The Season for Sliding
Jackson Hole is known as an alpine skier’s winter wonderland, but we’ve also got hundreds of miles of trails for cross-country skiing.
// By Brigid Mander
Pine boughs laden with snow glint as the sun just touches the treetops above me. The only sounds are the schussing of my Nordic skis in the freshly groomed classic track, cheerful birdsong, and my red heeler’s paws crunching packed snow. I’m barely a few miles up Cache Creek, in the Bridger-Teton National Forest just east of downtown Jackson, and I have the world to myself this crisp winter morning. I follow the track as it meanders alongside the creek bed and climbs deeper into the Gros Ventre Mountains. I’m breathing hard, and my cheeks feel delightfully flushed, and moving uphill feels like a dance with nature.
After years of dedication to alpine and backcountry skiing, Nordic skiing recently revealed itself as an incredible addition to my winter sports repertoire. It’s comparatively low on logistics, gear, and risk, and high on rewards like fitness and immersion into the natural world. Easily done solo or with partners and friends (furry and otherwise), there are hundreds of miles of trails—some groomed, others not—on which to do it. The Jackson Hole Nordic Alliance’s website (jhnordic.org) has tracks, reports, and photos for more than 500 miles of Nordic skiing trails; here are a few of our favorites.
The Scene: At the eastern end of East Jackson, this easy-to-access trailhead is hugely popular with dog walkers, Nordic skiers, fat bikers, snowshoers, and even snowmobilers. The parking lot and the first mile of the groomed trail are generally very crowded, but trail users thin out dramatically after that. The first mile is the steepest, and then the trail becomes rolling.
Best For: Intermediate or better skiers looking for a great workout on the up and out and a fun, fast return (skiers should have good speed control for the return trip to the parking lot).
Wildlife: The south-facing slopes above the groomed road are critical habitat for mule deer, elk, and moose and are annually closed to human travel between December 1 and May 1. Another key to our wildlife surviving winter is that humans have control of their dogs. If your dog is off-leash, it should always be in sight and under voice control.
Details: This trail, which is uphill going out and downhill on the way back, is groomed Monday, Wednesday, and Friday for classic and skate skiing. Dogs allowed. Rentals are not available on site. Free. tetoncountywy.gov/1353/grooming-report
Turpin Meadow Ranch
The Scene: About an hour north of downtown Jackson, Turpin Meadow Ranch is a destination Nordic retreat that allows day skiers to enjoy its 13 miles of trails. These range from easy to advanced, and some offer great views of the Tetons. Before or after skiing, day guests often enjoy lunch in the main lodge. Scandi-style cabins are available for overnight stays.
Best For: Feeling a world away from the hustle and bustle of Teton Village and Jackson. This is also a very family-friendly operation, and if you need to take lessons, this is your go-to spot.
Wildlife: Moose are the most common animal sighting at the ranch. On the drive through Grand Teton National Park to the ranch, you may see elk, bison, mule deer, coyotes, and even wolves.
Details: The trails, which were designed by U.S. Olympic Nordic skiers Hans and Nancy Johnstone, are groomed as needed. Dogs are allowed; rentals are available on-site. Day passes are $20. turpinmeadowranch.com
Trail Creek Ranch
The Scene: At the base of Teton Pass in Wilson, this Nordic operation bustles with local skiers and is the home base of the Jackson Hole Ski Club Nordic team. Ten miles of trails wind across the ranch, adjacent Seiffert family property, and the Bridger-Teton National Forest. Some trails circle slightly rolling open pastures and are great for kids and beginners, but advanced skiers can put themselves to the test and combine steep, hilly loops for a serious workout.
Best For: All ages and abilities can have a great outing at Trail Creek; its more challenging trails are especially enjoyed by those looking to up their skills and fitness.
Wildlife: An abundance of moose forage around here, and you may see bulls as well as cows and calves. Sometimes you can spot a small band of wintering elk.
Details: The 10 miles of trails here are impeccably maintained and groomed almost daily thanks to the JH Ski Club. Read more about the history of Trail Creek Ranch on p. 54. Only Nordic skiers are allowed; dogs are not allowed. No rental equipment on site. Passes are $20 daily or $325 for the season. jhskiclub.org/trail-creek
Granite Canyon and Valley Trail Loop
The Scene: This skier-packed backcountry Nordic trail in Grand Teton National Park just past Teton Village loops through a forest at the mouth of Granite Canyon, crossing several creeks via wooden bridges. Although close to Jackson Hole Mountain Resort and not difficult, this trail is uncrowded.
Best For: Skiers looking for a scenic outing and solitude.
Wildlife: Moose sightings are possible as are sightings of small mammals like ermine and foxes.
Details: The 4.5-mile loop starts at the Granite Canyon Trailhead; 1.5 miles from the start, leave the Granite Canyon Trail to ski the Valley Trail. Stay on the Valley Loop (the summer trail up Granite Canyon leads to serious avalanche terrain). No dogs and no rentals on site. It’s $35 for a GTNP day pass and $80 for an annual Interagency Parks Pass. nps.gov/grte/planyourvisit/skiing-and-snowshoeing.htm
Inner Park Loop Road
The Scene: Perhaps the most iconic place to Nordic ski in Jackson Hole, the middle section of Grand Teton National Park’s Inner Park Loop Road is closed to cars in the winter and groomed for Nordic skiers. With nonstop scenery and awe-inspiring views of the high peaks of the Teton Range, this flat route can be as long or short as you want. It’s groomed for 13 miles to Signal Mountain, but you can turn around any time.
Best For: Stunning views, and then some more views. It’s also great for those looking for either a very long or very short ski. One of the flattest groomed trails in the valley, it’s as beginner friendly as it gets.
Wildlife: This trail is more about mountain views than wildlife watching, but it is possible to see moose, birds, coyotes, and foxes.
Details: This trail is groomed three times a week—Tuesday, Friday, and Sunday—and this is sponsored by the Grand Teton National Park Foundation, with support from the Jackson Hole Nordic Alliance and community organizations and skiers. No rentals on site. Dogs on a leash are allowed on the groomed road but not on the smaller trails that go to Taggert, Bradley, or Jenny Lakes from the same trailhead. It’s $35 for a GTNP day pass and $80 for an annual Interagency Parks Pass. nps.gov/grte/planyourvisit/skiing-and-snowshoeing.htm JH