"Build it and they will come," to paraphrase the iconic line from the movie Field of Dreams, was the preface for our trip earlier this month to Grand Targhee Resort. They had the snow, and we were coming. With more than 100 inches of snow at Targhee, we loaded up the rig and headed south to get some of that sweetness. Our group consisted of Desiree Leipham, Dan Herby, Jeff Yates, Erich Thompson and Alex Wohliab, and our timing couldn't have been more spot-on: Targhee collected another 8 inches a few days before our arrival, covering up any evidence of early-season conditions.
Located on the western slope of the Teton range on the Idaho-Wyoming border, Grand Targhee, or "the Ghee," as locals call it, gets in excess of 500 inches of annual snowfall.
"When the storms roll in, they kind of sock in against the high barriers of the Tetons, and they just dump endless amounts of snow throughout the season," says Jennie White, Grand Targhee's marketing and social media manager. Obviously, Ullr the snow god had been hanging out in the Tetons in November!
With a laid-back vibe that's authentically Western, you'll be extremely comfortable here: Grand Targhee's mountain village features numerous lodging choices, ranging from deluxe accommodations at the Tower Suite to affordable condo and hotel-style lodging. There are several restaurants and shops in the village, so you're never far away from amenities and conveniences. Targhee's village sits at 7,800 feet. The mountain tops out at more than 9,800 feet; with that kind of elevation, the snow stays better longer, making it the ideal resort for the powder-skiing enthusiast.
With more than 2,600 skiable acres and five lifts, two of which are high-speed express quads, dozens of marked runs and plenty of wide-open glades, it's easy to get your money's worth at the Ghee. If you're feeling a little more adventurous, Grand Targhee has designated 600 acres for exclusive cat skiing with Grand Targhee Snowcat Adventures.
"Cat skiing at Grand Targhee is definitely one of those things you have to try," White says. "It's for intermediate riders and above; it's not intimidating. This is something that everyone should experience when they come here."
Our first day at the Ghee, we spent our morning skiing off the Dreamcatcher Chair, a high-speed quad, lapping runs through Lost Warrior, Happy Hunting Ground and Lighting Trees, which offered plenty of soft snow. With perfect conditions and the fun factor pegging at 10, there was no need to venture anywhere else. As this was the season's first day on snow for most of the group, our legs were starting to feel it by lunch, so we slipped down to the Trap Bar for some choice pub-style food. I highly recommend the Wydaho Nachos, which sub freshly cut potato skins for traditional tortilla chips. There's plenty of grub on this plate, and the bar staff is friendly.
After refueling, we spent the rest of the afternoon exploring runs off the Sacajawea Chair, offering plenty of choices of terrain for all riders. We logged plenty of vert on our first day, and by 3 o'clock, most of us had enough. The legs were talking, and it was time to slide back down to the Trap Bar for a little après-ski. There's a great vibe, with live music, videos and plenty of local brews. Sipping on a cold one, I received a message from Jennie that they would be running the snowcat tomorrow; she wanted to know if we were up for a half-day of cat skiing. In a split second, I replied, "What time do we meet?"
The next morning arrived with partly cloudy skies. We met at the Snowcat Adventure Center in the village, where we signed waivers and went over transceivers and safety. After a short ride to the top of the Sacajawea Chair, we found our snowcat waiting for our group under blue skies. Oh yes, life is good!
Jennie and her assistant Kate Hull, a Texan and recent transplant to the Teton Valley, would be joining us for this half-day adventure. This was to be Kate's first time cat skiing. After a short ride to the top of Peaked Mountain, we stood over our first run, moderately sloped and wide open, perfect for Kate to get her snowboarding groove on. A few turns into the run, and the smile on Kate's face was as big as Texas. By noon we had made four runs through a variety of terrain, from wide-open glades to steeps and trees.
According to Jennie, "Cat skiing is usually 10,000 to 18,000 vertical feet per day, based on the group you're skiing with, and you have the option to do a full day or half day. A full-day rate runs $379."
Another perk is the beauty surrounding Grand Targhee: It's a rugged landscape that climbs straight out of the Teton Valley. If you're there on a clear day, you can see Grand Teton, which is a sight to behold. As many in our group said, we hit this trip right on the money, and getting to go cat skiing was just icing on the cake. Not a bad way to start the ski season! ♦