Chase winter sport glory in the hardcore runs and be charmed by the authentic cowboy town in Jackson Hole.
The ‘Wild One’ turned 50 last year, and I’m not talking about that vintage hit song by Australian rock ‘n’ roll legend Johnny O’Keefe. The ‘Wild One’ is Jackson Hole, the Wyoming ski resort with a reputation for hardcore terrain and rugged outdoor spirit.
Nowhere epitomises that hardcore as much as Corbet’s Couloir, a narrow chute accessed by the resort’s iconic aerial tram. Thousands go to Corbet’s Couloir to chase winter glory each year, according to the resort.
Here I am, standing at the top on a sunny day, with many others, staring down it in awe. The experts-only chute usually requires a fresh-air drop of several metres, before the skier or snowboarder lands on the 55-degree slope with rock faces on either side.
A sharp right-hand turn needs to be executed almost straight away, and then the chute starts to fan out on a 45-degree slope. If you make it through to this section, and if you can check your speed successfully, you are probably home and hosed.
American Olympic gold medalist Tommy Moe, known for his bravery on skis, says: “When you are at the bottom of Corbet’s it doesn’t look too bad. But then as you ski up to it from the top, it almost makes your stomach tingle.”
There’s plenty more to tingle your senses at this 1,000-hectare resort. Most runs off Rendezvous Mountain are black or double-black diamond and there are many other chutes – such as S&S and Alta – to seriously test your mettle.
Jackson Hole has an authentic cowboy vibe and there’s nowhere better to experience it than the Million Dollar Cowboy Bar after a hard day’s skiing. The bar, known for its country music, has hosted greats such as Willie Nelson and has saddles as bar stools – just don’t get your foot stuck in the stirrups when you dismount!
Just 19 kilometres from the ski runs, the town has a boardwalk at the front of some of its shops (just like you see in Western movies) and a good selection of places to stay and eat.
I bed down a bit out of town, at Spring Creek Ranch, where I warm up by the wood fire and enjoy the cowboy-inspired interiors and mountain views. Regular shuttles operate between the town, ranch and ski slopes.
Alternatively, you can stay slopeside at pretty Teton Village. The ski-in, ski-out luxury Four Seasons hotel is there, as well as a great selection of apartments. Don’t miss the Mangy Moose restaurant and saloon in Teton Village, recommended by Forbes.
Nature lovers will enjoy Jackson Hole. Yellowstone National Park can be visited on a day trip (try a snowmobile tour) or you can tour the National Elk Refuge in a horse-drawn sleigh to see the thousands of elk that winter there.
So did I run the gauntlet of Corbet’s? I was saved by the unfriendly conditions that day, and consoled myself with a beer in the saddle at the Million Dollar Cowboy Bar instead.
Words: Robert Upe