Local Life: My Jackson Hole Life

Leslie Mattson

// By Jim Mahaffie

She came here to ski powder; in staying, she’s made an indelible mark on the community. 

Leslie Mattson and her pup, Patsy, on Table Mountain. Courtesy Photo

“People love Grand Teton National Park,” says Leslie Mattson, president of the Grand Teton National Park Foundation since 2004. “They step off their flight, and the mountains are right there in their faces. How can you not love that view? We enable people to support what they love.” During Mattson’s time at GTNPF, it has raised over $150 million for the Craig Thomas Discovery and Visitor Center; major improvements to Jenny Lake, Antelope Flats, and other areas of the park; plus, youth programs; wolf-conservation research; climate change studies; and now upgrades to the popular Taggart Lake area. (Read more about how GTNPF is helping with the restoration of Mormon Row on page 32.) Before the GTNPF, Mattson was executive director at the Jackson Hole Land Trust for 13 years, where she led the $26.5 million Campaign for Our Valley for the permanent protection of thousands of acres of landscapes and wildlife habitat. She also serves on the boards of the Teton County Search and Rescue Foundation and the Haub School of Natural Resources at the University of Wyoming. 

“It’s such a unique place, with the people, the landscapes, and all the opportunities for recreation.”

Originally from Massachusetts, Mattson grew up skiing with her dad and twin brothers, driving four hours to Sugarloaf in Maine on Friday nights and then back on Sundays, listening to NFL games on the radio. She first visited Jackson Hole in 1988 on a ski trip. Two years later, she moved here to “try living out West for a year.” Thirty-five years later, she has made an indelible mark on Jackson Hole. “It’s such a unique place, with the people, the landscapes, and all the opportunities for recreation,” she says. “And when you’re a part of the community here, you can really make a difference.”  

The hike down to Lake Solitude from Paintbrush Divide offers stunning views of the Tetons. Photo by Rugile Kaladyte
 Here leslie shares some highlights from her Jackson Hole Life.

Hiking in GTNP
I love hiking to Lake Solitude from the Paintbrush Divide side and coming down through Cascade Canyon to Jenny Lake. That’s fun to do once a year or so, with great views of the Tetons and potential for wildlife. Then, I’ll always go check out how our Foundation project is being received on the west side of Jenny Lake, where we worked with the park on all the infrastructure improvements. That was so gratifying, and a tribute to the Park Service’s 100th anniversary in 2016. We’re talking now about what we want to accomplish for the 100th anniversary of GTNP in 2029. 

Chicken at the Calico
I live in my house in Wilson when I’m not at the ranch in Dubois with my husband, Will, so I like to stay local when going out for food. My favorite is the chicken dinner at the Calico Bar on the Village Road. You can get it off the chalkboard menu in the bar area. That’s comfort food for me. 

Powder Skiing
I love the Village. Skiing is what brought me to Jackson Hole years ago. Powder skiing is my favorite thing to do on earth, and I never knew a thing about it until I first came here in 1988. We were three couples during St. Patrick’s Day week. We landed in dry and sunny, and then it was blizzarding. My boyfriend announced to me on the Thunder Lift that he was moving here. A year later, I was engaged and moving with him. I remember truly spectacular runs in deep snow down Rendezvous Bowl, North Colter Ridge, and so many others. I usually ski about 50 days a season, and that’s plenty for me. 

Daily Recharge
Over the three seasons that I’m not skiing, you can find me on Josie’s Ridge three or four days a week, hiking with my little Labrador Patsy (named after my mother). Josie’s has always been a happy place—a dog-friendly trail with great views of town and the Tetons, all the way up to Snow King. Afterward, we hit Pica’s for a chicken tostada. 

Jackson Dress Code
When I first moved here in 1990, I said I’d try it for a year. I was with my first husband, and we had left our wedding gifts at my parent’s house in Massachusetts. I showed up with a ton of Ann Taylor outfits. I remember going mountain biking with a friend. Afterward, she said we were going to Calico for another friend’s birthday party. I was all muddy and thought I needed to go home to shower and change. My friend said no. We showed up at the party, and that’s the moment I realized I’d truly made a major transition. JH

Receive Published Stories In Your Inbox

Enter your email address below to subscribe to published stories.