The FREESKIER team digs in to find out what Jackson Hole resort life is really like right now
Pulling up to Jackson Hole after the eight-hour drive from Denver, my mind was racing with questions. Would this ski Mecca be the same? How are skiers actually responding to safety protocols like mask-wearing and physical distancing? What does resort life feel like amidst all this uncertainty? As the drive across Interstate 80 and up toward the rising Tetons came to its conclusion, nighttime blanketed the area; I’d have to wait until morning for answers.
This December, we partnered with Jackson Hole to get a first-hand look at what skiing really, truly looks like amidst the pandemic. In my mind, I kept thinking that skiing this season would somehow be completely different than seasons past. I had visions of some kind of overarching gloom, people coughing everywhere, packed lift lines with mask-less skiers, a changed experience incongruent with what we know and love. But these were just illusions, rampant imaginations of my mind. As the the morning light on our first day in Teton Village painted the top of Rendezvous Mountain with a sherbet-orange glow, my answers, too, were illuminated.
Riding the two-minute shuttle from the Ranch Lot to the base of the ski area, fellow riders wore their masks without question; in the ticket office, plastic barriers stood tall between employees and folks picking up their passes; at the Bridger Gondola, reorganized mazes directed people circuitously onto the lift, maintaining distance between groups commonplace. Atop the mountain, with bluebird skies overhead and early morning groomers below, I was quick to realize that skiing, on the whole, was just the same as always. And, with more snow in the forecast, more terrain set to open, it seemed the resort experience will become even safer—expansive terrain offering room to breathe between other riders. The biggest difference I recognized during my three, mid-week ski days at Jackson? My appreciation for being in the mountains again, outside in the fresh air, enjoying the ride.
From a broader perspective, skiing still beckons and (maybe) it’s more important than ever for our community to make time in the mountains. What stands out as causing the most friction on a ski trip this year really has nothing to do with the actual skiing, it’s everything that surrounds it: the travel, the hot tubs, the post-ski beers, interactions at the ski shop, around the base area, riding the chairlift with a stranger and chatting on the way up. This year, it’ll take some extra commitment from our community to keep the resort safe but this should come easily: As skiers, we already tend to look out for one another, and, now, it’s more important than ever.
Thankfully, Jackson Hole is taking plentiful steps to ensure “lookin’ out” is as easy as possible. “Wear Your Mask!” signage reminding us to do the right thing is everywhere and there’s hand sanitizer at every turn. But resort officials are asking skiers this season to take the extra step to make a plan before arriving. This means, instead of relying on mid-mountain cafeterias for food, pack leftovers or some snacks and stop mid-run for a lunch break; book a condo with a kitchen and make dinners with your crew; and, for après, have a couple beers at your car in the parking lot or stop by the Bodega (which has been outfitted with heaters and picnic tables) to grab a “sloshie,” a frozen, boozy favorite of locals. The resort has also placed tents around the base area for congregating outdoors, and outside the Casper restaurant for increased dining capacity during stricter lockdowns.
When planning your trip, be sure to check the calendar for lift ticket availability and book your spot in advance. If you’re traveling via car or plane to get to Jackson, ensure you’re safe to travel by taking a COVID test before you arrive (like we did) or preorder a free, at-home test, courtesy of Jackson Hole, that will be shipped directly to you accommodations. You’ll also want to download the FREESKIER-approved JH Insider app on your phone: It’s the resort’s be-all-end-all source for real-time information, including lift line wait times, snow reports and parking availability.
When you’re ready to check into your hotel or condo, you can now take comfort in Jackson Hole Resort Lodging’s new flexible cancellation plans, which allow you to rebook if travel restrictions impede your trip; when you arrive, you’ll utilize JHRL’s keyless, contactless entry into its hotels and residences. If you’re still on the fence about a trip, consider Jackson’s Golden Ticket program where you can use a valid 2020-21 season pass from any resort in the world to get half-off lift tickets during your stay, or utilize its airfare package that’ll save you $300 when you book airfare, lodging and lift tickets together. Lastly—and it goes without saying—if you’re feeling sick, stay home and don’t ski. The mountains will be waiting for you…