Driving slowly down the icy and winding two-lane Teton Pass, you cross into the easternmost edge of Idaho, leaving the hubbub of Jackson Hole behind. The same low winter sun sparkles across many feet of snow and the same crisp mountain air filters through your car, and yet somehow the energy is different.
Fewer people mill through any given street and the cadence of life here feels just a little bit more relaxed. Teton Valley, as picturesque as any wintertime playground, is a lesser-known gem among such giants as Jackson, Aspen, Tahoe, etc., and yet it has all the same backcountry access, snowfall, and winter adventure; the only difference is the view. We promise the backside of the Tetons is just as stunning as the front.
Teton Valley is comprised of small mountain towns such as Victor, Driggs and Tetonia, as well as Alta, Wyoming, and has nearly endless opportunities for exploring the backcountry in the winter. You don’t have to be the next ski movie star to take advantage of the thousands of feet of backcountry skiing, miles of fat biking trails, or countless snowmobiling options. Between Jackson Hole Mountain Resort and Grand Targhee Resort, front-country enthusiasts can find all the groomed, in-bounds powder they could possibly dream of. But what if you’re looking for something a little less trafficked?
If backcountry skiing is your goal, Teton Pass offers options galore from top to bottom. Need a quick pre- or post-work venture? The top of the pass serves as the locals’ bread and butter, with a boot-packed approach and glorious, mostly low-consequence blower powder turns on the way down. Driving down the pass towards Victor, Idaho, you will meander through a massive playground where skiers can enjoy hundreds of inches of snow each winter. Grand Targhee Resort also offers cat skiing for those skiers and boarders who fall somewhere in the middle of lift life and hike to ski. Going even beyond that, High Mountain Heli Skiing can help the most adventurous access even farther reaches of eastern Idaho powder.
For some of us, having a motor propelling us up massive mountains is much preferred, and if you fall on this spectrum then perhaps snowmobiling is your ticket to the backcountry. Teton Valley’s countless canyons extend high into the Tetons and essentially create the optimal snowmobile adventure zone. Zoom up to Mesa Falls for some incredible views of massive winter waterfalls, the Big Hole Mountains for any level rider, and countless other tours throughout Targhee National Forest.
Maybe “vert” isn’t a term you’re familiar with and “adrenaline” sounds more like a medicine than a feeling construed as fun. Slower-paced, mellow winter adventure allows the brain time to catch up to the body. It provides time to enjoy and revel in the beauty that will inevitably surround you in the western Tetons. In this case, perhaps cross-country skiing is more your speed. Teton Valley Trails and Pathways maintains over 25 miles of groomed Nordic ski trails throughout the valley, including Teton Canyon, Fox Creek, Darby Canyon, groomed trails at Grand Targhee Resort, Sherman Park, Teton Reserve, and the Driggs Nordic Trail. Many of the aforementioned areas also offer stellar snowshoeing opportunities for those who prefer to keep their feet slide-free or even fat-biking trails if you’re up for something totally new.
If you aren’t a passionate downhill skier or boarder, or even if you are, Teton Valley offers endless opportunities for backcountry exploration beyond the confines of any of the local ski resorts. Whether you prefer to be guided through the winding snowmobiling trails of Island Park or take a stab at navigating your own canyon adventure by snowshoe, do as the locals do and “know before you go.” Many of the local ski and bike shops can help point you in the right direction if the backcountry feels like an enticing yet unattainable shining crown to top off your Teton vacation.