cross country skiing and snowshoeing in Jackson Hole, Wyoming

ackson Hole has some of the most beautiful natural surroundings in the United States. Nordic skiers can strike out for marked trails in nearby Grand Teton (www.nps.gov/grte) or Yellowstone National Parks, (www.nps.gov/yell) or try one of the five touring centers near Jackson and Grand Targhee. Yellowstone is about 64 miles from Jackson. Fly directly into Jackson Hole or drive 5 hours from Salt Lake City. The town has old west charm, wooden sidewalks, great galleries, shops, restaurants, and cowboy saloons. Skinny Skis is one of the great xc ski retail shops and is at 65 W. Delaney in Jackson near the town square. The region also boasts incredible backcountry skiing in the national parks, in other mountain ranges in the area, and on Teton Pass outside of town.

The Jackson Hole Nordic Center (307-739-2629 or 800-443-6139, www.jacksonhole.com) serves as the hub of the Nordic systems in Teton Village with 17 km of groomed track. Because it is next to the downhill ski area, it has telemark lessons as an option. Rentals, full-day beginner group lessons, half-day lessons for other levels and private instruction are available, as are guided excursions into the backcountry of Grand Teton National Park. You can exchange your alpine lift ticket for a Nordic trail pass on the same day of purchase, so you can alpine ski in the morning and cross-country or snowshoe in the afternoon. Nature tours, biofitness sessions and dogsledding trips also are based here.

The Hole Hiking Experience (307-690-4453) provides half-day and longer naturalist or wildlife biologist guided snowshoe tours in the Grand Teton National Park or the Bridger-Teton National Forest. Get picked up at your lodging and tours are planned specifically for you (fitness level and desires) ranging from heart-pumping trek up a mountain to a leisurely few hours learning to identify animal tracks, native flora and fauna.

Teton Pines, (307-733-1005 or 800-238-2223, www.tetonpines.com) is a nationally known golf resort with 14 km groomed trails for classic and skate skiing. Lessons and heli skiing available. Grand Teton National Park now grooms the 5-mile Jenny Lake road for skiers, which is about 15 miles from the town of Jackson. This is a flat tour at the base of the Tetons with a great photo opportunity at every stop. The town Parks and Recreation Department also grooms several locations in the region. The Spring Creek Ranch (www.SpringCreekRanch.com, 800-443-6139, 307-733-8833) has a variety of accommodations, a top notch restaurant and 15 km of groomed trails. It is between Teton Village and the town of Jackson on a bluff with incredible views of the Tetons directly above.

Grand Targhee Nordic Center (307-353-2300 or 800/TARGHEE, www.grandtarghee.com) has 15 km of track groomed for classic and skate skiing. The majority of trails are in the Ricks Basin area to the north of the base area, but the system also includes a beginner track called Hamster Loop. The system is best for those with some xc ski experience, because the access trails to each side of the system have some intimidating hills. If you haven't mastered going down hills on skinny skis, you can walk carrying your gear to the beginning of the Hamster Loop or to the base of the Blackfoot chair lift, which is near the beginning trails in the Ricks Basin area. The sandwich board at the lift-ticket kiosk lists the grooming report for the Nordic area as well as the Alpine trails.

The ski school teaches telemarking as well as classic and skating techniques. Group lessons and private lessons are available. Grand Targhee has an unusual set-up: Instead of one Nordic center that has rentals, trail pass purchases and lessons in one building, you get your rental equipment in the main lodge's rental center, then buy your trail pass and lessons at the Snowsports School building.

A snowshoe tour focuses on wildlife, with the U.S. Forest Service guide pointing out tracks and explaining how animals survive the winter. This tour is free; snowshoe rentals are available. Arrange for rentals and the tour in the hut next to the Snowsports School.

Many people, who travel to Jackson Hole, WY spend a day in Grand Targhee by driving over the Teton Pass across the state line to Driggs, Idaho and then cross back into Wyoming to Grand Targhee. There is bus transportation available from Jackson Hole to Grand Targhee.