Skiing in Wyoming Brings Jobs to the State

Grand Teton National Park in Jackson, WY
Grand Teton National Park in Jackson, WY

A group snowshoes near Taggart Lake in Grand Teton National Park in Jackson, Wyoming.

Tourism in Wyoming generates about $2.5 billion annually and supports 29,000 jobs, and much of that amount is spent by out-of-state visitors during the winter months.

Wyoming is an outdoor recreation destination, thanks to its open spaces and natural attractions that draw hikers, bikers, anglers and river rafters. Outdoor recreation doesn't take winters off in the Cowboy State, where renowned ski resorts, skiing and snowboarding are accessible in every corner.

Perhaps the most well-known winter destination is Jackson Hole Mountain Resort, which welcomes 500,000 visitors a year – only 15 percent of whom are locals.

Jackson Hole is unique because its location in Grand Teton National Park means its commercial airport is the only one in the world inside a national park, says Jerry Blann, president of Jackson Hole Mountain Resort. "About 85 percent of our skiers and snowboarders get to our resort after landing at the airport,” he says.

Jackson Hole Mountain Resort is a perennial award winner for its well-groomed terrain, which has seen $4.5 million in investments in recent years to make skiing and snowboarding more enjoyable.

“We have groomed runs and open bowls for beginners, intermediates and experts,” Blann says. “We are now in our 47th season of showcasing winter recreation.”

Catch Their Drift

On the back of the Tetons in Alta, Grand Targhee Resort offers a slower pace for new and family skiers, and boasts 500 inches of the lightest snow each year. And in Cody, near the entrance to Yellowstone National Park, Sleeping Giant Resort is one of the oldest ski areas in the United States, having opened in 1936.

"Sleeping Giant actually closed in 2004 largely due to the reduction in snowmobile traffic utilizing Yellowstone Park, then reopened in 2009 thanks to a $3.5 million investment by our community,” says James Klessens, CEO and president of Forward Cody Wyoming.

The first reopened season of 2009-10 saw 7,000 skiers visit the resort, and that number increased to 12,000 for 2010-11.

"Recent ski magazine articles have rated the terrain on our little hill among the best in the country, and that acknowledgment should bring us a lot more snowboarders in 2012,” Klessens says. "Cody has good restaurants and nice hotels, and visitors are almost guaranteed to see spectacular wildlife when driving from the hotels to the ski area.”

This Run's for You

Other popular winter wonderlands include Hogadon Ski Area on Casper Mountain in central Wyoming, which offers a 600-foot vertical drop and 18 major trails. Snowy Range Ski and Recreation Area is just a short drive from Laramie in southeast Wyoming, in the Medicine Bow-Routt National Forest. Meanwhile, Pine Creek Ski Resort in Cokeville has 30 runs and is easily accessible off Interstate 30.

"My kids like Pine Creek because the snowboarding slopes are fun, but not too difficult,” says Elaina Zempel, Wyoming Business Council regional director. “Pine Creek isn't too crowded, so you can get onto the lift and to the hilltop quickly, which gives skiers and snowboarders many more opportunities to enjoy our great outdoors.”

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