Jackson Hole is without doubt one of the most legendary ski resorts in the world. Located near the town of Jackson, Wyoming, Jackson Hole draws the world’s best riders to tackle its mythical and gnarly terrain. Seasonal workers are similarly drawn to the chance to ride legendary terrain every day of the winter.
Jackson Hole has an airport in town. Direct flights are available from most major towns in the US, including Denver, Washington D.C., Houston, New York, Los Angeles, Seattle, Chicago, Minneapolis and Atlanta. It is a 3-hour drive from Cheyenne, Wyoming, or a 2-hour drive from Idaho Falls, Idaho, which are the closest major towns. Salt Lake City, Utah, is a five hour drive.
The airport is a 30-minute drive from the resort, and you can catch the Jackson Hole Shuttle to the resort for US$16 one way (www.jhshuttle.com). Alternatively, taxis are available to get you to the mountain for about US$35.
Once you’re settled in, the START Bus public bus system is available to get you around town for free for staff.
The resort of Jackson Hole is 12 miles (19 kilometers) from the town of Jackson and The START Bus takes riders to the hill.
Photo: Antlers on sale in the town of Jackson, Wyoming
Jackson is a great ole western country town with a bustling permanent population of just under 10,000. It is the gateway to a large number of tourist spots, including Grand Teton National Park, Yellowstone National Park, and the National Elk Refuge, as well as ski resorts such as Jackson Hole Mountain Resort and the smaller Snow King.
Despite the visible tourist presence each winter, there is an authentic vibe to the town and you are very likely to see cowboy hats all over town and in the bars. The locals are extremely friendly and proud of their western heritage.
Also, Jackson is home to a thriving cultural scene and is home to high-quality arts organisations such as the National Museum of Wildlife Art, the Grand Teton Music Festival, and the Center for the Arts.
The ski resort of Jackson Hole is truly legendary for its terrain. There is some terrain here that only the best riders in the world would dare tackle, and that’s just within the resort boundaries. As a result, you can see some of the best riders here plying their trade.
Jackson Hole does not have much in the way of beginner terrain, so the atmosphere is much more charging than at other resorts, even if most of the riders are still very friendly. In fact, because of the lack of beginner terrain, there are extremely cheap tickets for the beginner lifts at Jackson.
Jackson Hole offers some of the best and most challenging skiing and snowboarding terrain in the U.S. Jackson is well-known for its steep runs and huge vertical drop of 4,139 ft. (1,262 meters). Frankly, some of the in-bound terrain can be truly alarming for those who are working their way up.
Seasonal workers come here so they can tackle this incredible terrain not just once, but over and over again during the course of the season. Not only is there 2,500 acres (1,011 hectares) of in-bound terrain to carve, the gates at Jackson open up another 3,000 acres (1,214 hectares) acres of incredible backcountry terrain.
Riders take up the Aerial Tram (nicknamed “Big Red”) from the base which rises 4,139 vertical feet and provides a generous view over the mountain. It carries 100 people at a time. From the Tram, you’ll see incredible fall lines with consistent pitches all the way from North Colter to Hoback which will leave you licking your lips in anticipation.
The ski area partially covers two mountains, Rendezvous Mountain and Apres Vous Mountain. Just 10% of the mountain is rated as beginner terrain with most of the beginner and intermediate terrain at Apres Vous.
Rendezvous has the advanced terrain, including bowls, chutes, glades and couloirs to get you absolutely stoked for your days off.
Jackson Hole is home to the infamous Corbet’s Couloir, one of the most well known expert ski runs in the world and which is not to be missed, even if you can’t work up the courage to ski it.
For backcountry and free skiers, Jackson Hole has some of the most difficult and rewarding terrain in North America. Off-piste areas are accessed through marked gateways staffed by employees carrying avalanche gear, and offer huge bowls, steep chutes and beautiful natural environments.
Jackson has averaged 459 inches (11.6 meters) a year over the past five years. This adds to the 195 acres of snowmaking coverage. Average winter temperature is 21f Fahrenheit with January being the coldest month.
Jackson doesn’t get as much snow as on the other side of the range where you will find Grand Targhee ski resort. Grand Targhee is well worth checking out over the course of the season too.
The crowds at Jackson can get quite big. Luckily there is a lot of terrain, especially in the backcountry.
Photo: Skier launches into Corbet's Couloir - Jackson Hole
There are two terrain parks (one expert and one beginner), a half-pipe, and four stash parks throughout the ski area, which use local wood and natural terrain features to minimize the parks’ impact on the environment.
Photo: Hiking into the backcountry - Jackson Hole
The season usually runs from late November until early April. Winter spots open in around July online at www.jacksonhole.com/employment.html. All applications are made online as there is no longer a job fair at Jackson Hole.
Pay for entry-level jobs start at US$8.40, $8.80 or $9.20, depending on the position.
Perks include a season pass, discounts in shops and free rides on the START bus. Health insurance is not available to seasonal employees.
You will need a valid working visa if you want to work in the US as a foreigner. Fortunately, Jackson Hole will hire anyone with a valid working visa, including a J-1 visa. This is particularly helpful for Australians and New Zealanders who are able to get such a visa without needing a job program. Applicants with a valid visa can apply through the normal means at www.jacksonhole.com/employment.html
Jackson Hole also hires through the Work and Travel Visa program. See Work a Winter Season in the USA for further information on obtaining a working visa to the U.S.
Ski and snowboard instructor positions are divided into two categories: qualified new hire, and inexperienced new hire.
Qualified new hires require a minimum of a Level 1 certification and at least 3 years full-time teaching experience within PSIA-AASI(3) or a foreign equivalent. You will need to show evidence of your current certification and provide references and a copy of your last season Ski School evaluation.
Inexperienced new hires are those who have not taught skiing or snowboarding or are certified Level 1 instructors with less than three years of full-time teaching experience. If you want to apply as an inexperienced new hire, you will have to attend an Instructor Training Camp at a cost of US$175 before the start of the season.
Instructor base wages are US$9.50 per hour, with increases based on qualifications and experience. Job applications can be made at Jackson Hole Mountain School Employment
Employees get quite a few benefits, including a free mountain pass, a free START Bus pass, discounts at local businesses and reciprocal deals with Grand Targhee and Snow King for full-time employees.
Limited employee accommodation is available. These employee apartments are fully furnished, and house up to three people at a time.
The START bus is located just across the road to get you to work. Parking is available for two cars per unit.
However, most employees live outside of employee housing. Apartments are fairly easy to find, and will generally set you back between US$600 to US$1,000 per month for each room in a share house.
You will often be required to pay first and last month's rent and a security deposit upon signing the lease, so make sure you plan accordingly. It is highly recommended to secure housing before you get to Jackson Hole, so make sure you keep an eye out on Craigslist or local newspapers and classifieds for housing opportunities.
Good places to start looking for accommodation include:
If you arrive without housing, there are a few local hotels which have weekly and monthly renting options in winter. These include the Painted Buffalo Inn, Angler Inn, and Pony Express Motel as well as a few others.
With the kind of the terrain on offer on the mountain, you’d hope the nightlife matches up – and it certainly does.
If you’re interested in live music, the Million Dollar Cowboy Bar is essential. The bar stools are saddles and the entire place is covered floor to ceiling in cowboy and Americana memorabilia. For the younger, hipper crowd, the Village Café has PBR on tap and enough slices of pizza to feed an army.
There are also a number of microbreweries in the area, such as Snake River Brewing Co. and Thai Me Up.
For more refined skiers, Alpenhof Bistro & Dietrich's offers an enormous fireplace, a great selection of wine and beer and some wonderful food, including a chocolate or cheese fondue.
Arts lovers will also enjoy the Center for the Arts which hosts a wide array of performing arts, including performances from the Met Opera.
The nearby Pink Garter Theatre caters to the younger crowd, with regular performances from indie bands.
Also not to be missed is the Stagecoach Bar, an integral part of Jackson nightlife. The dance floor is always packed, drinks are cheap and, on Sunday evenings, the resident Stagecoach Band lays down some mean country and honkytonk for the crowd.