This post originally appeared on the Jackson Hole Mountain Resort website
Welcome to the Jackson Hole Mountain Resort. For many of you, this is your first time to the iconic Aerial Tramway, and we’re stoked you’ve made it onto the most storied ski lifts in North America. Since the 1960s, throngs of skiers from all over the world have flocked to ski off Jackson’s alpine summit via the Aerial Tramway. And, for good reason. The continuous vertical rise of the Teton’s eastern flanks makes for some of the most exhilarating fall line ski descents in the lower 48.
For the last several decades, tram etiquette has evolved to accommodate the growing culture and expectations of that skiing public. Between swarthy locals who’ve skied the tram for decades to the greenest newbies here for the first time, riding Big Red is always an experience to behold. With that, there is a state of mind that follows:
Know what you’re getting into
Like the sign says, “Our Mountain is like nothing you’ve ever skied before”, so take that to heart and start slow. The tram not only rises over 4,000 vertical feet, but the weather at the top also is literally two and one-half miles away from the bottom and can be drastically different from what is going on in the base area. That should grab your attention. Winter snowstorms at 10,000 feet in Wyoming are all business, so if you’re relatively inexperienced with big mountain weather, maybe opt for the other lifts until you’re better familiarized, or the weather clears.
Sometimes the tram is not your best bet for pow turns
The tram doesn’t need to be the first lift you take after you arrive. Instead, work your way up the mountain and get a feel for the Jackson Hole Mountain Resort from the bottom up. Powder stashes abound all over the mountain, as well as signature groomers, gladed runs, and kid-friendly terrain. Taking lifts will give you a really good lay of the land, and allow you to swallow the experience in smaller pieces and not get in over your head.
Once you’re in the line, stay in the line
Powder mornings are frenetic, and powder fever affects everyone. Many people arrive early to queue up in the tram line for a chance to be one of the first to taste newly fallen snow. As everyone knows, cutting line is lame, so don’t do it. And, please don’t leave your skis leaned up against the railing, and expect to grab a coffee and a bathroom break before reclaiming your spot in line twenty minutes later. Some misguided locals have thought it a good idea to, uh, jettison said skis off the deck from time to time to express their disapproval. This too is not cool. Just don’t give anyone the opportunity. It’s way easier to be respectful. And patient.
The tram holds 100 people, plus one operator, which means it’s a tight fit
Get comfortable and enter Big Red with the expectation that you’ll be shoulder to shoulder with everyone, tall and short, big and small. Keep your skis, poles and effects organized and embrace the collective vibe of the tram riding community at its fullest—literally and culturally. It’s fantastic energy and as much of the experience as chasing Wyoming’s wild snow.
Last tram is 3:30 pm, and more importantly, it’s also the last tram down
If the line is long at 3:20 pm and you don’t board the 3:30 car to the summit, then so be it. There are no more public rides for the day. Also, sightseers who want the summit views of the Teton Range, as well as well-intentioned skiers and riders who might change their minds are invited to take the tram back down to the valley floor (with no judgment)—just be on it by 3:30 pm at the latest.
The easiest way off the hill (a relative term to be sure) is about seven miles of trail distance
So, bare that in mind if you’re unsure of your abilities, your children’s, and/or it’s late the day. Again, there is no shame in taking the tram back down. One, it’s often easier to walk around the cabin and take in myriad views of the Tetons. Two, you’ll probably beat your friends to the bar, or hot tub. One could argue it’s a winning proposition all the way around.
Look at it this way. You’re here, so you’ve already won. Now, just go skiing.