Slick new lodging, buzzy après and plenty of powder are very good reasons to buckle your boots
Words by NANDITA KHANNA
The upside the ski season is off to a strong start with mountains across the West blanketed in some serious snowfall. In fact, our neighbor to the north, Mammoth Mountain has already logged an impressive 126 inches this season. And while everyone will tell you their local mountain is best, we’ve put together three of our personal favorites, each one unique in its own way, full of local charm, but best yet, an easy two-and-a-half-hour (or shorter) flight from L.A. or S.F.
JACKSON HOLE, WYOMING
Where to Stay
Smack dab in the center of Town Square, the 50-room Anvil Hotel is housed in a former 100-year-old blacksmith’s shop. Design-wise, the Brooklyn-based Studio Tack bets heavily on cozy, mountain-hideaway vibes with custom Woolrich blankets and furnishings by Tretiak Works.
Downstairs, for those looking for something a little more no-frills, the Cache House is the hotel’s latest lodging concept geared toward a younger traveler. There are bunks (twin, full and queen, each outfitted with noise-canceling curtains), plus gadgets for charging iPhones. A convivial common space includes vinyl and board games.
A bit farther afield, the Amangani is in a world all its own. Perched on a butte overlooking the Snake River, the property maintains its trademark Zen but with a rustic bent. Each of the suites is equipped with cavernous soaking tubs, a fireplace and floor-to-ceiling windows. Not to be missed: the postcard-worthy infinity swimming pool warmed to a balmy 80 degrees, and particularly epic at night when tiny stars blanket the Teton peaks.
For those who want a bit of luxury coupled with quick and easy access to the slopes, the Four Seasons Resort & Residences in Teton Village is a no-brainer. At 158 rooms strong, the hotel has all the luxury trappings you’d expect: a ski concierge to warm your boots, three bars/restaurants, a pool that’s heated year-round and killer views of Rendezvous Mountain. The spa is reason enough to visit, particularly after a day on the mountain. One of the most popular treatments, aptly named the Après Ski Ritual, uses arnica flowers handpicked in Wyoming, and is a welcome cure for well-earned achy ski legs.
Also at the base of the mountain, Hotel Terra is an eco-friendly option that doesn’t sacrifice on style or comfort. The LEED-certified ski-in/ski-out property is modern in its design; the 132 guest rooms are outfitted with dark wood furnishings and a gas fireplace, and the ultra-comfy beds are fitted with an organic mattress and Coyuchi sheets, making it awfully tempting to hit snooze when your alarm goes off.
New-kid-on-the-block Continuum is geared toward a younger crowd. The property was designed in conjunction with brothers and adrenaline junkies Steve and Todd Jones who run Jackson-based media company Teton Gravity Research. Their main motive? To create a space that their friends would want to hang out in. Rooms go for about $350 a night even during busier weekends, making it a great value given its desirable proximity to the slopes. Many of the suites have kitchenettes — perfect for whipping up breakfast before making your way over to the aerial tram — and the lively, two-floor Lobby Bar with floor-to-ceiling windows hosts live music regularly, making it a go-to during après. (The 25-person hot tub doesn’t hurt, either.)
Where to Après
In almost any ski town, the motto is “ski hard, play hard,” and certainly, Jackson is no exception. Come 2:30 p.m., crowds at the slopeside Four Seasons’ Handle Bar spill out onto the patio — it’s one of the cheeriest spots to unwind with a beer and pub fare after a day on the mountain. Adjacent to the tram, newbie RPK3 serves an après menu until 6 p.m. that includes beers on tap and cocktails (margs, bloody marys). Don’t miss the Marmot, a grown-up take on hot chocolate spiked with reposado and topped with whipped cream and a cinnamon stick.
And no visit to Jackson is complete without a stop at Mangy Moose. Locals head upstairs to the second floor, but not before ordering truffle fries, wings and a local brew. There’s live music, too. Back in town, Bin 22 is a wine bar/grocery store and tapas bar that serves up patatas bravas, paella and more at high-end communal tables. If you’re feeling rowdy, end the night at Million Dollar Cowboy, which stays open until 2 a.m. Right off the town square, this place is the stuff of legend — everyone from Willie Nelson to Hank Williams Jr. has played here. It’s full of Western kitsch, but that’s the idea. There are saddles-turned-barstools, Western memorabilia, pool tables and live music six days a week. Skip the $10 cover charge if someone in your group has a Wyoming ID.
Where to Eat
As far as ski towns go, if you’re looking for a good meal, you won’t go hungry. The challenge is whittling it down to a few solid reservations. Start your morning as early as 7:30 a.m. by getting in line for the aerial tram, lovingly dubbed “Big Red.” It’s a 12-minute ride to the top, where you’ll be greeted by Corbet’s Cabin, home to famous waffles that are slathered in peanut butter and topped with bacon. For daytime fare, it doesn’t get much better than Persephone, a beloved bakery housed in a quaint little white house just off the Town Square. Step through the front door and the smell of freshly baked bread and pastries wafts through the air. Breakfast and lunch are served daily, and much of the produce comes directly from local purveyors. Our favorites: the shakshuka served with crusty bread; a decadent bread pudding French toast; and the grown-up grilled cheese served with fig jam, bacon and caramelized onions. And if you’re bunking at the Anvil Hotel, a braised beef cheek pappardelle is just a stone’s throw away.
Glorietta is an Italian trattoria that bets big on the classics: handmade pasta, meatballs and arancini. If more relaxed, souped-up pub fare is what you’re after, local restaurateur Gavin Fine, who moved to Jackson back in 1996, recently opened the Roadhouse Pub & Eatery, a low-key spot on the Town Square with local beers on tap. Wash it down with a kimchi dog, open-faced pastrami sandwich or a classic Roadhouse burger.
Back over in Teton Village, with its white tablecloths and rustic log-cabin interior, Snake River Grill is a classic, and put Jackson Hole fine dining on the map when it first opened 25 years ago. The SRG steak tartare pizza is the thing to order. If you’re craving Thai, head straight to Teton Thai, a family-run operation that’s been around for years, located at the base of the resort. They don’t serve alcohol so if you want, say, beer to go along with your pad thai, pick some up at Fine’s Bodega on your way over.
Jackson resident Tuck Fauntleroy debuts “Elements,” his newest body of work, at Taylor Piggott Gallery from Feb. 7 through March 21. Fauntleroy again leverages the balance between negative and positive space, capturing the seasonal shift from autumn to winter in a visually arresting series of large-scale photographs taken in the Grand Teton and Yellowstone national parks.
Where to Stay
While its neighbor to the east, Park City, and Deer Valley tend to bask in “best of” accolades, this skiers-only resort draws die-hard skiers for its challenging, super-steep terrain and plentiful powder. (Last season saw a staggering 626 inches of snowfall.)
It’s the first full ski season for Snowpine Lodge, which reopened after a two-year closure and $50 million soup-to-nuts renovation. As the first luxury hotel in Little Cottonwood Canyon, the 68-room property lives up to its name — there are the rustic details you’d expect from a cozy mountain lodge: hand-hewn wood furnishings and worn-in club chairs. Some of the larger rooms have soaking tubs and views of the surrounding Wasatch mountains.
Guests have access to complimentary ski lockers equipped with boot warmers, and a ski valet will stash your gear once you’re off the slopes. A tip: They’ve teamed up with Ship Skis, a hassle-free ski transportation service so you can avoid schlepping your gear to and from. To ease your aching ski legs, or simply get acquainted with the altitude, the Stillwell Spa offers a multiday Mountain Bliss Pass, which includes access to the sauna, steam room, heated outdoor pool and steam room, plus yoga classes. There’s also an oxygen bar to help aid in getting recalibrated to the higher altitude.
Where to Après
If Snowpine is your home base, the Gulch Pub crafts particularly potent specialty cocktails. Their après menu is full of classics: wood-fired pizzas, a decadent burger, fish tacos — and they source as many of the ingredients as they can locally. Between Alta and Snowbird resorts, the Peruvian Bar (P Dog) at the Alta Peruvian Lodge is a must. They’re not above shot-skis here and free popcorn is freely flowing. On Sunday nights, even the locals come out for live music. They’re open until 10 p.m.
Inside the Alta Lodge, Sitzmark Club is a European-style bar that’s been around since 1939 when the lodge first opened. Pro skier-turned-bartender Dan Withey will tell you, everyone orders the hot spiced cider (served with either whiskey or rum), and we’re inclined to do as he says. Steps from the Collins and Wildcat lifts, the GMD Saloon at Goldminer’s Daughter Lodge is an excellent spot to people-watch and order $10 pitchers of PBR if that’s your thing. There’s plenty of standard après fare — pizza, nachos and dips.
Where to Eat
In the morning some of the best coffee on the mountain can be found over at local Susie Howard’s Alta Java at Albion Basin. Ski up to the window and order “Susie’s Special,” a chai latte served with two shots of espresso. (All of the other coffee drinks are named for runs at Alta.) There are plenty of homemade pastries, biscotti, freshly made waffles and the famous Dottie’s biscuits served with pepper jelly. So needless to say, you’ve got options.
If you’re looking for a spot midday and you make your way over to the Snowbird side, The Summit at the top of the tram is a safe bet. The views are the main event (you’re 11,000 feet up, after all) but the hearty menu includes rotisserie chicken, roasted tomato soup, chili and plenty of salads if you’re looking for lighter fare.
For dinner, the action centers around the open kitchen at Swen’s inside the Snowpine Lodge. Guests are seated at blond wood, high communal tables, which only adds to the social vibe of the space. There are plenty of greens to start — a Caesar, a Greek, and a wedge salad are all on the menu, and the pizzas will quickly become a go-to, particularly the Ndjua drizzled with hot honey.
Should you venture to Snowbird for the evening, make your way to The Aerie on the 10th floor of the Cliff Lodgefor huge floor-to-ceiling windows and a menu heavy on local, organic ingredients. Chef Ken Ohlinger takes American classics and adds his own twist: for example, a foraged mushroom toast is served with a housemade Boursin on seven-grain toast, while sauteed shrimp and grits come with housemade chorizo.
The AltaSnowbird ticket allows skiers to go between both Snowbird and Alta Ski resorts — which total 4,700 acres of skiable terrain — and Snowbird’s iconic tram. If you’re up for it, traverse out on the High-T off the Collins lift to ski No Name, Jitterbug or Alf’s High Rustler.
SUN VALLEY, IDAHO
Where to Stay
In the last few years, Sun Valley’s crown jewel, the eponymous Sun Valley Lodge underwent a pretty significant revamp — the lobby’s footprint expanded and floor-to-ceiling windows were added along the back of the hotel. The original 1936 facade remains, as does much of the Old World charm. The guest room count now holds strong at 108, and updates include a fireplace, soaking tub and even a separate ski closet to stash your gear. One thing remains unchanged, however: the hundreds of black-and-white images of notable guests, such as Ingrid Bergman, Ernest Hemingway and Marilyn Monroe, which line the walls.
As far as spas go, this one is downright heavenly. In addition to offering the usual run of massages and facials, they’ll also do cupping, reiki and an Infrared body wrap for those whose wellness interests skew more goop-y. The lodge pool is a must: it’s heated to a steamy 100 degrees in the winter and offers jaw-dropping views of Baldy Mountain in the distance.
Hotel accommodations were somewhat limited in Ketchum until the Limelight arrived back in 2016. (They have two other locations in Aspen and Snowmass). Perched on a bustling corner of Main Street, the 99 rooms are welcomingly modern, with warm blond wood accents and fully equipped kitchenettes — making it a great option if you’re traveling with a group.
Down the street and across from Sawtooth Brewery, Hotel Ketchum was designed for the kind of camaraderie that comes with a long day spent on the slopes. There’s an oversized hot tub, year-round heated swimming pool and a convivial lobby bar fittingly called the Hangout, where Idaho brews flow freely. On Wednesdays, they host a Trivia Night from 7 to 9 p.m. that’s a hit even with locals.
Where to Après
Grumpy’s is everything a dive bar in a ski town should be. Beer cans and Idaho license plates cover the walls; and the menu, written on a chalkboard, consists of a couple of variations on a burger (quarter-pound, half-pound, and a garden burger), hot wings, chili dogs — you get the picture. Naturally, beer is served in a fishbowl-sized schooner. Over at Warfield’s, elevated pub fare equates to mushroom poutine and buttermilk fried chicken served with local craft beer. It’s worth noting, too, these guys distill their own whiskey and vodka, which is to say the cocktails are pretty potent.
With its dark-green-painted roof, it’s hard to miss Lefty’s, a local’s spot in town if ever there was one. People come here for the beers on tap, sure, but if you’ve heard the term Monkey Fries, well then, you already know that these fries are a must-order — perfectly crispy potato discs served with heaps of mayonnaise mixed with ketchup. Happy hour runs until 5:30 p.m. at Sawtooth Brewery, which should be more than enough time to choose from the 25-plus beers on tap — with names like Mountain Time Golden Ale and Last Chair Stout — to wash down the requisite loaded nachos, bison sliders and wings.
Where to Eat
In a town where breakfast equals fuel for first tracks, The Kneadery is one of the best. It’s been around since 1974, which means they’ve perfected both the cinnamon French toast and the Kneadery Benedict, for which they’re best known. Inside a charming salmon-colored house off East Second Street, Cristina’s is beloved for its sweets, specifically the morning coffee cake and cinnamon rolls.
For dinner, it just so happens that husband-and-wife duo Scott and Anne Mason run two of the most consistently reliable spots in town: Ketchum Grill and Enoteca. Ketchum Grill is chock-full of nostalgic touches — kitschy ski decor, old photographs of John Wayne, even a kayak mounted to the wall. There’s always a long list of specials, but the truth is that everything on the menu is satisfying. Wood-fired pizzas are the specialty of the house over at Enoteca, so it would be best to order a couple for the table. The Mercantile pizza, made with lamb sausage, red bell peppers and smoky mozzarella, packs just the right amount of flavor. Save room for honey and lavender panna cotta for dessert if you’ve got a sweet tooth.
If your winter gear is in need of a refresh, make sure you swing by the AETHERstream, which is posting up in Hotel Ketchum’s courtyard. Inside you’ll find a tight edit of sleek, ultra-warm and functional puffers, ski bibs and knits in wearable hues like hunter green, oxblood and black for men and women. They’ll be there for select dates throughout the season, including President’s Day weekend, Feb. 13-17.
Feature image: Photo by Joel Holland/Unsplash.
Feb. 13, 2020
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