WINTER ROAD TRIP
For Christmas break this year, we packed the Range Rover and made a road trip down from Calgary to the States, stopping in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, Yellowstone National Park, and Whitefish, Montana. We've never driven extended long distances as a family together, but our daughter is now eight and used to long leg flights (fourteen hours from Melbourne to LA), and the idea of the open road sounded both exciting and relaxing.
Like most of our holidays, we start our research of where we want to stay by cross referencing Conde Nast Traveller with Trip Advisor, and other travel publications. All sources nominated five-star property, The Four Seasons at Jackson Hole, in their top ten luxury ski resort destinations. As for Yellowstone, we selected the small town of West Yellowstone. Accommodation choices were limited, we booked Three Bears Lodge which at least had a heated indoor swimming pool and hot tub. Our New Year's stay was in Whitefish at the Lodge at Whitefish Lake.
We split the drive to Jackson Hole over two days and did an overnight in Great Falls, Montana at La Quinta. A casual dinner next door at Mackenzie River Pizza Company delivered a very tasty and fresh Cobb salad and hot flatbreads and pizzas. Our next day's drive to Jackson Hole was about seven hours with a lunch stop in one of those small town cafes where sandwiches are made to order and there aren't any pictures on the menu. Driving through the Tetons mountain range in Wyoming close to Jackson was slow with poor visibility due to a snow storm, at least we had our Nokian studded tires on the Rover.
At the end of a long day of driving, we pulled into the sanctuary of the Four Seasons Jackson Hole. Our suite on the mountainside put us in full view of the base ski lifts, only about 50 steps away from our lodge. If you haven't stayed at a Four Seasons before, it's an experience to remember. Before I describe the suite and the amenities, which essentially are the same at any hotel, the discerning difference at a Four Seasons is the staff. Every staff member goes out of their way to deliver beyond expectations and anticipate what you might need. There is always someone close by to ask if you'd like a drink, help you put on your ski boots (and take them off), take any menu requests, all with intelligence, calmness, respect and happiness. There is a sense of teamwork, where everyone is responsible for making guests feel special and welcome.
Our suite had two full bathrooms, a large entry for storing all our coats and boots, walk in closet, large pull out sofa in the living/dining room with a crackling fire, and a separate master bedroom with a large king bed. Ahead of our arrival, I ordered a decorated table top Christmas tree which sat beautifully on the dining room table. Our days were spent skiing the fresh powder, wandering around Jackson and eating too much very good food. The hotel also put on some additional Christmas activities: our daughter decorated a gingerbread house, Christmas carollers sang in the lobby, and general sparkles were everywhere. One of our daily routines after skiing was going to the hot tub outside, Four Seasons are ready with at least three staff ready to put your robe in a spa side warmer, serve you anything from a cold beer, to hot chocolate, to fresh gooey s'mores, all while you repair your muscles and relax. Four Seasons, I love you for life.
After five blissful nights in Jackson Hole, Teton VIllage, our next two nights were in West Yellowstone, Montana, only a few hours' drive north. We drove past Big Sky and Bozeman. West Yellowstone seemed mostly closed for the season, probably a great summer town. My main intention for staying two nights was to have a full day in Yellowstone Park. After a big breakfast the next morning, we went to Two Tops Snowmobiles, just in town to meet up with our guide for a private full day tour into the park. I've never driven a snowmobile before, but it was pretty straightforward and A LOT OF FUN! Our daughter sat in front of Ross on his Ski-doo. I drove behind our guide Jim. We saw bison, elk, all the amazing geysers, including Old Faithful. It was very cold (-12C), but our rented suits, boots and helmets kept us warm without any complaints. The light was incredible and it really looked like a different planet with so much ice and snow, while 100F water bubbled away with little insects floating about. I highly recommend a winter snowmobile tour in Yellowstone, it reminded me in many ways of the awe I experienced when on our South African safari game drives.
Our last leg of our two week road trip took us five hours' drive north to Whitefish, Montana for four nights. We intended to ski, but ended up relaxing and eating even more. New Year's Eve dinner at the Lodge at Whitefish Lake was fully booked out, but we had some great sushi that night at Wasabi in town. We returned to our suite and watched Anderson Cooper and Kathy Lee Griffin celebrate with the Times Square ball dropping. Our daughter dragged us to the party downstairs where a live band covered everything from the Beatles to Phil Collins. 2016 was now upon us.
Resolution for 2016? More family road trips.
Jackson Hole, Wyoming
The Handle Bar (at the Four Seasons in Teton Village) - situated at the base of the slopes great for lunch, apres ski and casual dinner
Westbank Grille (at the Four Seasons in Teton Village) -fantastic breakfast buffet and superb beef at dinner
Local (in Jackson) - superb dinner, three sides for $12 is way underpriced for the deliciousness that was delivered
Il Villaggio Osteria (Teton Village) - fantastic pizzas and fresh pasta
West Yellowstone, Montana
Euro Cafe for breakfast
Madison Crossing Lounge for dinner
Latitude 48 for dinner and share plates
Loula's for breakfast and their amazing homemade pies
Wasabi for sushi