had on our first day due to the snow piling up. Although we still had fun, it didn’t compare to the thrill of that first day.
Since we are all beginner skiers, I took advice from this group and scheduled a private lesson for our family at Grand Targhee. A winter storm was predicted for our ski day, so we decided to rent a room at Grand Targhee the night before to ensure we would be able to get there if the roads closed. Half way through our drive, the snow really started to get heavy, and driving through Teton Pass to get there was quite terrifying for me as the passenger (my husband the driver was totally calm and not the least bit stressed by this somehow). There were moments when the wind would cause a quick white out, and had I thought it would be any better turning around, we would have.
Luckily, we made it and the snow continued all through the night and through our ski day. Our lesson was great, and I was very impressed with the amount of beginner runs they offered on the Shoeshone lift. After checking the weather, we saw that the big snow storm wasn’t expected to really hit until that night, so we headed back to our hotel in Jackson the moment the lift closed for the day. The drive back was fine, but by the next morning Teton Pass was closed so we were very fortunate with our timing.
Since so many of the roads were closed that next day and flights either delayed or canceled, we decided to reschedule our flight for a few days later so we could enjoy Jackson for a little longer. This meant that we had to find other hotel accommodations since ours was full for those extra days. We found a room at The Elk Country Inn.
The positives of this room was that it had 3 beds (one being in an upstairs loft), so it was great for our family of 5. We also loved their indoor/outdoor heated pool, and our kids enjoyed swimming in the snow and then being able to swim right back inside. We also enjoyed the cookies and cocoa they provided every day at 5:00. Our room was very dated, but clean. My only complaint was how tiny the bathroom was. It was so cramped it made it very difficult to be able to get dressed with the door closed. Maybe if they update these rooms in the future they will redesign this part.
Since we never see snow, we enjoyed spending time playing in all of it as it came down, having snowball fights, and building snowmen. (We left several of them around town that were still there when we left for home).
Wanting something special to do on our last full day, we decided to rent snowmobiles through Jackson Hole Adventure Rentals in their Alpine location for a full day self guided Snow Mobile tour. We chose this location so that we could just drive the snowmobiles straight from their store and onto the trails. We had SO much fun this day. The views were absolutely incredible. The snow was very thick in places and it was easy to get stuck, but if you stayed on the main road you were fine.
The only place to eat in this area while riding was about 1 1/2 hours down the trail at the Box Y Ranch. We were thankful for somewhere to warm up and fill our bellies. We ordered burgers, grilled cheese, fries, and hot cocoa. I admit it was a bit pricy, but being the only restaurant accessible by snow mobiles, you don’t really have much of a choice unless you want to pack a lunch in a backpack and bring it along. The staff was very friendly, and we especially loved the fresh baked cookies they brought out at the end of our meal. We would definitely return here.
On our way to the airport on our final day, we stopped at the Welcome Center where my daughter had picked up a “Junior Naturalist” booklet to complete when we first went there for the Elk sleigh ride. She turned it in and had one of their staff members look over it and comment on some of the things she had drawn in the booklet. He gave her a badge and had her repeat an oath, and I appreciated how “official” he made it for her. There happened to be a raptor exhibit there that day too, so we spent a few minutes looking at the birds and hearing their stories.
We hated to leave, but already were making plans for a future trip before we even left the airport. Jackson Hole will always hold a piece of our hearts!
Story & photos by Robin Raines Speese