By Brian Niles Explore Big Sky Staff Writer
I’ve always been a sucker for laid back, mom and pop-type ski resorts, and when I first went to Grand Targhee 12 years ago, I remember old Leon Weston, famously known as “Slim,” loading me and a bud on the Blackfoot double chair, sporting a cowboy hat and a smile of gold.
Slim worked for Targhee since its beginning in 1969, was featured in numerous Warren Miller ski films and ski magazines, and won the hearts of Targhee visitors and locals alike. He passed away this past February, but will forever be known as the face of Targhee.
Visiting the resort this winter, I found that the down-home, Western charm Slim embodied is still very much alive there, as is the quality of skiing on its 2,600-plus acres of terrain.
Just outside Driggs, Idaho, Grand Targhee Resort is situated on the western flanks of the Teton Range. The views there are as big as the dumps. Averaging more than 500 inches of cold Teton powder every year, it currently has the largest base depth in the Northern Rockies.
Spread out over three mountain peaks, and five chairs – with no lift lines, mind you – there is something for everyone. From the challenging chutes off the Sacajawea chair, to the corduroy accessed by the high speed Dreamcatcher quad, to the Kids Fun Zone of Shoshone, you can get your hoots and hollers just about anywhere at Targhee.
And after ripping lap after lap on the Blackfoot Traverse all day, there’s no better way to ease your burning legs than to hit one of the three watering holes in the Village Plaza.
On a powder day
Take a little hike over to the Sacajawea chair from the base area. Hit it early and warm up on Bird Woman and Northern Lights, which are perfectly-spaced, gladed tree runs. Feeling adventurous? Take a run down the Toilet Bowl then head back to the base area and the Dreamcatcher quad. From the top, open it up in the Happy Hunting Grounds, then duck into the tighter trees of Nasty Gash. From there, cruise back to Sacajawea or down to Dreamcatcher. Repeat until the beer calls you in at day’s end.
You’ve hit it just right: 14 inches of new snow, 15 degrees, and the skies are blue. One of the hallmarks of Targhee is the Snowcat Adventure on Peaked Mountain. More than 600 acres of steep tree pitches, gladed cruisers and open bowls await groups of 12. The views of the Tetons are breathtaking, and the snow is mind blowing. Full- and half-day adventures are available, as well as lodging packages.
No better way to start the morning then at Snorkel’s Bistro in the base area, serving locally roasted coffee. Grab a breakfast sando, or choose from the variety of baked-from-scratch pastries, as well as a full deli menu at lunchtime. The food is as vibrant as the staff, and if you’re lucky, you’ll get to rock out to some ‘80s classics while you dine.
If you’re looking to wine and dine, the Branding Iron restaurant is the place to be. It’s Targhee’s best-kept secret, offering an upscale atmosphere that is both casual and family friendly. Chef Matt Renshaw’s creations will make your mouth water. A full wine list accompanies an eclectic menu of succulent pastas to local favorites like the bison flat iron steak. Oh, and their après is good too!
Step out of your skis and into the Trap Bar for a local Sweetgrass APA from Grand Teton Brewing. This classic après haven is known for its live music and Wydaho Nachos… try them, you won’t be sorry. Cozy up to the bar to watch the latest ski movie, or yack with the locals and the friendly staff about your favorite run of the day.
For the kids
Why wouldn’t you want to bring the family? Kids 12 and under eat, ski and stay for free with a paying adult. The Kids Fun Zone terrain park is an ideal place for future Olympians to find their stride. With its own trail map, this zone has fun terrain features and run names like Bird Brains and Gremlin Gulch.
After skiing, the “Kids Night Out” program is designed to let kids be kids, and parents to be, well, adults. Care providers entertain kids with dinner, crafts and other fun, while mom and dad can have an evening to themselves.
Targhee has three slopeside accommodations that get skiers out on the mountain as quick as possible. The Sioux Lodge is perfect for a couple’s weekend or bringing the whole family. Enjoy comfortable, clean accommodations ranging from studio suites to full two-bedroom units. Definitely take advantage of the pool and hot tubs across the way. Check grandtarghee.com for the latest ski/stay deals throughout the season.
Grand Targhee is known for year-round activities, and the mountain offers some fantastic sight seeing opportunities as well as lift-accessed mountain biking. If you haven’t seen the annual Targhee Bluegrass Festival, consider making plans for Aug. 8-10 to get your dance on for three days of music on multiple stages.