Finding snow, community and waffle fry nachos at Grand Targhee Resort
By Mira Brody EBS STAFF
ALTA, WY – A row of traffic snakes its way up the side of the mountain, slowing to a crawl at the last hairpin turn leading to the parking lot at Grand Targhee Ski Resort. Every other license plate is from a different state, rows of colorful skis poke from roof racks and hype music plays over the din the window defroster working overtime.
We’re all here for the same reason: snow is flying, the chairs are spinning and it’s time to ski.
Grand Targhee, as we see it today from the lift lines, began in 1966 when a group of east Idahoans came together with a vision that would support the local economy and provide nearby recreation. It has changed ownership through the decades and received some upgrades, including today’s four quad chairs and a resort complete with steaming hot tubs and ski-in, ski-out accommodations.
The landscape surrounding Targhee fills visitors and locals with a sense of awe and belonging, but it would be a disservice not to mention the natives—and namesake—that thrived before the resort was born. The unsung western face of the Tetons, visible from the ridge on a clear day, was named Tee-Win-At, or “High pinnacles,” by the Shoshone Indians, who, alongside the Bannock, Blackfoot and Crow tribes, were the area’s original dwellers.
Chief Targhee, for whom the resort is named, was respected by both his people and white colonists even as they waged war against each other—the establishment of the nearby Fort Hall Reservation forced the once nomadic natives into a life of servitude. Chief Targhee was known for his peaceful approach to resistance as he led his people through those hardships until he was murdered while hunting in the winter of 1871. After his death, the tribes dispersed; the Bannack Tribe disappeared entirely.
Although the infamous “grand foghee” prevented Teton views through the duration of our visit, the focus was on the very thing that southwest Montana has seen very little of all year: powder. A quick glance at the Stick of Truth—an 18-inch glowing pole that measures 24-hour snow accumulation surrounded by an eclectic figurine posse including a moose named Monty—revealed a fresh morning foot and counting. By noon we were waist-deep.
Grand Targhee boasts 2,000 acres—an extra 1,000 accessible by private snowcat—and while it doesn’t have as much of the chute-hugging technical terrain of Big Sky Resort or Bridger Bowl Ski Area, it offers fun, open meadows, gullies and tree runs of both pine and aspen.
And Targhee is one of the snowiest resorts in the country at 500 inches of powder per season, fueled by its unique geography: it’s located between the “wet” slope of the Tetons—the Grand reaching 13,775 feet above sea level—and the moisture channel of the Snake River Plain.
There’s on-site lodging as well as snowshoeing, Nordic skiing and fat-biking trails and a picturesque village shopping center, including the Trap Bar and Grill, famous for its Trap Nachos with Wydaho waffle fries. You heard that right: waffle fry nachos.
After your legs can no longer hold you upright on the mountain, grab an Adirondack chair and bask in the falling snow. Outdoor fire pits warm the fingers as they clutch your favorite local brew—my Wyoming go-to is Snake River Brewing’s Pako’s IPA. On the drive home, with the Tetons in the rearview, you’ll be wondering when you’ll be back next.