Jackson Hole, Wyoming – Getting Schooled in Skiing and Nature

“Do you see him?”

“Oooh, I hope he’s OK!”

Limpy, the local coyote

 

My kids scanned the passing snowfield searching for the coyote we spotted a few days earlier with a limp front leg. They had just learned that coyotes dig through the snow with their front paws to find mice and other food in winter.  Limpy, my kids named him, was at a disadvantage without the use of his paw.  “Limpy!” they shouted excitedly, spotting him; his nose digging away in the snow as we passed by.  We were on our way to the tubing hill after another full day of skiing, but it was clear the wildlife took center stage on this trip.

Jackson Hole, Wyoming, is more than the typical mountain attraction where skiers come to drink hot chocolate and sit in a hot tub.  Jackson Hole is a place to do all that while also discovering wildlife and a love of nature.

Visitors know immediately they are in cowboy territory as they pass under elk-horn arches into the small western airport surrounded by the stunning jagged peaks of the Teton Mountain Range.  If they missed that clue, the locals welcoming guests in baggage claim in their chaps, slickers, cowboy boots and hats will get everyone excited.

Teton Mountains

Jackson Hole Mountain Resort in Teton Village offers plenty for families on the mountain:

  • Ski school for kids ages 3 and up
  • Daycare for toddlers ages 6 months to 2 years
  • Kids Night Out, a supervised evening for kids ages 4 to 18 allowing parents to go out on the town
  • 100+ person tram to the top of the mountain, where, if they’re lucky, kids can meet the rescue dogs on the last tram down
  • All the great amenities of a ski resort – kid-friendly restaurants, mini-markets, sledding, superb skiing and snowboarding, and many lodging options including condos/suites with living rooms and/or kitchens for larger families.

Riding the tram with the rescue dogs

While the skiing is spectacular, taking time to explore the wildlife will be well worth the time off the mountain.  And, a wildlife adventure early in the trip will get kids excited to explore more.  Families can explore several winter wildlife activities:

  • Get up close to thousands of elk on the National Elk Refuge.  Horse-drawn sleighs take you right up to huge elk that come down from the mountains to feed. The refuge sits on over 25,000 acres, feeding over 7,000 elk every winter.  At the visitors’ center, learn the difference between an antler and a horn, see preserved animals and pick up some books, toys and other wildlife and nature-related souvenirs.

Herds of elk at the National Elk Refuge

  • Spot big-horned sheep, golden eagles, moose, bison and more on a guided wildlife tour. The guide may bring artifacts kids can touch, such as a bear claw and antlers from a moose or elk.  Learn how animals find food in the snowy winter, eat elk jerky, and discover other fun wildlife facts like how to differentiate moose poop from elk poop.
  • Track a pack of wolves while snowshoeing in Grand Teton National Park. Spot wildlife and follow tracks through the forest trails and listen to the stillness of winter.

 

Wolf tracks in the snow

  • Stop to let moose cross the road near the Snake River. It happens often!

Moose crossing

  • Paint your own wildlife masterpiece at the National Museum of Wildlife Art. Art classes for kids ages 5 and under are held Monday mornings in winter.  Kids and parents alike learn about art and animals from works housed in 14 galleries in the beautiful Arizona sandstone façade building nestled in the rugged hillside.

Back home, my kids continue to play one of their favorite games from Jackson Hole, hide and go seek, pretending they are a family of coyotes, howling to locate each other.   They learned to ski, but they also learned to love nature and all the wildlife friends they met along the way.

Snowshoeing in Grand Teton National Park

Practical Information:

Getting there – Daily non-stop flights available from Chicago, Dallas, Denver, Los Angeles, Minneapolis and Salt Lake City

Staying there – Lodging in Teton Village includes the Hotel Terra, Snake River Lodge and Spa, Teton Mountain Lodge and Spa and the Four Seasons Resort among several others.  Condos and vacation home rentals are also available on the mountain and around Teton Village.  Several inns and smaller hotels are located in the town of Jackson and vacation homes and other options are available in the greater Jackson Hole area.

Getting around – Taxis, car services and car rentals are available for transport to/from the airport and around the valley. There is also a public bus that runs every 20-30 minutes to/from town and around the valley. The Four Seasons Resort offers guests a shuttle to/from the town of Jackson.

Helpful websites for Jackson Hole:

Jackson Hole, Wyoming Chamber of Commerce:  www.jacksonholechamber.com

Jackson Hole Mountain Resort: www.jacksonhole.com

Eco Tour Adventures: www.jhecotouradventures.com

National Museum of Wildlife Art: www.wildlifeart.org