Jackson Hole Lifts & Terrain

Our Terrain Ratings

Powderhound rating = advanced/expert terrain + powder + freshies + uncrowded

Our Terrain Ratings

Powderhound rating = advanced/expert terrain + powder + freshies + uncrowded
Jackson Hole Trail Map
  • Vertical (ft)
    6,311 – 10,450 (4,139)
  • Average Snow Fall
    459 inches
  • Lifts (15)
    1 tram
    2 gondolas
  • Ski Season
    late Nov -early Apr
  • Terrain Summary
    Runs – 133
    Size – 2,500 acres
    Beginner - 10%
    Intermediate - 40%
    Expert - 50%

Jackson Hole Ski and Snowboard Terrain

Sure it snows a lot, but Jackson Hole skiing and snowboarding is ALL about the fabulous terrain. About halfway up the tram you’ll understand why. Looking across North Colter Ridge all the way to the Hobacks is consistently pitched fall line, the likes of which the Powderhounds have not seen anywhere else. Cover that fall line with a foot or two of powder and Jackson Hole skiing nirvana is reached. All you gotta do is beat the locals to it. Have fun trying!

Jackson Hole Resort is made up of two mountains and it’s pretty easy to navigate because it’s spread out sort of horizontally across one face. The Apres Vous Mountain is predominantly suited to intermediate skiing, and the base of this mountain tapers off into gentle beginner slopes. Rendezvous Mountain is what excites the proficient riders, and features steep chutes amongst the trees, couloirs, bowls, and glades.

The Jackson Hole Resort has two completely different faces: the relative peace and quiet of a non-powder day; and the frenzy of powder days.

Jackson Hole Powder Day

On a powder day, expect it to be rather crazy. All the locals turn up in their droves, and there can be massive lines for the tram and gondola, even an hour before “official” opening time.

If you’re a VIP doing a film shoot, you can get on the tram much earlier. Alternatively you can pay a lot of money for a private “ski lesson” which gives you early tram or gondola access and lift-line priority. We also saw that private lessoners also get the privilege of entering zones before ski patrol have officially opened them to the public. We observed the Headwall get completely ripped by privates before we were allowed to touch it. It makes sense that JH would want to increase their income with such schemes, it’s just that it’s so damn frustrating for everyone else who can only get the scraps. And if you do have enough money for a private lesson, it would probably be better spent going cat skiing in BC where you can get fresh tracks all day.

Aside from the usual notions of getting up very early to beat the hordes (good luck!), a few spots stood out to the Powderhounds as holding uncut snow a tad longer than others. While everyone goes up the tram and gondola, head in the opposite direction (I know – it sounds crazy) and up the Apres Vous Quad. At the top, drop skiers left into ‘Saratoga Bowl’. It’s not really a bowl, more like a set of beautifully pitched, lightly treed spur lines. The sidecountry holds freshies a fraction longer than in-bounds, but it gets tracked pretty quickly too.

The only other tip is to have a powder board or super fat skis for a powder day because the bumps under the powder are often really big, and you’ll want to stay on top.

Jackson Hole Lifts

If the KT22 chairlift at Squaw Valley gets voted ‘the best chairlift in North America’, then the Jackson Hole Tram (aka Big Red) should be voted ‘best tram in North America’. The terrain it services is second to none which is why its other nickname is the “Red Heli”, although whilst taking “a box” seems to be very trendy, you’re unlikely to get the freshies that you would with heli skiing. Powder day queues are ridiculous but there are even tram lines on a non-powder day. As an alternative, you may want to ride the Sublette (aka Subbie) chair, because it services a good portion of the amazing terrain.

The Bridger Gondola is another main lift and the Sweetwater Gondola is good for the beginners and to get a fast ride part way up the mountain.

The remaining lifts are fast quads (4 in total), 4 fixed grip quads, and some slower lifts that you may not use too often.

Lift Tickets

Full day tickets are expensive so purchasing them can hurt. At least Jackson Hole is accessible off the Ikon Pass and the Mountain Collective pass.

Jackson Hole Snow

Whilst it doesn’t get quite as much snow as its smaller brother on the other side of the range (Grand Targhee), Jackson Hole scores very well in the snow quantity stakes. Around 459 inches (11.6m) of annual snowfall is very respectable and there’s a small amount of snowmaking capacity as well.

Whilst the snow quality isn’t Hokkaido powder, it’s renowned for being very good and the top elevation is more than adequate for retention of quality snow. The aspect isn’t particularly ideal and as a gross generalisation, the Jackson Hole lifts and ridges face southeast. You have to play with the aspects sometimes to find quality snow and using the Sublette Chair as an example, the snow can vary significantly depending on whether you drop left or right of the chair.

Beginner Ski Terrain

Beginners have 10% of the trails according to the mountain statistics, which doesn’t sound like a lot, but it’s probably just enough for beginners. Kids ski school can start on a magic carpet, and other pros are that most of the Teewinot terrain is dedicated to beginners, and they can also use the Sweetwater Gondola mid-station so they don’t have the initial fear of getting off a chair lift ramp! And it’s cute that instead of “slow” signs on the green runs, there are “whoa” signs.

Intermediate Skiing Jackson Hole

Jackson Hole skiing and snowboarding is very good for upper intermediates, but it can be a little tricky for those progressing from beginner to intermediate. You may need to continue having lessons so that your instructor can assist in identifying the appropriate terrain. It would also be helpful to have the grooming report handy, not only to know which runs they haven’t bothered to groom (don’t assume they’ll all be groomed), but also because the report provides a demarcation between single and double blue runs, which is not indicated on the trail map and only in some spots out in the field.

Some of the double blues are superb and are mostly fall-line; only mellowing out a fraction at the bottom. A couple of black runs may be groomed, which can also provide some awesome fun for strong intermediates.

One con for the intermediate terrain is that many of the blue runs are just traverses or other transport trails. Most of the real intermediate terrain is on the right hand side of the trail map.

Terrain Parks

The whole mountain is a big natural terrain park – go find some!! Otherwise there is the usual bone shattering and tendon snapping fun available in the terrain park off the Teewinot chair, along with a few Burton Stash parks across the resort.

Jackson Hole Skiing - Advanced

Jackson Hole has a huge amount of advanced piste and off-piste terrain, but it can take a little while to differentiate the easy stuff from the challenging slopes and the downright scary terrain. There is no differentiation on the trail map between single and double blacks, and only the occasional sign on the mountain to indicate a double black, which are definitely for experts only. Joining a lesson program could be a great idea to help you make the most out of the amazing terrain.

Most days they groom a few black runs such as Kemmerer which provides some speedy fun. There are also lots of other cut black piste, which quickly become a mess of moguls, as well as some wider bowls. A classic is Rendezvous Bowl off the tram which is sooo wide that it’s relatively easy unless visibility is limited. Ideal tree skiing for advanced riders is anything off the Apres Vous chair lift, whilst you’ll want to avoid the trees off the Subbie chair.

Advanced skiers and riders with plenty of endurance will love the fall line of the spurs coming down off the range between North Colter Ridge and the Hobacks. The Hobacks go on forever and you just wish there was a groomer sometimes to escape to, especially if there’s not a lot of snow cover because there are plenty of lurking sharks.

Experts Only

Steeps abound and the Jackson Hole skiing and riding for experts is superb and part of the reason that so many people choose to make Jackson home. The expert terrain is so much better than places like Big Sky due to the ease of access and also the variety of terrain inclusive of tree skiing, open bowls, chutes, and plenty of rocky features. Roped off areas are absolute no go zones and smaller cliffs are quite well signposted, but you still want to keep your wits about you for crags.

The Sublette chair and the many treed zones are a nice place to play, particularly on low vis days.

One of the ski world’s best known couloirs, Corbet’s Couloir, is just below the top of the tram, although it’s often closed so don’t have your heart set on riding it.

If conditions are right, take the hike to the Headwall. You can hike up the steep pitch from the Bridger Gondola or tackle it from the Subbie chair. From the Headwall, you can head further afield to Casper Bowl and eventually the Crags. The range of steep and challenging chutes and tree runs will test all comers.

Sidecountry

One of the huge pros of Jackson Hole is its sidecountry either side of the resort, which offers up expert to extreme terrain. Some lines require no hiking and further afield can take 30-40 minutes, whilst multiple bowls still allow egress via a traverse back into the resort. On skiers’ right of the resort, don’t drop down too low or you may be greeted by a very grumpy ranch owner. Over the back of the resort is some really steep backcountry terrain which with a really really long traverse feeds out via the drainage to the resort.

Access gates abound along the boundaries of the resort, and only once in a blue moon will the gates be closed. You’ll definitely want to enter via the gates or risk getting stuck above massive cliffs.

The sidecountry could be considered “partly controlled” because the ski patrollers do a tiny bit of avalanche bombing and some rescues, but it should still definitely be treated as the backcountry with the usual precautions. It’s unfortunate that after a storm there’s a race to get freshies, and you have to play the risk game of whether to wait for the fresh snow to settle or get in there before it gets tracked out.

The snowsports school offers guiding services as well as other operators.