// By Maggie Theodora
Rocky Vertone didn’t even know where Jackson Hole was, but he knew he needed to head there after he graduated from the Art Institute of Philadelphia in 1991. “This was before the internet, and my buddy had a little Jackson Hole Ski Resort catalog,” he says. “I saw 4,139 vertical feet and a picture of the tram and was like, ‘Oh man, let’s go there.’” That October, Vertone, a native of New Jersey, packed up his Dodge Daytona and made the drive west. Somewhere in Kansas, his fifth gear blew out. “I drove from the middle of Kansas to Denver in fourth gear on I-70. It took half of the money I had saved to move to Jackson to fix my transmission,” he says.
“That winter was just nuts,” he says of his first season in the valley. Although Vertone left at the end of that season, he was back the next winter and stayed until 1994. “A friend in Philly was opening a picture-framing shop and offered me a job,” Vertone says. “But I was always thinking about Jackson. This place, obviously everyone gets sucked in—that’s the story for so many people.” Vertone moved back in 1996 and hasn’t left since, getting married and becoming a father along the way.
Here he shares some highlights from his Jackson Hole Life.
His First House
“My first place was in the trailer park next to Calico. We arrived here at night, in the dark, so I didn’t really see anything but Hoback Canyon. Waking up on the Village Road, I was like, ‘Oh my God this is nuts.’ The Tetons—I had no idea. There were the photos in that catalog that got me out here, but walking out the front door and seeing these mountains, they looked impossible. I was coming from the East Coast and had never been out to Western mountains. We went right up to [Teton] Pass and skied there. That trailer park’s gone now, and it’s the Fireside Resort.”
Founding a Business
“I started DJing in 1996. Carl Gulbish—his DJ name is ISM409—taught me how. I slowly bought a turntable and then a mixer. Around 2000, [King] Weep, who was a friend from Jersey, and I started Four4 Productions. We’d do raves at the Elks Club and weddings and parties. For fifteen years, I gigged pretty heavily, so I got really burned out. I still do weddings and stuff and play at The Rose. I love playing out and having people around. I’m a social guy.”
Founding Another Business
“My dad was a woodworker and furniture maker, and I’d had a crash course in picture framing at my friend’s shop in Philly, so I was doing framing for photographer Henry Holdsworth at his Wild By Nature Gallery. Since Weep and I had already started Four4, I knew I liked not having a boss. I bought some equipment from a dude in, maybe, Casper, and I found a spot on North Glenwood, and that was the start of Full Circle Frameworks (2002). I was in the same spot until early 2020 when the building was sold and I lost my lease. Now my shop is at 65 Mercill.”
Finding a New Hobby
“I didn’t pick up dirt biking until after I’d been here for maybe ten years. But my friends rode dirt bikes and I always wanted to. It’s definitely not as easily accessible here as mountain biking is, but it’s really frickin’fun. The St. Anthony Sand Dunes—they’re so amazing. Other riders say they don’t like the dunes—that they want technical trails—but the dunes are like riding powder. And they’re huge. You can go for hours and keep riding. The scene can be pretty crazy there some days; you wouldn’t believe the rigs people bring—Razors, buggies, sandrailers. The railers can go 100 miles an hour. To avoid the scene, we do it dawn patrol–style and are done by noon.”
I wait for opening day on Flat Creek, but then I miss it. I’m always so crazy busy now I can’t be as hardcore of a fisherman as I used to be.”
Married and a Kid
“My wife and I had a kid pretty quick after we got married; [Rocky Jr.] was born in 2003. I don’t really remember the first ten years. I was burning the candle at both ends—DJing and working like crazy at my shop. I didn’t sleep for like ten years. It was just mayhem. It was awesome, but it wasn’t easy.”
Raising a Kid in Jackson Hole
“Rocky Jr. is eighteen now. So crazy. I wouldn’t trade his growing up in Jackson Hole for anything. I wouldn’t want my kid growing up anywhere else. We always have to remind him about how amazing his childhood is. We’re in la-la land here. I do encourage him to move away from Jackson and go live someplace else though, especially the city. I think every kid should move to the city if even for a year. It kind of hardens you a little bit.”
“We’re not fancy and don’t go out to dinner a ton, but we like the Tiger. Ryan Haworth [the founder and owner with his wife, Sununta] is my friend, and the food is consistent. It’s a good place to go. Pica’s is right around the corner from our house and makes for easy take-out. I haven’t tried Coelette, downtown next to Thai Me Up, yet. I need to go there.” JH