Jackson Hole, Wyo.: Rank 18 West, 1998


Dedicated Jackson skiers had only one criticism of the new Bridger Gondola: "What took them so long?" Jackson virtually defines the term Challenge. As one reader put it, "No mountain has ever kicked my butt like Jackson." But crowded tram lines and bad weather have always held Jackson's riches hostage. Enter the gondola with its quick access to the Sublette and Thunder chairs, home to the area's best steeps and deeps. In addition to cutting access time in half to the upper chairs, the gondola provides heart-pumping tree skiing under the lift and protection from those famous Jackson winds. "Weather can be nasty," a reader complains. A mountain this steep (It's rated No. 2 in Challenge and No. 3 in Terrain in North America) needs a lot of snow to make it hospitable to non-experts, so Jackson is doubling its snowmaking to guarantee early coverage. Off-piste, downtown Jackson has become tourist central. Though the Mangy Moose (in Teton Village) may be more your style, be sure to head 12 miles downtown and grab a saddle in the Million Dollar Cowboy Bar. Or enjoy fine European dining at Stiegler's or wild game at the Snake River Grill. Yes, it can be "cold as hell" as one reader says, but that's a small price to pay for Wyoming powder. "If you really want to ski, Jackson is the place," one happy reader concludes.

What's New Cody House children's center and ski school; doubled snowmaking capacity; outdoor ice skating rink.
A Good Deal Express Pass ($50) entitles you to discounted lift tickets, pays for itself after six days.
Medals Gold Terrain, Challenge, Off Hill Activities, Scenery; Silver Snow, Value, Dining, Après-Ski.
High/Low Rank Terrain (3); Grooming (70).
Don't Miss The first tram on a powder day.
Reader Remarks "Fantastic skiing. Great town. Some of the most challenging terrain in the world." "Ski hill is not well maintained and somewhat remote. Long lines at the tram."