My Skiing Travel Guide To Grand Targhee, Wyoming (With Pictures)
Grand Targhee is one of the last down-home ski resorts in the U.S. The resort was founded by East Idahoans in 1966, one year after neighboring Jackson Hole Mountain Resort (JHMR), and has been independently owned and operated since then.
Truthfully, there has never been a better time to go; with the opening of the brand new Colter lift, there’s a whole new side of the mountain to explore. In this guide, we’re going explore the resort and all of the reasons why you might want to pass on larger, glitzier resorts in favor of this local gem.
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Where is Grand Targhee In Wyoming?
Grand Targhee is located on the western side of the Teton Range in Northwestern Wyoming just over the border from Idaho. The closest town to the resort is Driggs, Idaho, and you don’t cross into Wyoming until you hit the access road to the resort. The resort is technically located in the town of Alta, Wyoming, but there isn’t much outside of the ski area.
The resort is about 40 minutes from the backcountry access on Teton Pass and an hour away from the world-class Jackson Hole Mountain Resort.
How Long Is The Ski Season?
The ski season at Targhee is long. The resort opening date varies with the timing of snowfall. Generally, they open in mid-November and close in mid-April.
What Type Of Resort Is Grand Targhee?
Grand Targhee is a mid-sized ski resort that boasts some impressive mountain statistics. There are six ski lifts, 93 marked trails, and 2,602 acres of skiable terrain. Needless to say, there’s plenty of room for everybody around here.
With the addition of the Colter lifts in the 2022-23 season, Targhee has a capacity of 11,900 skiers per hour. Lift lines are not really a thing here unless it’s a major holiday, like Christmas, New Year's, President’s Day, or MLK weekend.
Key Takeaway: Though Targhee has quite a bit of skiable terrain - more than JHMR - the base area is very small and there are few amenities. Don’t come to Targhee expecting a luxe, international-style resort.
The ‘Ghee is a family-style resort through and through. There are not many restaurants, bars, or stores. There is little to no shopping either at the resort or in the nearest town of Driggs. Locals like it that way, and so do the tourists who come here.
Luckily, Targhee still has great infrastructure in all the best ways. While some small family resorts are frustrating with their antiquated lifts and delayed openings, Targhee is an efficient machine.
The lifts are mostly high-speed, and the ski patrol quickly gets terrain open, even on the deepest powder days (and they happen fairly often). They have a great staff and the terrain is pretty easy to control because it’s not that steep.
Targhee is also one of the last resorts in the country that will let you stay in your RV in the parking lot (for a reasonable $25 fee). It’s a great way to stay on the mountain and save money - the lodging here is not the most expensive by any means, but it's still going to run you hundreds of dollars a night.
What Are The Ski Runs Like?
The skiing here really has its own character. Targhee is renowned for its intermediate-friendly off-piste skiing. The mountain is spread out over several peaks and the terrain is comprised mostly of wide open bowls and naturally spaced trees.
There’s nothing on that mountain that is too steep. 70% of the mountain is intermediate terrain. There are plenty of wide groomers that roll forever, and the green slope Teton Vista takes you top to bottom over 2.7 miles.
Even if you only ski groomers, Targhee could keep you entertained for a while, especially if the weather is nice. It probably has the best groomers in the Tetons - although JHMR and Snow King don’t offer particularly stiff competition in this category.
Where Targhee really shines is off-piste skiing. There is a lot of fall-line, open-bowl skiing on the upper mountain, while the lower mountain consists of naturally well-spaced trees. This is a uniquely ‘Teton” feature. The forests here grow with tree skiing in mind!
While there are no real steeps, there is a nice consistent pitch at Targhee. The mountain is spread out over three peaks - Fred’s Mountain, Mary’s Nipple, and Peaked Mountain.
Grand Targhee comes with a requisite warning to watch out for tree wells. Many people who ski here have never been exposed to the threat of tree wells before, but they are probably the most objective hazard on the mountain for skiers skiing off-piste at Grand Targhee.
Key Takeaway: Tree wells form when large amounts of snow accumulate around large evergreen trees. The evergreens catch the snow in the immediate vicinity around the tree. This creates a large ‘well’ - think ‘hole’ - under the tree. Skiers lose their balance and fall head-first into these wells.
Once you’re in this position, it’s very difficult to right yourself without the help of a partner. It sounds dumb, but every year skiers die from suffocation in tree wells. It's a slow, awful way to go, and many times they aren’t discovered for days later. These skiers are often expert-level - in fact, this happens more to experienced skiers than novices.
Tree wells only form in areas with very deep snowpacks, like the Pacific Northwest. Do yourself a favor and ski with a partner. Keep tabs on one another, and try not to ski too close to the trees. Check out this page to learn more about tree wells.
Fred’s Mountain tops out at 9,862 feet and offers 2,270 ft of vertical drop down to the base area. This is the ‘main’ frontside peak of the ski area, and it towers over you in the base area. The Dreamcatcher high-speed quad brings you up to the top in just a few minutes.
The terrain here is mostly intermediate off-piste slopes that seem to go on forever. The top of the mountain consists of open bowls the size of football fields, interspersed with small sections of trees. The trees up here become so caked with snow and rime ice that they become like icicles: ‘snow ghosts,’ as they are known to the locals.
This part of the mountain is friendly to intermediates on a sunny day. However, when visibility is low, it can be hard to navigate the upper slopes where there are no trees to provide contrast. The lower portion has more tree cover and it’s easier to see. Stick to the Sacajawea lift if the weather is nasty.
Fred’s Mountain is also served by the Blackfoot chair. Once you exit left from the chair, you can follow the Blackfoot traverse and drop to the left wherever you see fit - the farther you go, the fewer tracks there are. The terrain is open but with a few more trees than Dreamcatcher. Or you can go right and hit Chief Joseph Bowl.
Mary’s Nipple is a small hike to accessible from near the top of Dreamcatcher. It’s about 200 vertical feet of hiking and opens up to a fun shot back to the Teton Vista Trail.
Peaked Mountain used to be accessed as a hike-to area that was open after the Cat-skiing operation had already tracked the place out. No longer. New for 2022-23 is the Colter lift, a high-speed six-pack chair that will zip skiers up to the summit in just a few minutes.
From the summit, it’s all powder shots through the trees and open faces until you hit the traverse back to the lift. This is a huge upgrade for the mountain, and there’s no better time to come to Targhee than the present.
What Is The Snow Quality Like?
With over 500 inches of snowfall annually, the ‘Ghee is one of the snowiest resorts in North America. They receive more snowfall than resorts like Whistler, Palisades Tahoe, and even neighboring Jackson Hole Mountain Resort. It’s hard to overstate the number of powder days in the average season.
The snow at Grand Targhee is generally high quality due to the resort’s high altitude and north-westerly aspect. With such a large amount of snow, there is a high likelihood that you will experience snow during your trip.
Oftentimes, Targhee can receive extremely light snow from a moist northwesterly flow. This weather pattern can bring cold, Canadian air while tapping pacific moisture.
This cold air rises as it hits Targhee and the Tetons Range and moisture condenses into snowfall. The ‘Ghee is in an ideal geographical location to benefit from this type of weather pattern. Every year, there are a couple of absolutely legendary days when the powder is waist-deep and light as a feather.
Neighboring Jackson Hole, being on the Eastern side of the Tetons, receives less snow. The east and southerly aspects can also degrade the quality of the snow once the sun comes out. At Targhee, even when it hasn’t snowed for a while, the powder stays fresh due to the northerly aspect.
JHMR gets more sun because it’s in the rain shadow of the Teton Range. As storms pass over the mountains, precipitation is ‘squeezed’ out as air rises and moisture condenses. As the air flows downslope again, the air warms, and clouds dissipate in a process called sublimation.
There are few lift-access resorts where you are as likely to experience good powder snow conditions as Grand Targhee.
What Is The Weather Like?
The ‘Ghee is renowned for its gnarly weather. I’m not going to sugarcoat it; when you get 41 feet (12.5 meters) of snow a year, there will also be a lot of clouds.
In addition to incredible amounts of snowfall, the weather at Targhee is characterized by a lot of fog and whiteout conditions. It’s even been nicknamed Grand Fogghee.
Nevertheless, Targhee is surrounded by dry grassland and desert so when the storms pass, bluebird skies will reign. The resort regularly experiences that phenomenal combination of bluebird skies, low humidity, and crisp air that provide the ingredients for a perfect powder day.
If it’s very stormy, JHMR can be a better option for the day. This is especially true for folks with the Ikon or Mountain Collective passes who are planning on visiting both resorts at the same time.
Grand Targhee has fewer trees than JHMR and it tends to be foggier. Targhee is on the west side of the Tetons and gets the upslope cloud cover from storms essentially crashing into the mountains from the Snake River Valley.
These factors can create some serious visibility issues on stormy days. I consider myself an experienced storm skier and I had a hard time skiing this mountain in a whiteout. Many of the slopes look the same and there is often no trees around you to provide any depth perception.
I got vertigo and fell over on my butt several times on stormy days here. I’ve also had storm days with decent visibility.
Storm days at JHMR are reliably great. Not only can I see better, but there are fewer crowds than usual. However, bluebird powder days are insufferable because the lines are so long and everything gets skied out so fast.
The moral of the story is that when it's really snowing and blowing, JHMR shines. But then when the sun comes out, there is nowhere like Targhee. You will get more fresh tracks and spend less time waiting in line.
If you are thinking about making the trek, be warned that Teton Pass can be treacherous, even with a four-wheel drive. Then again, so will the access road to Grand Targhee.
How Busy Is The Resort?
Grand Targhee is famous for its lack of crowds. You would think that these two things would eventually cancel each other out, but that hasn’t been the case at Targhee.
So why is Targhee so empty? There are several reasons. First of all, Targhee is overshadowed by the reputation of Jackson Hole Mountain Resort. Both the Town of Jackson and Teton Village at the base of the resort is packed with big hotels and lodging for tourists.
At Targhee, you have two main options for lodging: the town of Driggs, or the resort. Driggs is a tiny town compared to Jackson and the village at the base of Targhee is no more than a few lodges and restaurants. There are simply not enough beds for big crowds.
Second of all, the expert terrain at Jackson Hole has a fearsome reputation that draws skiers from all over the world. As the home of Teton Gravity Research and countless pro skiers, everybody wants to experience JHMR.
However, much of the legendary terrain at JHMR is not accessible to the average resort skier spending a week or two per year on the slopes. Targhee’s bowls and tree skiing are the perfect pitch to challenge and thrill intermediate and advanced resort skiers.
Still, the best skiers in the world will have a great day at Targhee if the conditions are good.
The third reason is the fog. If it’s not snowing, the visibility can often be better at JHMR and they definitely receive more bluebird days in any given season.
Ski Schools And Ski Lessons?
Grand Targhee has a Ski School and lesson options for just about everybody. The school currently offers lessons for all ability levels (beginner to advanced) and all ages (3 and up). Moreover, they offer not just alpine skiing and snowboarding instruction, but telemark and nordic skiing as well.
Adult group lessons start at $169 for a half day and $725 for a full-day private. Kids (5-12 years old) can do a full-day group lesson for just $189. There are many different options and the prices vary quite a bit depending on the product, but you can get the exact breakdown here.
How Much To Rent Ski Equipment?
Ski Rentals at Targhee are especially affordable. The resort has a full-service rental shop at the base of the mountain and they don’t try and gouge you. The most expensive option - the full-day high-performance ski kit - is only $68 ($75 on holidays). This comes with boots, a helmet, and poles as well as skis.
Kids can rent for only $29 a day. You can rent boots, poles, and helmets individually. Half-day options are also available. Check out the full breakdown and make reservations for ski rentals here.
How Much Is A Ski Pass?
A single-day ski pass for an adult is $120 on regular days, and $135 on holidays.
If you plan on staying a while, there are other options for passes as well. The season pass at Targhee is only $899 if you purchase it in the spring before the coming year - however, the price goes up if you wait.
Grand Targhee is also part of both the Ikon and Mountain Collective multi-resort passes. These are great options for folks looking to hit up the ‘Ghee in addition to other resorts. Just using the days at Targhee wouldn’t make these passes worth it, but they can offer incredible value if you use the other resort days as well.
What Are The Accommodation Options?
The resort offers four different lodges for ski-in ski-out accommodation in the base village: The Teewinot Lodge, the Sioux Lodge, the Targhee Lodge, and the Tower Suite. Compared to other slopeside accommodations, the prices are fairly reasonable. I haven’t stayed here, but I did some research and there are condos (two bedrooms) available for between $500 and $1000, depending on the size and your specific dates.
Your humble author stayed in his RV in the parking lot. They offer this wonderful service for only $25 a night. It’s a great way to avoid getting up the access road in the morning, especially if you are here chasing a storm!
There are also plenty of options along the access road and in Driggs. The access road has everything from the five-star Teton Teepee Lodge to the one-star Teton Hostel Hideaway. Driggs is a great place to find discount motels and be situated close to the best dining and drinking.
You can even stay in Victor and still take the shuttle up to the resort every day. Victor is closer to Teton Pass and JHMR - many people are looking to hit both resorts on their trip.
What Are The Dining Options?
Considering how rural Grand Targhee is, there are many good options for food, especially in the town of Driggs.
The resort itself doesn’t have too much going on. The Trap is mostly an apres ski bar and doesn’t have great food. The Branding Iron is a standard resort-type bistro with inflated prices for what you get. If you’re staying at the mountain the convenience is obviously worth it.
To really have a great meal after skiing, get down to Driggs. Forage, a cozy upscale bistro specializing in farm-to-table sourcing of ingredients, was once rated as the best restaurant in Idaho. That’s an impressive feat when you see how small of a town Driggs is.
The Hanleys, the same family who started Forage, have opened up a new gastropub/brewery called Citizen 33. It’s not only a great place to eat but also to grab some beers after skiing.
Capt. Ron’s Smokehouse is a small BBQ stand in Drigg’s that serves up some of the best BBQ you’ve ever had, right here at the base of the Tetons. You can’t eat indoors, but this is a must-try place if you’re in the area, and it’s very affordable.
For ethnic offerings, Driggs also doesn’t fail to disappoint. There are two Thai places, Bangkok Kitchen and Teton Thai. Agave is the spot for Latin food, and Tatanka Tavern serves great pizza.
What To Do Off The Slopes?
There isn’t too much to do off the slopes at Grand Targhee, even compared to other remote ski areas. The resort offers a nordic track for those looking to skate ski.
There is the Teton Valley Museum in Driggs. These folks offer a comprehensive history of the Teton Valley and its previous inhabitants. If you’re like me, you want to truly get to know a place when you visit and I think this museum is a great place to start.
There is also plenty of snowmobiling in Teton Valley and outfitters to get you started. Don’t count it as a rest day, though. Snowmobiling in deep powder can be more exhausting than skiing (literally, too).
Apres Ski Scene?
There are slim pickings for Apres Ski at the ‘Ghee. However, that doesn’t mean that it’s bad. The Trap Bar and Grille is a lively joint that really lights up after a good powder day on the mountain. Often there is great music, and the flows for longer than you will be able to continue standing.
If you’re staying down at the access road near Alta, or in Driggs or Victor, the best scene is going to be in Driggs. Plus, the food at The Trap isn’t good, even when you’re ravenously hungry after a day of skiing. It’s disappointing but I forgive them because it’s a cool place otherwise. Luckily, there is excellent food at reasonable prices down in Driggs.
Moreover, I hope we can all agree that the best apres ski results are when all that drink is paired with some wholesome food - not just the fried stuff.
The Citizen 33 Brewery serves up dozens of in-house craft beers and a surprisingly good gastropub menu. Tatanka Tavern has a great selection of craft beers as well as Neopolitan pizzas - little artisanal-style pies that are delicious. Both these places have a good apres vibe but also great food at the ready.
How Do I Get There?
Targhee is pretty central as far as the Western U.S. goes, so you’re probably within a day’s drive unless you live in Phoenix or Los Angeles/SoCal. Driving could be an option because flight delays around here are very real. Then again, so are bad road conditions.
The worst whiteout I ever saw was heading up I-15 toward Montana, just West of Targhee. The Snake River Plain is flat and attracts a lot of wind. The blowing snow had reduced visibility to zero, even though there had been only two inches of snow on the ground.
For most people, the best way to get to Targhee is to fly into either Jackson Hole or Salt Lake City.
Pro Tip: To find cheap flights to ski resorts, we use Skyscanner, which searches all airlines in one go.
Jackson Hole (JAC) airport is one of the best ski airports out there. It’s a small airport, but they have an established flight schedule with non-stop options from 13 cities throughout the United States. Then, you’re only 30 minutes from JHMR and one hour from Grand Targhee. Plus, you don’t need a car - here is a list of transportation options to get from the airport to your lodging.
Salt Lake City (SLC) is another decent option. The flights here will be cheaper than JAC and there are more of them so they’ll be less likely to get booked out. They will also be less likely to get canceled because the weather in SLC is less extreme than in Jackson Hole.
However, if you fly into SLC, you’ll need to rent a car and drive 4.5 hours to Targhee, which creates the set of issues that we discussed earlier. This stretch of highway is where I encountered the dangerous blizzard on the Snake River Plain.
How Much Is Parking?
Grand Targhee offers both free and paid parking. Currently, they are only charging for parking during weekends and holidays.
During weekends and holidays, only a section of Lot 1 is paid, and the remainder of Lot 1 plus Lots 2,3, and 4 are free. The farthest spaces are not more than a 10-minute walk.
Even with four big lots, the parking can fill up on the busiest days. Targhee keeps a live overview of available parking on its website.
If parking is full, it is still possible to ski at the resort. Targhee encourages patrons to make use of the free shuttle bus from Teton Valley. The bus runs frequently and the full schedule is available here.
What’s The Transport Situation In Grand Targhee?
There are two main options for transportation in Grand Targhee. The first is the free shuttle, a great, reliable service that is very convenient and makes it easy to vacation here without a car. Whether you are staying at the resort, on the access road, in Driggs, or even in Victor, the Teton Valley Shuttle will get you to and fro without a hitch.
The bus makes regular trips throughout the valley and they drop you off right at the village and the bottom of the Dreamcatcher chairlift. Depending on the crowds that day, this could save you a five or ten-minute walk from the outer parking lots.
The other option is to drive. This is also a good option, but there is a caveat. The access road to Targhee can get really bad during storms.
After all, the base area is nearly 8,000 feet - that’s mid-mountain at JHMR. They keep the plows working hard but when it is dumping there’s not much that can be done to keep snow from piling up on the road.
I highly recommend snow tires chains, and 4-wheel drive if you are planning to make this journey. If you are here during a storm, I can guarantee you will see cars off the road. There can be stuck vehicles on the road as well, and traffic jams are not uncommon during powder days. This is one advantage of staying at the resort instead of in Driggs.
I have even seen the Teton Valley Shuttle get stuck! However, once they ran a plow up the road they were able to get that heavy goose back on track in no time.
Does Grand Targhee Have Webcams?
Grand Targhee has several excellent live webcams. They also have a snow stake called ‘The Stick of Truth.’ If you want to see how much snow has stacked up throughout the day, check out the snow stake.