Sibling Rivalry: Jackson Versus Targhee

A stone's throw apart, the ski areas should be brothers in powder. They're not.

I may not be a professional skier, but I am a full-time skier. The 2018-19 season took me to 27 resorts in 122 on-mountain days. I’m asked from time to time if it’s lonely traveling all winter. Not really. Just about every chair holds the prospect of friendship.

One easy and useful topic for a six-minute friendship is the resort we’re skiing. Even better if it happens to be their home hill. Pretty much all of us have one and our devotion to it is rivaled only by that to the family border collie.

Occasionally, a rivalry becomes evident when two or more resorts are near one another. With the objectivity of not having a horse in the race, here are a few of my observations about one of the classic sibling rivalries in skiing:

Jackson Hole versus Grand Targhee

Both in Wyoming and only 20 or so miles apart, they’re about the same size and enjoy similar snow quality. The two should be brothers in snow but they are not. It seems the friction goes all the way back to the 1800s when Pierre’s Hole was the home of the fur trading rendezvous on the west side of the Tetons and Jackson Hole on the east.

Teton Pass presented a formidable obstacle in those days and a trapper needed an economic reason to make the journey. Today Jackson is the economic engine of the area and has to do the heavy lifting of solving property value and employee housing concerns.

Pierre’s Hole fostered the towns of Driggs and Victor, Idaho. Their residents are not jealous of or intimidated by the fame that Jackson enjoys and have little interest in following in their neighbor’s moccasin prints.

In Jackson, Targhee is the Ozarks of snow sports, replete with hicks in gear both repaired and adorned with duct tape. I must agree. The term “Targheezer” is sometimes self-applied by those that call it their home hill but it is most often seen as stickers on a group of mature skiers.

These individuals do tend to stretch the value out of their equipment, as do I. When you get all your gear working right it’s not so important that your boots have more play than they used to, your backpack is pretty sun faded, and yes, your gear is patched with duct tape.

Targheezers point over Teton Pass to a Jackson they envision as teeming with posers wearing cowboy hats and driving Escalades and I agree with them as well. Individuals drawn to Jackson by its reputation or inspired by the historic Jackson Hole Air Force do demonstrate an exaggerated desire to impress.

If it can’t be done with skill, using out-of-bounds gear inside the red ropes and big talk will do nicely.

Visitors to Jackson often come there for vacation to earn the right to brag a bit. Those that don’t ski will always be far more impressed than if you spoke of a resort nobody has heard of.

In skipping Targhee they miss out on its giant swaths of ungroomed, open terrain, a scenic and sometimes challenging wooded gully, and most importantly the people who have an unpretentious joy of the sport.

Don’t make me pull over and separate you two. We’ve got more sibling rivalries to come.

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