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A Visit to the Tetons Could Send You Soaring

January 21, 1990|FRANK RILEY | Riley is travel columnist for Los Angeles magazine and a regular contributor to this section

TETON VILLAGE, Wyo. — Our adventure began as soon as my wife and I stepped out of the Rendezvous Inn and soared above the village on a 12-minute tram ride to the 10,552-foot summit of Rendezvous Mountain.

For the expert skier, black diamond-coded trails such as Alta and the Chutes plunge down the 4,139-foot vertical drop, America's longest.

High Mountains Helicopter Skiing takes the experienced mountaineer to be dropped off by chopper on three mountain ranges of untracked powder.

Jackson Hole Mountain Guides and Climbing School introduces you to ice and rock climbing in the Tetons, and other mountaineering organizations are ready with climbing programs and experienced guides. National Park rangers lead snowshoe hikes.

There's no fee for back-country trip permits, but it is necessary to register at Grand Teton National Park Headquarters in Moose before taking off along cross-country ski trails into the Teton wilderness.

Weather and avalanche hazard forecasts are provided, with cautions that only experienced mountaineers with ice axes and other essential equipment should attempt climbing steep snow slopes.

At Granite Hot Springs south of Jackson, 10 miles of cross-country skiing lead to rest and recovery by soaking amid snowbanks in 104-degree water. A Jack London-type adventure is to dog-sled to the hot springs.

Caution and guidance are just as necessary for summer adventuring. The first time we stood on the banks of the Snake River in Grand Teton Park, the current looked deceptively smooth. But we quickly got the message: Only experienced canoeists and kayakers should challenge this swift, cold river.

To preserve its ecology, no motorized craft are permitted on the Snake within the park. Only hand-propeled canoes, kayaks and rafts are allowed, and they must be registered at the Park's Visitor Center. Ansel Adams made his famous painting of the Tetons from the Snake River overlook.

Half a dozen float trip companies offer white-water rafting and "you-paddle" canoeing and rafting adventures on the Snake River, with professional guides to prepare the novice or expert for bouncing over the tumbling waters through the canyons. Fish from the banks of the river. Sometimes you might even sight a moose.

Competitions are scheduled on the ski slopes around Jackson Hole as Wyoming begins the celebrations of its 1990 Centennial Year of statehood. Events include the Celebrity Ski Challenge (March 8-10), the Junior III Olympics (March 13-16), the Super Centennial Alpine Ski Race (March 17-18) and the World Championship Snowmobile Hillclimb (March 30-April 1).

Above Teton Village, Jackson Hole Ski Resort has more than 2,500 acres of some of the best skiing in the United States on its Sojourner and Apres Vous mountains. Fifty percent of the runs are for experts, 40% for intermediates and 10% for beginners. The longest run is 4.5 miles.

In addition to the aerial tram there are five double chairs, one triple, a quad and two surface lifts. Lift rates are $32 daily for adults, $16 for seniors and ages under 14, with various reduced package rates.

Alpenhof Lodge, Sojouner Inn and the Inn at Jackson Hole offer luxury resort accommodations in the village with dining, pools and spas close to the lifts. Double rates start this winter at from $90 to $115, and package rates are available.

There are excellent accommodations at lower prices at Crystal Springs Inn and the Hostel. The Mangy Moose is popular for dining and entertainment in the village.

Grand Targhee Ski Resort on the western Teton slopes is about 45 minutes by express bus from Jackson, with a combined shuttle and lift ticket cost of $32. It has beginnger skiing, but the challenges of the 10,200-foot top elevations are primarily for intermediates and experts.

There are three double chairs for the vast slopes, and 1,500 acres accessible only by snowcat. Resort lodging is within 50 yards of the lifts, with restaurant, pool and hot tubs. Double rates begin at about $55, and there is a choice of package deals. Condos are nearby.

Snow King Ski Resort is only seven blocks from Town Center in the Old West and art town of Jackson, population about 4,500. About 60% of the Snow King slopes are adventure challenges for the expert, with about 25%for intermediates and 15% for beginners.

Two double chairs and one surface lift serve slopes rising to 7,871 feet. Adult daily lift rates are $19, juniors and seniors $12, and all fees can be reduced with package buys and multi-day rates.

Snow King Resort at the base of the mountain is the valley's largest resort, offering 240 rooms, dining, entertainment and spa amenities. Double rates begin this winter at $90, and smaller inns around town are as low as $24 a night.

The town can relax you for adventuring at any season of the year. Archways created by antlers frame Town Square. The Cowboy Bar has saddle stools, and buildings date back to the early 1900s.

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