Editor’s Note: A town with grit

30 May 2023

Jackson Hole has long been a land of intrepid denizens

Summer 2023

Written By: Heather Jarvis, editorial director | Images: Stock

Jackson Hole is truly a mountain town unlike any other. While modern amenities have allowed the area to become an outdoor playground for the masses, remnants of its rugged history can still be seen today. An outlier to the rest of Wyoming, Jackson Hole’s open space and peaks combined with a vibrant culture entices everyone from extreme athletes to celebrities to families — a mix of young, old, liberal, conservative, hippies and suits.

All of this pristine beauty and charm come with a price — as many working-class locals struggle to afford to live where they work. But this area has long been one where only the most determined thrive, as harsh winters and short growing seasons hampered early settlers. While the Homestead Act of 1862 drew those seeking the opportunity of free land, the formidable mountains surrounding the valley on all sides prevented much of a year-round population, as long winters isolated valley residents for six months or more. Those who did settle down endured back-breaking work keeping their ranches afloat, supplementing their income with additional jobs. The women of this time proved to be just as resolute, working the land, jobs and even holding office (page 48). It was only when an increasing number of tourists began traveling through the valley that ranchers began to rely less on cattle and haying operations, naturally progressing to dude ranches and other tourist-focused activities (page 30). The heritage of these early homesteaders are not lost, even as tourism has evolved and the infrastructure of ski resorts has changed the landscape. Game wardens still patrol the wilderness (page 80), and many residents dedicate their lives to protect- ing our open space (page 62). Hunters like Haley Fitzgerald value whole-animal use, wasting nothing (page 60), and instructors like longtime local BJ Reed pass on dance traditions (page 58). Establishments like Jackson Drug & Original Soda Fountain (page 88) and Turpin Meadow Ranch (page 76) have withstood the test of time, remaining in operation for decades. And ranchers still take pride in branding their cattle (page 38), while young athletes like Hailey Hardeman keep the rodeo tradition alive while attending college (page 72). Early settlers forged ahead with determination and grit, passion and soul — traits that are still abundant in those who — today — call Jackson Hole home.
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