Nordic Paradise

It’s not all downhill (skiing) here.

BY JOOHEE MUROMCEW

Nordic Paradise

“Crust cruising” on Nordic skate skis at Trail Creek Ranch near Wilson. Photo by Jeff Diener

IN JACKSON HOLE, while skiing the backcountry or even walking your dog along the Snake River, we are constantly in the humble thrall of a natural majesty that incredibly belongs to all of us. The views, mountains, the snow, and water feed a palpable sense of adventure and reverence for the outdoors that defines valley culture. Jackson has an embarrassing wealth of public (meaning free!) Nordic trails. Most bike trails you may have enjoyed over the summer are groomed by late December, depending on snow, of course. Crews at Bridger-Teton National Forest (BTNF), Grand Teton National Park (GTNP), and our own busy home team at Teton County/Jackson Parks & Recreation all have their own grooming schedules. The end result is a vast variety of trails for classic and skate skiing, dog-friendly and not, hilly or, well, less hilly.

Some of these public-land favorites are the trails along the Snake River levee, for its awesome views (don’t stop too often for selfies) and the trails along Moose-Wilson Road, so popular and yet always somehow beautifully quiet and peaceful. JHNordic.com is a valuable resource, listing grooming schedules and details for most of these trails. Read the reviews for tips like good parking spots and conditions. Teton County/Jackson Parks & Recreation also maintains a reliably up-to-date website, tetonparksandrec.org/parks-pathways/winter-trail-grooming.

While the U.S. Forest Service is our most valued partner in making these undeveloped, publicly owned lands accessible to all, Jackson Hole is fortunate to have a wealth of private properties that also see themselves as partners in contributing to the valley’s outdoor recreational character. In typical Jackson fashion, clubs, resorts, and conservation properties have partnered with nonprofits and local government entities, creating a wonderland for Nordic skiers.

Trail Creek Ranch

Trail Creek Ranch is at the foot of Teton Pass, and is the heart of Jackson’s Nordic ski history. Betty Woolsey, captain of the 1936 U.S. Women’s Olympic Alpine Ski Team, bought her first parcel of land in 1942, and by the time of her death in 1997, had amassed 270 acres. Woolsey placed the entire property under a conservation easement with the Jackson Hole Land Trust, and the ranch now hosts the Nordic Center in partnership with the Jackson Hole Ski & Snowboard Club. The ski club grooms nearly sixteen kilometers of skate and classic trails, some on a daily basis, for its Nordic team training, but the trails are open to the public with a season pass or day pass purchased from the ski club. There is some beginner terrain, but keep in mind that this is also a training ground for world-class athletes. The hills range from sweetly rolling nods to a descent called “Suicide Hill,” and serious local skiers tend to protectively police the groomed trails for newbies who walk on them or, worse, bring their dogs. Carrie Boynton, the ski club’s executive director, expresses the collective gratitude all valley Nordic skiers have for Woolsey’s historic contribution: “Having access to this incredible trail system is a gift to the Nordic community thanks to the collaboration of the Seiffert family and the United States Forest Service. Thanks to the generosity and vision of Betty Woolsey, these trails have been available to Jackson’s youth for more than fifty years.”

Trail Creek Ranch, at Old Pass Road in Wilson, jhskiclub.org/trail-creek/home

Nordic Paradise

Teton Pines Country Club’s Cross-Country Ski Center is a great option for beginners, but advanced skiers will enjoy it, too. Photo by Jonathan Selkowitz

Teton Pines

Everything about skiing at Teton Pines Country Club’s Cross-Country Ski Center is about making guests and skiers feel comfortable. Conveniently located off Teton Village Road, there is ample parking, a superfriendly staff, and the warm and cozy amenities of a country club. Jack Bellorado, director of skiing for the club, is himself a local institution, and his twinkling eyes and warm smile have welcomed thousands of skiers to “The Pines” for twenty-eight years. Bellorado’s love for Nordic skiing is contagious, and, particularly with beginner skiers, he goes to great lengths to make sure their early experiences are fun and gratifying. His ski shop has a large inventory of rental equipment, including children’s sizes, and is located just a few steps from a beginner trail, so you can get your gear on and be skiing in a flash. The shop also tunes and waxes skis, and offers lessons. Bellorado’s favorite time of the day to take in some trails is mid- to late afternoon when “it warms up a bit and the light is dramatic, just before the sun comes down,” he says. The trails are groomed as meticulously as you would expect at a country club, and usually daily. Even if there hasn’t been fresh snowfall, Bellorado’s grounds team makes the best of it. “We can groom frozen granular. Makes for a fast ride, and you feel like a hero,” he says.

Trails roll gently over what is the golf course in the summer season, and you’ll spot the occasional moose sauntering around the stately homes that border the course. Among the beginners and more leisurely paced skiers, serious competitive skiers regularly take advantage of the impeccably groomed skate trails. The Pines is an excellent family ski center. I’ll never forget seeing a young family on the trails one sunny Saturday—the parents were both teachers at my children’s school—who in their rosy-cheeked happiness seemed to embody Jackson’s optimistic vigor for life. The parents were both on skate skis, the mom with an infant in a BabyBjörn carrier and the dad hauling a toddler in a bike trailer tricked out with skis instead of wheels. Whatever your pace, after your ski, enjoy lunch at the club’s restaurant, which is also open to the public. Ask for a table with a view of the track.

Teton Pines Country Club, 3450 Clubhouse Drive in Wilson, tetonpines.com

Turpin Meadow Ranch

Tucked between Grand Teton and Yellowstone national parks, and on the Buffalo Fork River, Turpin Meadow Ranch refers to the two parks and also the half-million acres of national forest bordering them as its “backyard.” The ranch itself was recently restored and reopened in the winter of 2013, a labor of love by Hans and Nancy Johnstone, both former Olympic skiers who also own and operate the charming Alpine House in Jackson. Located north of Moran, ten miles down Buffalo Valley Road, an outing to Turpin Meadow calls for a half-day commitment, which should include a meal at their excellent restaurant. In fact, some people venture to Turpin Meadow in the winter to eat and then justify the drive by skiing. Justify it however you like—the destination is well worth the investment. The Nordic trails are open to the public even if you are not a guest of the ranch or restaurant. Directly from the main lodge, you access fifteen kilometers of incredibly scenic and serene terrain. Alison Sehnert, marketing and sales manager for the ranch and a former Nordic ski coach, encourages all types of skiers to make the visit. “We have a mix of everything, classic and skate, at almost every level. We have five kilometers that’s really gentle, good for beginners, then another ten kilometers that’s a bit more rolling.” The ranch does not offer lessons, but even first-timers shuffling in their touring tracks will find the setting spectacular, a truly unique perspective on these national parks that is both public and private.

Turpin Meadow Ranch, 24505 Buffalo Valley Road in Moran, turpinmeadowranch.com

Over the Pass

Visit the website of Teton Valley Trails and Pathways (tvtap.org) for Idaho-specific reports on the over fifty kilometers of Nordic trails they groom all winter long, including the private Teton Springs Lodge resort community, which opens its Nordic trails to the public.

 


 

Nordic Freeways

Erich Wilbrecht’s Nordic Jackson Hole

Erich Wilbrecht moved to Jackson Hole at the age of fifteen, skied with the Jackson Hole Ski Club, and, except for an extraordinary decade spent in part at Dartmouth College (captain of the ski team) and, oh yes, a few years on the U.S. Olympic Biathlon Team (1992 Winter Games), he has called Jackson Hole his home. Now an associate broker with Sotheby’s International Realty, he lives and works with a true Jackson passion for the outdoors and family life. You can often find Erich, his wife, Chris, and their two sons skiing—much faster than you—throughout the valley. Here are his insider tips for finding your own Nordic paradise:
Where would you take kids to teach them how to Nordic ski?
Teton Pines for great tracks and easy terrain
Best trail for good skiing and spectacular views?
If it’s clear with just a little wind, Bradley-Taggart to Jenny Lake
Best spot for a quick, lunch-hour ski near town?
Cache Creek
Where do you go to really challenge yourself with advanced trails?
Trail Creek
Where do you go for that quiet, undisturbed Zen ski?
Granite Canyon trailhead to Rockefeller Preserve on the Moose-Wilson Road
What do you love most about living and skiing in Jackson Hole?
The long winters and months of skiing!

 


 

A Complete Guide to Nordic Skiing in the Tetons

“We list more than one hundred trails that together are over five hundred miles,” says Nancy Leon about the website, JHNordic.com, she founded in late 2013. Leon got the idea for the site when, new to the valley, she couldn’t find advice on where to go cross-country skiing. “There was no comprehensive guide,” she says.

Leon started exploring on her own, taking GPS tracks of where she went and writing up descriptions. Calling herself “only a recreational Nordic skier,” she also wrangled together an advisory board “with so much more experience in the sport,” she says. Today, that board, the Jackson Hole-Teton Nordic Alliance, includes more than sixty people representing businesses and organizations from Teton County/Jackson Parks & Rec to Skinny Skis, Turpin Meadow Ranch, Grand Targhee, and Grand Teton National Park.

The alliance works to promote and facilitate Nordic skiing in the area. The website, to which users can add photos, descriptions, and tracks, is its main tool. On the site you can search for trails both in Jackson Hole and Teton Valley based on distance, location, and difficulty, and whether they’re dog-friendly, groomed, or suitable for fat biking, among other things. “It’s the comprehensive guide I was looking for,” Leon says. – JH magazine staff

| Posted in JH Living
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