The Teton Mountains outside of Jackson, provided by Jackson Hole Chamber of Commerce

We were near the Contindental Divide frolicking in a sunny bowl, when I heard the muffled shouts of one of my companions over the growl of my snowmobile’s engine. I throttled back and located her. Her snowmobile was sunk in a patch of soft powdered snow. 

In fact, she was exactly where our guide had warned us not to go. I watched as the Dallas resident blithely stepped off her machine and promptly sank to her armpits in the white powder.

The guide and I rode as close as we could to the forbidden soft spot, then waded through the powder to her. About 20 minutes later, we had wrestled the machine and rider onto firm snow. Who says snowmobiling is a lazy person’s answer to cross-country skiing? The mishap wasn’t exactly fun on an otherwise perfect snowmobiling day, but it was an adventure to relive later over drinks.

The so-called shoulder or “mud season” is the bane of ski resorts. Any remaining downhill skiing is on slush not snow, but much of the terrain remains too mushy for biking or hiking. Jackson Hole’s summer life as gateway to Grand Teton and Yellowstone national parks has yet to begin.

But spring in Jackson Hole can be a wonderful thing. Time it right and you can sample the delights of winter, spring and summer without the crowds and at discounted rates. And, with Jackson only four and a half hours by car (an hour by air) from Salt Lake City, it’s a spectacular end-of-winter getaway.

Salt Lake magazine’s guide to exploring Jackson Hole, Wyo.

On the Snow

Corbet's Couloir, provided by Jackson Hole Mountain Resort

Bet on the pow

Late-season skiing at Jackson Hole Mountain Resort means short lift lines, if iffy snow. The upside: By afternoon you may have to strip off a few layers. During our stay, we had a not-so-unusual springtime dump that offered a classic powder experience to end the season. 

Jackson Hole Mountain Resort, 1-888-DEEP-SNO

Barrel through the backcountry

When snow is on the ground, basically through March, the best views of wildlife and spectacular scenery around Togwotee Pass (pronounced toga-tee) are from the saddle of a snowmobile. A hearty lunch awaits when you tie up your snow machine at Togwotee Lodge. Snowmobile outfitters, winding down their season, are delighted to take a few last trips.

Scenic Snow Safaris, 888-734-8898

Soul Tram

Jump on the Red Tram and rock out as you and a hundred soon-to-be-close friends glide 4,139 vertical feet up Rendezvous Mountain (12,463 feet), while taking in a 360-degree view of Grand Teton National Park and the Gros Ventre Range. But there’s more! The tram drops you at the top of 2,500 acres of prime skiing terrain.

Jackson Hole Mountain Resort, 1-888-DEEP-SNO

Power Up

Jackson Hole’s adventures require a steady flow of fuel to your body. Pocket a few of the local energy boosters—the Tram Bar (or Grizzly Bar or Caz Bar) cooked up by a ski bum and named after the Tram at Jackson Hole. 

Kate's Read Food, 208-354-4790

Back to Nature

National Museum of Wildlife Art, by Daniel A. D'Auria

Wild Art Scene

This is no cheesy roadside attraction: On a cliff overlooking the Elk Refuge, the National Museum of Wildlife Art features more than 5,000 works by 550 artists that trace the history of European and American wildlife art. John Audubon passes the torch to Charles Russell who gives way to the whimsy of Donna Howell-Sickles. The building itself was inspired by the ruins of a Scottish castle.

National Museum of Wildlife Art, 2820 Rungius Rd., 800-313-9553

Jim Bridger never had it so good

A draft horse-drawn sleigh delivers you to a teepee, where you’ll dine on free-range buffalo, Dutch oven-roasted potatoes and steamed asparagus followed by apple tarte tatin. If you want to earn that meal, strap on a pair of wooden snowshoes and count bald eagles along the Snake River before dinner. Afterwards, sip a cocktail by the fire.

Sleigh Ride & Snowshoe Adventures, 307-732-COAT

Party with Jackson’s “celebs”

Where did the iconic antler arches of Jackson come from? Visit the National Elk Refuge on the outskirts of town, where horse-drawn sleighs driven by knowledgable guides take you breathtakingly close to elk (humans in sleighs don’t spook them) for an education on the animals and their ecosystem. The elk will be shedding their antlers in preparation for summer in the high country. (Boy Scouts collect tons of antlers and sell them for charity.) 

National Elk Refuge, 307-733-9212

Aprés Dark

Photo provided by Mangy Moose, by Chris Figenshou

Après with style

The raucous ski culture at Teton Village is anchored at the Mangy Moose, but if you yearn for more of a dining experience, walk a hundred yards to The Handle Bar, where a team of chefs offer small plate delights like black truffle beignets, Jackson Hole elk chili and pan-roasted duck breast, backed by artisan cocktails.

The Handle Bar, The Four Seasons Hotel, Teton Village, 307-732-5157

Wine round-up

Bin 22, a wine bar, grocery, bar and restaurant that offers tapas, salumi, cheese plates, wine and conversation—all in an informal (reservations not accepted) milieu. Think Eataly, NYC. 

Bin22, 307-739-WINE

Belly up

No trip to Jackson is complete without straddling a saddle at the Million Dollar Cowboy Bar where you can swing to live western music. And don’t miss the historic display of chaps that add vampin’ to cowboy ridin’ and roping’. 

Million Dollar Cowboy Bar, on Jackson Square, 307-733-2207

Old Jackson

Homesteader Charles Wort had a dream of building a luxury hotel in Jackson that he accomplished in 1941. Seventy-three years later, the Wort Hotel’s dining experience is reaching new heights. Still, the Silver Dollar Bar remains the Wort’s glory—with 2,032 silver dollars inlaid into the curving bar itself.

Silver Dollar Bar, The Wort Hotel, 50 N. Glenwood St., Jackson, 800-322-2727

STAY & RELAX

Organic Comfort

The LEED-Silver certified Hotel Terra offers understated rooms that appeal to a European resort sensibility, a perfect base camp for days spent in the wilds. Grab a quick, but hearty breakfast at Terra Cafe that extends the simplicity of the hotel to its organic, healthy and hearty fast food. 

Hotel Terra, Teton Village, 307-739-4000

Throttle back

When the going gets tough, even the hard bodies finish the day at a luxurious spa. Jackson Hole offers some of the best, including the Teton Resort’s Solitude Spa, where you can get a mani-pedi or iron out the kinks with the Herbal Poultice Ritual. Or check out the organic Chill Spa at Hotel Terra.

Solitude Spa, Teton Lodge, 307-732-6865

Back>>>Read other stories in our March/April 2014 issue.