[this article is sponsored by Grand Targhee]
The year was 1969. Neil Armstrong took “one giant leap for mankind” when he walked on the moon. Hippies got their groove on at Woodstock. And on December 26, skiers had a new mountain to explore when Grand Targhee launched its opening season.
Back then the resort consisted of two lifts, Bannock and Shoshone, Targhee Lodge and a small day lodge.
A lift ticket went for $3.75 and a season pass could be had for a mere $55.00. Over 2,000 skiers enjoyed the slopes that initial season.
Located in western Wyoming in the Caribou-Targhee National Forest, Grand Targhee Resort was conceived by an industrial band of Idaho locals in 1966. Three years later their efforts came to fruition when the resort opened its doors to the public. The mountains here are steeped in Native American history and the resort pays homage to this fact across lift names, runs and even the resort name itself. See here for more details.
Grand Targhee – Through the Years:
By the ’72 – ’73 ski season, Grand Targhee had over 70,000 skier visits. Based off this early success, the resort continued to expand. The ’70’ saw two additional lodge openings, Sioux Lodge in ’71 and Teewinot Lodge in ’77. The original Day Lodge was expanded and additional offices were constructed. Ownership changed hands when it was purchased by Bill Robinson of Big Valley Corporation in ’73 who added the Blackfoot lift to the line-up of lift options.
Ownership of Grand Targhee changed hands once again when Mory and Carol Bergmeyer purchased it in 1987. They expanded the offerings at the resort to include summer camp, an annual Bluegrass Festival, and a Kids Club. An additional 600+ acres were made available when Cat Skiing began in 1989, offering fresh tracks in deep powder bowls, steep tree terrain and expansive glades.
In March 1990, a fire destroyed the Rendezvous Day Lodge. By the end of that week, using tents as temporary facilities, the resort fully reopened. In 1993 the resort added rescue dogs, working with Ski Patrol members, as an added measure of safety.
“I’ve seen dogs working in one area hit on a scent from a mile away. Their sense of smell is like being able to distinguish one eye dropper of liquid in an Olympic swimming pool.”
Ski Patrol Director Joe Calder (2011)
Grand Targhee once again had a new owner when Booth Creek Ski Holdings, Inc., purchased the resort, headed by CEO George Gillett, Jr. The two original lifts saw an upgrade when the Shoshone was replaced with a fixed-grip quad and the Bannock was replaced with a high-speed detachable quad and renamed Dreamcatcher.
George and Rose Gillett along with their four sons purchased Grand Targhee outright to the tune of $11 million from Booth Creek Ski Holdings in June 2000. With the opening of the Sacajawea lift in 2001, the lift-accessed terrain expanded by 500 acres. Two terrain parks opened during this era as well, Trick Town in ’02 and North Pole in ’04.
The Chief Joe Bowl on-mountain weather station was added in ’10 for real-time snow data. Along with infrastructure updates and upgrades, the Blackfoot double was replaced with a fixed grip quad in 2016.
Grand Targhee Resort has been dubbed “the powder king” of Wyoming, besting 500+ inches of quality blower-light snow on the regular. While the terrain may not be quite as rowdy as neighboring Jackson Hole, it offers plenty of diversity and challenge to those who know where to find it. Despite all these stellar qualities, the place has a decidedly laid-back cowboy vibe and notoriously sparse lift lines, holding true to its original flair.
Mountain Statistics Today:
- Total Acreage: 2,602
- Annual Average Snowfall: 500+ inches/41+ feet
- Vertical Drop: 2270
- Base Area Elevation 7851 feet
- Number of Lifts: 5
- 2,176 foot vertical drop
- 2 quad chairs (1 high-speed); 1 double chair, 1 Magic Carpet Conveyor Lift
- 10% Easier; 70% More Difficult; 20% Most Difficult
- Summit elevation 9862 ft
- Longest run at resort 2.7 miles (Teton Vista Traverse)
- 2180 foot vertical drop
- 1 high speed quad chair
- 85% More Difficult; 15% Most Difficult
- Summit elevation 9830 ft
- 602 acres reserved exclusively for Snowcat Adventures
- In-bounds, hike-only terrain
- Summit elevation 9,920 ft
Distance to Other Cities:
Jackson, WY – 42 miles
Bozeman, MT – 193 miles
Salt Lake City, UT – 295 miles
Boise, ID – 363 miles
Denver, CO – 554 miles
San Francisco, CA – 909 miles
Finally, no walk down memory lane of Grand Targhee would be complete without mention of Leon “Slim” Weston. An original employee when the resort opened in 1969, Slim worked the lift lines in his ever-present cowboy hat for over 40 years. An avid snowboarder, Slim once appeared in a Warren Miller film, riding in on his horse, in true cowboy style. For years he was a beloved member of the Grand Targhee family serving as a resort Ambassador.