I would say the second* most popular conversation at our dinner table lately has been: If you could have another house anywhere on earth where would it be? (The assumption being that our little hamlet in Westchester County, is everybody’s first choice. Yesss 914!) Typical answers tend to lean toward the absurdly exotic and end in “i:” Bali, Fiji, Kauai…but after a three-day ski trip out West last week, I have a new submission: Jackson, Wyoming. I’m not that great at skiing, we had kind of spotty weather (can you imagine the magnificence of the photo above if the sky were blue?), and still I completely fell in love with this town, spending a lot of my hotel time googling “Jackson Wyoming Summer,” “Jackson Wyoming Trulia” and, after a conversation with a local, “Phelps Lake.” I’m not the first to come down with a case of “Why-do-I-live-in-New-York-again?” after catching my first glimpse of the Tetons (or the Rockies or the red rocks of Sedona, or that freaking Phelps Lake that I’m now obsessing over) but seriously, I need this kind of beauty — and restaurant scene, and Town Square-y downtown and outdoorsy vibe — in my life. Here’s how we spent our all-too-brief time there. PS: Know a realtor?
Early afternoon: We flew from Newark on United (direct flights to Jackson are a relatively new thing) then drove our non-four-wheel drive (whoops) rental minivan about ten miles south to downtown Jackson. We checked in at the recently renovated Lodge at Jackson Hole, which was exactly what we bargained for: Nothing super fancy, but cozy, lodgey, and decorated with antler chandeliers, mounted moose heads, and all the other motifs you’d expect on your typical Master Western Checklist. The lodge has an indoor-outdoor pool, an always-roaring fire in the lobby, and it’s only minutes away from Jackson’s town square — a very good thing since we were ravenously starving and needed lunch fast. We hit Local for California-style burgers, Caesar salads and French fries. (Unwritten rule in the DALS house: French fries for every meal on vacation = perfectly acceptable.) After lunch, we rented ski gear at Hoback Sports, then headed back to town to walk around and explore.
Dinner: The week before we left, we made dinner reservations at Il Villagio Osteria (when I travel, it always makes me feel more in control to have the first night’s dinner plan set) without realizing it was in Teton Village, about 20 minutes back towards the mountain. We canceled and instead headed to Hatch to gorge on guac, corn salad with cotija (winner), pork and chicken tacos. Andy and I both ordered the corn-crusted Idaho trout (shown). Fresh, local, perfect.
Bedtime: Attempted to watch an episode of Sherlock (we’re all addicted) in bed, but made it only about 10 minutes before crashing.
Breakfast: Up early for breakfast and coffee at Persephone. Not sure why I didn’t take more photos of this place, but trust me when I say they do everything right here. We ordered eggs with toast, which sounds pretty basic until you take a bite of their multigrain bread which tastes like it has arrived straight from the oven and — no joke — is heart-shaped. Abby ordered a buttery kougin amman bun, which she aptly described as the pastry version of an elephant ear cookie — and we took our Intelligentsia coffee on the road.
9:00 Since we only had two days to ski, we wanted to make sure we got to the mountain early. Turns out, we didn’t have to rush because none of the major lifts were open, thanks to 80 mph winds and avalanche hazards at the top of the mountain. (Every few minutes we’d hear dynamite blasts addressing this — not exactly music to a world class scardey-cat’s ears.) We were still out of luck come lunchtime, so at the base, grabbed bowls of chili and French fries (natch) at the Cowboy Cafe where a staffer delivered the news: The mountain is closed for the day. Not what you want to hear when you travel 2200 miles to ski, but they fully refunded and we fully rebounded by…
…driving straight to Snow King back in town. Let me say right up front that I did not take this picture, and the conditions were not even close to as dreamy as you see here — it was rainy at the bottom of the mountain and blizzard-y at the top. But we were just grateful to be making the most of the day. The idea that this mountain with this view is a second choice to anything, tells you all you need to know about skiing in the West. (Plus, I have a great appreciation for any ski resort that names one of its greens “Slow Trail.”) Photo credit: Mountain Pulse.
Late afternoon: Back to the hotel, drenched. Luckily there were laundry facilities so all our clothes went straight into the dryer. The girls checked out the pool and hot tub while the grown-ups checked out the Martinis. I approved.
Dinner at Cafe Genevieve just off Town Square (shown). How good was my first glass of West Coast Pinot after a day skiing? Let me tell you: So good. The food had a southern vibe here — Mac and Cheese, pimento cheese, pork belly, biscuits, Benton’s ham — which, it turns out, is an extremely welcome vibe after a day of skiing. The kids ordered fried brussels, vegetable ramen, and roast chicken, while mom and dad — surprise — both ordered the Idaho trout. (It’s not un-adventurous, it’s called knowing what you like.) After dinner, we walked around the ice-slicked corner, to the Town Square that features four famous antler arches you are looking at above, and then hit Moo for some house-made double scoops of mint chip. Then, back to hotel to pretend to finish our episode of Sherlock. (We didn’t make it.)
Persephone again. Kouign Amanns again.
9:00. We were not messing around this time. As soon as we heard all the lifts were back open, the girls decided they were not leaving the mountain until the sun went down. (And they almost made it.) I think now is the time to thank all my friends who didn’t tell me what all veteran skiers seem to know: That Jackson is not for beginners. It’s a credit to how much I trust Andy that he somehow convinced me to move on from what he called the “dink-n-dunk” green trails off Teewinot Quad lift. I have to admit the blues off Apres-Vous on the right side of the mountain were not terrible — Werner was a particular favorite — and once I found my rhythm there, I decided I didn’t need to explore more. (Andy and the Girls started calling the lift “Apres-Mom.”) They moved on to the other side — Bridger Quad was their favorite — to tackle some black diamonds. No thanks!
Dinner On our way out of our Tuesday lunch at Local, I promptly logged on to OpenTable to make Thursday night dinner reservations. I had a feeling we’d all be in the mood (mood = voracious) for that kind of pub-by food again, and I was right. We all ordered the exact same thing: The Chef’s Burger with tomato jam and hand-cut fries. (Note: It wasn’t the California-style burger they serve at lunch — as shown here in their instagram feed — it was beefier, more steak-house-worthy.) I had a glass of Austerity Pinot Noir, and decided then and there it would be the only red I’d be drinking for the rest of the winter.
Bedtime: Benedict Cumberbatch would be proud. We finally finished our episode. Cheers!
THURSDAY Departure Day 🙁
Breakfast: After eating our faces off for three straight days, we attempted a shot at redemption by way of a smoothie at The Healthy Being Juicery. (Shown: Almond butter, almond milk, mara, banana, date.) It was delicious, but at some point, Abby stood up from our table and announced she was heading next door to Persephone for her obligatory pastry. Who were we to stop her? We followed her there for coffee.
Thanks Jackson, hope to see you again very soon!
*PS: First most popular dinner table conversation still reigns supreme: What is your favorite Pixar movie and why?