by Pam LeBlanc
The mustard-colored International Harvester Scout parked at the front of the lot, a half-eaten cup of chili hastily discarded on its back seat, told me all I needed to know.
Whoever had parked that well-worn vehicle in the main parking lot at the base of Grand Targhee had come to ski, nothing else. And they were wasting no time getting started.
I admired the Scout for a second—I could relate to that driver’s impatience—then changed into my ski boots. I glanced around some more: No posers walking around in expensive fur jackets, no fancy shops crowded with people, no showoffs.
Technically, the ski resort lies in western Wyoming, but you have to drive through Driggs, Idaho, to get there, which is why locals refer to the area as Wydaho. The area straddles the border between the two states, and it’s packed with recreational opportunities.
I spent a few days zipping up and down the slopes of Grand Targhee last March, as part of my mission to get to know Wydaho. If you’re into skiing, snowshoeing, hiking, fat biking, beer drinking, hot tubbing, barbecue eating, music listening, or just curling up in front of a fireplace and relaxing with a book, put it on your list. It’s just over the mountains from glitzy Jackson Hole, but it’s a world away.
During my exploratory trip, the clouds parted every so often, and Grand Teton appeared, as if to put an exclamation point on the glorious surroundings. At 13,775 feet, it’s the highest peak in the Tetons, and it stands out like Mother Nature’s water tower, only way prettier. Whatever you’re doing, you have to stop and gawk.
Ski Grand Targhee
As for Grand Targhee, the 2,602-acre, mostly intermediate ski resort on the western slope of the Tetons gets an average of 500 inches of snow every year. What it doesn’t get are crowds.
My favorite run? A black diamond line called the Headwall, which served up manageable moguls and a nice pitch.
Grand Targhee isn’t known for its tree runs, but I found some patches of aspens that made an excellent playground. The pitch was forgiving but bumped up enough to keep things interesting. Something about slicing through those slender tree trunks, smooth and gray, made me feel like I was inside a black and white photograph.
You can’t go to Grand Targhee without stopping by The Trap bar at the base for a giant plate of nachos (get the ones on corn chips, not on waffle fries—that’s just wrong!) and a cold beer. Those nachos feed at least four people and will set you back a paltry $15 or so. That’s ridiculously cheap by ski resort standards.
Strike up a conversation with the regulars while you’re at it. They call skiers over 80 here Targheezers, and they ski with pride.
And don’t miss the Stick of Truth, an 18-inch measuring stick surrounded by a rotating cast of small figurines. Resort operators train a camera on it, and you can tune into the livestream from your home (or office) to see how much powder has accumulated overnight.
Where to Stay
Nothing compares to soaking in a hot tub after a day on the slopes, especially if you fall hard and crack your tailbone like I did (right below the lift line, on a green slope, no less). Hot water fixes everything, and I soaked off the hurt in bubbling outdoor tub at Teton Valley Resort in Victor, Idaho. Bliss.
The little resort rents places to park your RV, but it also offers lovely little cabins, each with its own fireplace and a full kitchen.
No, they’re not tucked in the woods, and yes, they’re lined up side by side like baby ducks, but they’re new, well maintained and pretty luxurious. Plus, there’s a nice little café called Wanderlust that serves everything from breakfast tacos and chilaquiles in the morning to tortas, street tacos and empanadas for lunch and dinner.
What to Eat
I also ventured over to the Knotty Pine Supper Club in Victor, a famous supper club that has been operating since the 1960s. It gets its name from the big timbers with gnarled humps that you’ll see overhead when you walk in the front door. After a day on the slopes with your friends, consider ordering the Pignic—a pile of pork ribs, pulled pork and brisket so high it feeds four to six people. It comes with mac and cheese, cole slaw and beans, too. Wash it all down with a Knotty Toddy, a warming blend of whiskey, honey, lemon, and hot water.
I made a couple of more stops as I rolled out of Wydaho and headed back to Idaho Falls, and they’re both worth a mention, because while the big resorts get all the press, it’s fun to explore the locals’ hangouts now and then.
A Detour to Kelly Canyon
Kelly Canyon Resort is a 640-acre playground tucked in the Big Hole Mountains that serves as a training ground for local skiers and boarders. It oozes vintage charm. It’s no frills and basic, with a small rental shop, a ski school, a restaurant (try the “goat bites”—tiny fried doughnut bits served with huckleberry butter), and a place to eat your own food, complete with a sign that says, “No coolers, no crockpots, no camping.”
The place opened in 1957, and you’ll park in a dirt lot. What you do get is a nice, old-school vibe and about 1,000 feet of vertical drop between the summit and the base. It added its first triple chair lift in 2022, which makes that trip uphill a lot speedier than the old days.
Another bonus? No crowds and a cheap price tag. A lift ticket at nearby Jackson Hole Mountain resort costs about $200 a day for an adult, without discounts. At Kelly Canyon, a full-day ticket for an adult will set you back about $60 or $70, and it includes night skiing, if you want it.
And when you’re done, zip over to Heise Hot Springs, just down the road, for a post-ski soak. There, you can relax in the 104-degree mineral water and plan your next trip to Wydaho.
Get more information about traveling the Teton Valley at discovertetonvalley.com.