Sleighs, snow, and yuletide splendor
By Annette Brooks
Freshly fallen snow twinkled as daylight waned. The winter scene reminded me of past Christmases, long before I moved to Texas. Sinking into the leather seat of our rental car, my mind drifted to bygone years. I remember riding through snowy streets in the dark of night with my mom, dad, and sister to our church’s midnight Christmas Eve service, which was lit only with the golden glow of candles. How I loved holding my little candle, watching it flicker as we sang Christmas hymns.
Pulling up to Hotel Jackson jarred me from my reverie back to the present day. We enjoyed dinner by the fireplace in our suite, content to simply kick back for the evening. Awakening in the morning snuggled in the hotel’s luxurious triple sheets, I reluctantly got up and swished the curtains open. There was a lone Mountain Chickadee perched in an evergreen outside our window, fluffed up to create its own down comforter as protection against the cold. It reminded us to bundle up before we set off walking to breakfast at Persephone Bakery Boulangerie and Café.
The cozy, French-inspired spot was bustling at 10 AM. Famished for no reason except, perhaps, being invigorated by the cool mountain air, we agreed to order hearty breakfasts that would tie us over until dinner. So, with that excuse, we gorged on handmade pastries, croque madame, and quiche Lorraine, which came with a guilt-free side of local greens. Fueled by strong cappuccinos, our brisk walk to the Town Square took no time at all.
Entwined with lights, monumental arches made of antlers collected from the nearby National Elk Refuge welcomed us to Jackson’s quaint Town Square. We spent a couple of hours strolling under covered boardwalks, checking out local shops, and doing a bit of last minute holiday shopping before driving to Teton Village to ride the aerial tram and gondola. As expected, the tram—located just outside Grand Teton National Park with a base elevation of 6,311 feet above sea level—was busy. As the enclosed gondola smoothly climbed to the top of Rendezvous Mountain at 10,459 feet, we were blown away by spectacular panoramic views of the mountains and valley while fellow tram riders vied for good photograph positions. Since it was blissfully calm at the summit, we made our way to the café for a mug of cocoa before riding back down to the base.
The next morning, taking full advantage of our break from the work-a-day world, my husband headed to the ski slopes after breakfast. Still recovering from a fractured foot, I opted for an immersive spa experience at the Amangani. Having stayed at Aman resorts around the world, I knew I was in for luxe treatment. The indulgent three-hour Nourishing Journey began with a body polish and wrap, followed by massage, and completed with the Face Ritual. With each treatment building on the one before, I felt every drop of stress and worry dissipate from my body in the stillness of restorative calm. I left almost in a trance as the driver took me back to my hotel. There, I finished the day perfectly happy reading a novel and sipping hot tea as I waited for my husband to return.
On our final day, we skipped the gingerbread house decorating event at the Wort Hotel since we were sans family. Instead, we took a bus from the Jackson Hole Greater Yellowstone Visitors Center to the National Elk Refuge for a horse-drawn sleigh ride. There are several sleigh rides to choose from in the area, but the excitement to be had while gliding among an elk herd numbering in the thousands was too tempting to pass up. Our knowledgeable guide explained why thousands of elk have migrated there for centuries and answered questions as we rode across the refuge huddled under warm blankets, spotting elk, eagles, bison, and a variety of birds along the way.
That evening, we savored skillfully prepared prime steaks, 28-day wet-aged and butchered in-house, at The Restaurant at White Buffalo Club. Eschewing carbs after our overload a couple of days earlier, we chose grilled creole asparagus with lemon aioli and toasted almonds as well as wild mushrooms prepared with sake and chives as sides. Knowing we weren’t going to order dessert, we rationalized our way into splurging on an expensive bottle of cabernet which was worth every penny.
Back at Hotel Jackson—named “The Most Beautiful Hotel in Wyoming” by Architectural Digest—we relaxed in its handsome Sacajawea Library with a nightcap. Leisurely browsing through their robust collection of books about the region and chatting about the day, it was a refined ending to our stay in this haven nestled among the mountains.
As our plane banked away from Jackson Hole the next morning, we agreed there’s something special about a white Christmas, especially at nighttime when everything becomes still and quiet under a blanket of glistening snow. It evokes a peaceful, comforting feeling that everything will be alright in the world and with mankind, and a deep appreciation for the brief amount of time we have to experience the wonders of life.