On the west side of the Tetons 42 miles from Jackson , Grand Targhee Ski Resort (in Alta, 307/353-2300 or 800/827-4433, www.grandtarghee.com ) offers the friendliness of a small resort with the amenities and snow you’d expect at a major one. To get here you’ll need to drive into Idaho and turn east at Driggs . The resort sits at the end of a beautiful road 12 miles east of Driggs and just six miles inside Wyoming.
Its motto says it all: “Snow from heaven, not from hoses.” With an annual snowfall topping 500 inches (42 feet!)—most of which is champagne powder—Targhee became the spot where powderhounds got all they could ever want. Ski magazines consistently rank it as having North America’s best (or second-best) snow.
In fact, the resort guarantees its snow: If you find conditions not to your liking, you can turn in your ticket within an hour of purchase and get a “snow check” good for another day of skiing.
By the way, the official name is Grand Targhee Ski and Summer Resort, but most folks call it Grand Targhee, or simply Targhee.
The biggest drawback to Grand Targhee Ski Resort is the same thing that makes it so great—the weather. Lots of snow means lots of clouds and storms, and because it snows so much there are many days when the name cynics apply—“Grand Foghee”—seems more appropriate.
Many folks who have returned to Targhee year after year have still not seen the magnificent Grand Teton backdrop behind the ski area! Be sure to bring your goggles. The quad lift up Peaked Mountain provides intermediate skiing on slopes that are more protected and suffer less wind and fog.
The resort has two quads, one double chairlift, and a surface lift on Fred’s Mountain, plus a quad on adjacent Peaked Mountain. The top elevation is 10,230 feet, with the longest run dropping 2,822 feet over almost three miles. About 750 acres are groomed, but you’ll always find track-free skiing on the remaining 2,250 acres of ungroomed powder, so bring your snorkel. In addition, snowcat skiing ($349 per day including lunch) is offered on a 1,000-acre section of Peaked Mountain reserved for powderhounds.
Lift tickets at Grand Targhee cost $69 per day ($49 half-day) for adults and $29 per day for children ages 6-14 and seniors (free under age six). Substantial discounts are offered for multi-day lift tickets or lodging-and-ski packages.
Fully 70 percent of Targhee’s groomed runs are intermediate to advanced-intermediate, but advanced skiers will find an extraordinary number of deep-powder faces to explore. The ski school offers lessons for all abilities, and children’s programs make it possible for parents to leave their kids behind. Cross-country skiers enjoy the Nordic center, and ski and snowboard rentals are available at the base of the mountain. The ski area usually opens in mid-November and closes in mid-April, although some years you may be able to ski even into July. Lifts operate daily 9 a.m.-4 p.m.
Teton Ice Park (307/690-1385 or 888/864-8029, www.tetonice.com ) is a 40-foot ice waterfall where you can learn climbing techniques. Half-day guided climbs (with all gear) are $225 for one person or $300 for two.
Excellent guided snowshoe wildlife tours (free if you have snowshoes, $10 to rent them) will appeal to amateur naturalists, and on the sleigh-ride dinner ($40 adults, $15 kids), you’ll ride in a horse-drawn sleigh to a yurt where a Western-style meal is served. Targhee’s tubing park (opens at 5 p.m.; $10) is a fun place for kids to slide down a snowy hill. A Kid’s Club at Targhee provides supervised child care for children under six, and teens can join special programs that include skiing and other fun on the mountain.
Not far from Grand Targhee are several popular summertime hiking trails within the Jedediah Smith Wilderness.
The resort is a popular place to relax in the summer and offers many activities. A quad chairlift ($15 adults, $6 kids) takes you up the 10,200-foot summit of Fred’s Mountain for strikingly close views of the Tetons. The lift operates daily late June-mid-September. A Forest Service naturalist leads guided walks twice daily.
Horseback rides and lessons are a favorite Targhee summertime activity; one-hour rides are $39. The area is also a fun mountain-biking destination, with bike rentals; you can also take them up the chairlift ($20). The big climbing wall ($10 for an introductory climb) is open to all abilities and is a good place to learn some basic—or advanced—moves. Other summer activities and facilities at Targhee include basketball courts, an outdoor swimming pool and hot tubs, a fitness center, horseshoes, tennis, disc golf, archery, and volleyball. The nine-hole Targhee Village Golf Course (208/354-8577 or 307/353-8577, www.targheevillage.com ) is just down the road. After all this excitement, you’ll probably want to relax with a massage, aromatherapy, facial, or steam bath at the on-site spa.
End the year—and start a new one—with Torchlight Parades at Grand Targhee on the evenings of December 25 and 31. Also on New Year’s Eve is a fireworks display over the mountain. Each March, the resort celebrates telemark skiing with the Targhee Tele Fest. Ski races of all sorts take place, and Targhee rocks to great music, an outdoor barbecue, and fun events. Close out winter with mid-April’s Cardboard Box Derby, where participants swoosh down the ski hill on bizarre cardboard creations.
The resort pulls out the stops for two very popular musical events: Targhee Fest in mid-July with a mix of nationally known rock and folk artists—from Michael Franti to Los Lobos—plus Targhee Bluegrass Festival in mid-August. Bring your dancin’ shoes! The music attracts hundreds of people, so call the resort well ahead of time for camping or lodging reservations.
Three lodges at the base of the mountain—Targhee Lodge, Teewinot Lodge, and Sioux Lodge—offer ski-in, ski-out access, a large heated outdoor pool, a hot tub, and a workout room. Rates quoted are for the winter holiday season; they’re approximately 40 percent lower in summer. Contact Targhee (307/353-2300 or 800/827-4433, www.grandtarghee.com ) for details on lodging options at or near the resort. Most lodging places are closed October-mid-November and mid-April-mid-June.
Get standard motel accommodations at Targhee Lodge with holiday winter rates of $179-199 for up to four. Deluxe hotel rooms ($245-270 d) with lodgepole furnishings and access to an indoor hot tub are at Teewinot Lodge. The lobby here is a fine place to relax in front of the fire on winter evenings. Sioux Lodge continues the Western theme with lodgepole furnishings, and it also has kitchenettes, adobe-style fireplaces, and small balconies. Studio units are $289-319 for up to four people, loft units $359-395 for four people, and two-bedroom units run $495-545.
Off-site lodging (approximately 10 miles downhill from Grand Targhee) includes one-, two-, and three-bedroom condominiums and town houses. Nightly holiday-season rates start at $230 d for one-bedroom condos and go up to $485 for three-bedroom town houses. The minimum stay at all Targhee-managed lodging places is two nights most of the year, or five nights during peak winter periods.
You can cut these lodging rates by avoiding the Christmas-New Year’s and Spring Break rush periods. More substantial discounts are available if you ski or snowboard during the value season before mid-December or after late March.
Ski packages are a fine bargain, starting around $188 per day at Targhee Lodge (unavailable Dec. 25-Jan. 1). Packages include lodging and lift tickets for two adults and two kids under age 13, plus two free ski lessons. Summer lodging is surprisingly reasonable, with such options as rafting trips, scenic chairlift, and spa amenities.
At the base of Grand Targhee is a compact cluster of shops. You won’t have to walk far to find a cafeteria, pizza place, sandwich shop, burger joint, and general store. The nicest place is Branding Iron Grill (7:30 a.m.-9 p.m. daily in summer) serving hearty breakfasts and lunches, along with cozy dinners. Grand Targhee’s social center is the Trap Bar (Thurs.-Sat. 11 a.m.-8:30 p.m., Sun. 11 a.m.-5 p.m. in summer) featuring live music all winter (Thurs.-Sat.), sporting events on the flat-screen TVs, and pub grub on the menu all the time. Guests at Targhee can also take a horse-drawn sleigh on a 15-minute ride to a Mongolian-style yurt for a home-cooked steak or chicken dinner. The price is $40 ($15 for kids ages 5-12), and reservations are required. Other shops here sell groceries, ski and snowboard gear, clothing, and gifts.
Grand Targhee is 42 miles northwest of Jackson  on the western side of the Tetons in Alta, Wyoming. Get there by driving over Teton Pass (occasionally closed by winter storms), north through Victor  and Driggs , Idaho, and then east back into Wyoming.
The Targhee Express/Alltrans bus makes daily wintertime trips (90 minutes each way) to Grand Targhee from Jackson Hole . Buses pick up skiers from Jackson and Teton Village hotels shortly after 7 a.m., returning from Targhee at 4:30 p.m. for a round-trip fare of $88, including a full-day lift ticket. Round-trip bus fare without a lift ticket costs $44. Reservations are required; make them before 9 p.m. on the night before by calling 307/733-3135 or 800/443-6133, or book online at www.jacksonholealltrans.com . Van service is also available year-round to airports in Jackson, Salt Lake City, and Idaho Falls.