We decided to make our annual skip trip trek to the Grand Tetons area of Wyoming, mostly because the snow in Colorado had been increasingly sparse the past several years. Besides which, we had not been in this area previously.
The secondary "nicetie" was that we would not have altitude issues, and that the crowds would be considerably less than Colorado ski areas or Jackson Hole either. Located in the Caribou-Targhee National Forest, the abundance of light powder snow (more than 500 inches annually) and lack of lift lines in the winter made this travel decision easy.
If you have never been to Wyoming or Idaho and you are planning a trip there, or you just want to know more about it, here are some good sources of information;
We flew into the Jackson Hole airport, and the drive from there to our rental house in Idaho gave us an opportunity to check out the area, etc. It is a very scenic ride through the Teton Pass on Wyoming route 22/33 which brings you into Driggs Idaho.
Driggs is a small village (population of less than 2,000) with an altitude of 6,109 above sea level. No industry, however it is a popular destination in the summer for mountain biking and for easy access to Grand Targhee in the wintertime.
I had pre-purchased our lift tickets online, but we had to go to the Grand Targhee Ticket Office and show our identification in order to pickup the tickets. They take your picture for your lift ticket, so that "sharing" is not possible.
The lifts at Grand Targhee (image #2) are not exactly "modern" but they get the job done.
Lift Tickets? Check. Bindings Tight? Check. Children Ready? Check. Seems as though we are ready to ride the lift.
Jeremy and I getting our snowboards strapped on and ready to go up the lift. This might just be the only down-side to snowboarding, you have to get buckled in to ride!
This is the house we rented in Driggs,ID - good size, nice & warm and our rental Suburban fit into the garage. Yeah, it was a 12 mile drive to Grand Targhee, but the drive was spectacular and the house was very nice.
We brought Jeremy's cousin Stephen with us, so having the second floor bedrooms gave everyone their own space and as the master bedroom was on the first floor, we had our own privacy as well.
Get to the lift early, and there is no line, and you go right up the hill. Or did I neglect to mention that the crowds were always kind of small at this resort?
This was our view of the Teton Mountains (Grand Targhee is in the background) every morning as we drove up from Driggs. It was only 12.2 miles up Ski Hill Road from our rental house, but the road brings you out of Idaho and back into Wyoming as it climbs up into the Grand Teton Mountains.
And as the drive from Driggs continues to the ski area, the road gets steeper & steeper. It is only a 12.2 mile drive, but as the last 2/3 of the drive are uphill with a number of curves, it seems much more distant.
The drive back down the mountain, gives everyone a chance to warm up. Steven is smiling because I had a chance to warm up the car while everyone put their gear into the back of the Suburban.
After being on the slopes all day, everyone takes time to warm up! Your fingers and toes get a chance to thaw out, and you get to have your snow clothing and gear de-ice and warm up for tomorrow's run.
Everyone is enjoying the Snocat tour, and by now, it had "warmed up" to zero degrees. Fascinating how good zero degrees felt after we had experienced -27 degrees!
Yellowstone is full of geysers, bubbling hot springs, bubbling mud pools, and everywhere you look is steam rising from ponds or streams.
Like I just said, everywhere you look is steam rising from the ground or the water. The entire Yellowstone area sits atop an ancient caldera referred to as the Yellowstone Supervolcano.
Here we are walking over to the Old Faithful viewing area, waiting for it to put on a show. This area is directly in front of the Yellowstone Park facilities, including; Old Faithful Lodge, Old Faithful Cafeteria and Visitor's Center.
The Geyser is working up to generate the "full blast", so there are frequently some initial smaller displays until the full display starts.
I thought that I better check the Snocat hardware, to make sure it is ready to take us again. For the record, the park does not allow automobiles to traverse the roads in the winter, only these snocats and snow-mobiles are allowed to use the roads.
Not sure whether we are discussing how cool Old Faithful was, or maybe how much warmer it feels at 3 degrees than it did at -27 degrees.
There were a number of Bison herds in Yellowstone, and none of these guys seemed to feel the cold like we did! The bison pretty much wandered where ever they wanted to, including sometimes marching down the center of the road. The snocat driver told us that they were required to pull over and park on the side until the bisons would finish walking by, or the bison would take offence and attempt to put a horn into the snocat!
Chelsea has just won a round of "whole house ping pong". This was the result of the house rental having ping pong equipment, but no ping pong table!
Looking up the hill from the Grand Targhee base area. The "Dreamcatcher lift" is on the left, which is the way you can get to the summit of Fred's Mountain (9,862 feet) - which is a good ride down to the base area. We would suggest that the "Crazy Horse" or "Sitting Bull Ridge" trails are the best routes.
If there wasn't a family ping pong contest, these two could be found here. I am certain that a lot of "Minecraft" got played by these two during the evenings!
The house we rented had a seriously good heating system, which is exactly what we all needed after a full day up on the hill! Also allowed us to walk about in t-shirts and be comfortable until the next morning.
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Grand Targhee's peak elevation is 10,121 feet and the base elevation is 7,851 feet above sea level. This yields a vertical drop of 2,270 feet on 2,602 skiable acres. 4 lifts and 99 trails with an average annual snowfall of 500 inches.
The overall "feel" is that it is much smaller than any of the Colorado ski areas we have frequented over the years. However, the air does not feel as "thin" as you will find at the Colorado Resorts either.
Lift tickets can be acquired at a lower price than Colorado as well, and there are a number of corporate entities that can provide them. Even a "list price" ticket at the resort is less expensive.
Celeste and I both felt that Grand Targhee was good, maybe not "better" than our favorite Colorado Resorts, but enjoyable due to the less crowded lift lines, etc.