If you’re planning a ski trip, you might find yourself stuck on two incredible options – Snowbird or Jackson Hole?
It’s a common problem. These two ski resorts are extremely similar in several ways:
- They both have a reputation for steepness, with tons of legitimate black and double black terrain.
- They’re both among the snowiest places in all of North America.
- They’re nearly the exact same size.
- They’re even both two of the only places in the U.S. with Aerial Trams!
What’s a trip planner to do?
Well, you can always defer to yours truly, who’s happy to have skied the ins and outs of both mountains several times, in all their glorious detail.
Read on for my honest comparison between Snowbird and Jackson Hole, so you can find out which one is best for you!
Snowbird vs. Jackson Hole, Stats Comparison
|1||Acres||2,500 acres||2,500 acres|
|2||Vertical||4,139 ft.||3,240 ft.|
|3||Avg. Snowfall||306 inches||500 inches|
|4||Summit Elevation||10,450 ft.||11,000 ft.|
|5||Base Elevation||6,311 ft.||7,760 ft.|
(Sources: Snowbird stats, Jackson Hole Stats)
As you can see, very similar stats for two very similar resorts, with the biggest differences being snowfall (advantage: Snowbird) and vertical (advantage: Jackson Hole).
The numbers only tell part of the story though. To the intangibles!
Location / Ease of Access
Right off the bat, this is one category where the two spots actually differ quit a bit.
Snowbird is in one of the most convenient skiing spots anywhere. Located just minutes from Salt Lake City, it’s easy to find direct flights to this international hub of an airport and then find yourself at the base of the mountain in 45 minutes or less.
Jackson Hole, on the other hand, may require a little more planning. The easiest option is the Jackson Hole airport (JAC). While this small little terminal has a surprising number of direct flights, they tend to be a bit more expensive, with noticeably fewer options than SLC.
But if you can score it, the airport is just 15 minutes to the town of Jackson and about half an hour to the ski resort.
If you’re shut out of JAC, your other main other options would be flying into Idaho Falls or Salt Lake City. Although I’ve done it, I can’t really recommend either of those due to the risk of highway closures in poor weather, not to mention Teton Pass, one of the steepest mountain passes in the country. (In a rental car – yikes!)
So, the winner here is probably Snowbird, although it will come down to your individual flight options.
Mountain Vibe and Atmosphere
I get similar vibes while skiing both Snowbird and Jackson Hole. Both places are a Mecca for advanced and expert skiers looking to shred.
Snowbird is arguably the most advanced mountain in the Salt Lake City area. So while the families tend to head to Park City, the country club members to Deer Valley, and the ski clubs to Alta, Snowbird is usually populated with people looking to push themselves.
Similarly, Jackson Hole has a reputation for the steepest and most extreme in bounds terrain in the United States, and this acts like a magnet for skiers looking to test their mettle.
One thing I really do prefer at Jackson Hole is the remote feeling you get on the mountain.
While Snowbird is beautiful, you can literally see the city from its peak. Some people really get a kick out of this, but for me, it kind of takes away from that special feeling of being in the mountains.
The views at Jackson Hole, on the other hand, are nothing but Wyoming plains and mountainscape for as far as the eye can see. Hit the angle right from the top of the tram, and you can even spy the top of the Grand Tetons! It’s stunning scenery, mixed with a feeling of truly “getting away from it all.”
Ski Towns: Snowbird, UT vs Jackson, WY
Both ski towns offer unforgettable experiences, for different reasons.
Snowbird visitors fall into two camps:
- Those staying in Salt Lake City and commuting up the canyon road each morning.
- Those staying in the legendary, but much pricier, ski lodges at the base of the mountain.
Staying in Salt Lake City is the value option, and it’s unique in giving ski vacationers access to an entire metro area. On the other hand, staying at the base of Snowbird is perfect for those who like to ski all day, relax in their mountain view hotel room at night, and do it all again tomorrow. (Seriously, there’s literally nothing else to do in the canyon. There’s barely even a village – just ski lodges, chairlifts, and a mountain to ski!)
Jackson Hole is similar in that visitors also have two options:
- Stay at the base of the mountain, in Teton Village.
- Stay in the town of Jackson, Wyoming.
Teton Village is the convenient, sleepy choice, whereas Jackson allows you to experience a truly unique western town. Jackson is wild west sort of place, with a lively character all its own. And as a gateway to Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Park, it’s got plenty of iconic bars, restaurants, and shopping to keep every visitor entertained.
Snow at Jackson Hole vs. Snowbird
The snow at both resorts is excellent, but Snowbird has to be the clear winner here.
Jackson Hole is one of the snowiest ski resorts in North America, consistently receiving 300-350+ inches of snow each year.
But Snowbird is just on another level, receiving an average of 450-500 inches of snow every year. This legitimately makes it one of the snowiest places on planet earth.
Neither of these mountains are flying under anyone’s radar, but Jackson Hole’s more remote Wyoming location means it probably has lighter crowds overall.
That said, these two mountains definitely share one thing in common – powder days at both spots are fierce. At Jackson Hole, the locals come out in droves after a big storm, often lining up for the tram at ungodly hours in the morning. A similar effect happens on powder days at Snowbird, when it seems like all of Utah is elbowing for a fresh line.
Honestly, neither of these are beginner mountains. If you’re planning a trip to either spot for the greens, you’re probably doing it wrong.
For the intermediate skier looking to rip some blues, I think they’d prefer Jackson Hole.
On my first visit, I was surprised to learn that despite Jackson Hole’s reputation for the gnar, it also secretly rocks some of the most impressive blue groomers I’ve ever come across. Flying down the perfectly named Wide Open trail on a bluebird day, overlooking the Wyoming plains? It’s the stuff intermediates dream about.
Snowbird, on the other hand, is pretty accurate with its reputation for advanced and expert terrain. Nearly all of the mountain’s best runs are black or double black. And while there are some solid blue runs, none of them strike me as particularly mind blowing for intermediates.
Now we’re getting to where these two mountains pull ahead as truly world class.
At both mountains, the consistent steepness and long vertical makes every run an interesting proposition.
For the advanced skier, Snowbird is an absolute paradise. Nearly every run offers the ability to jump off the groomers and into some mixed terrain, and the sheer number of black diamond runs means advanced skiers will have tons of options across every single part of the mountain.
Jackson Hole’s advanced terrain is a little more “quality over quantity” than Snowbird’s. Jackson doesn’t have quite as many black diamonds as Snowbird, but it does have some of the most iconic black diamond terrain in the world. Rendezvous Bowl, Laramie Bowl, and of course, the legendary Hobacks, are all bucket-list worthy. And the fact that you can ski significantly more vertical in one continuous spot is even sweeter.
This category is entirely too close to call.
Put a gun to my head, and I may go out on a limb and say my personal preference is Snowbird for its endless variety, but ask me tomorrow and I’ll probably change my mind.
Again, these two mountains are so close we may be talking Number 1A and Number 1B.
Similar to the advanced terrain, Snowbird probably wins for variety whereas Jackson Hole wins for maximum quality.
At Snowbird, the Highboy Traverse and Cirque Traverse lets experts drop in on endless different lines for some of the gnarliest terrain in the entire country. However, Jackson’s couloirs (hello, Corbett’s!) are world-famous, as are its Headwall chutes and endless cliffs and steeps in Casper Bowl.
Jackson Hole has to be the winner here, but Snowbird puts up a better fight than just about anywhere else.
Final Comparison Between Snowbird and Jackson Hole
There you have it, a neck and neck race between two of the best ski resorts in the world.
Overall, Snowbird has the advantage for amount of snow, ease of access, and possibly the variety of advanced terrain.
Meanwhile, Jackson Hole wins out for beautiful scenery, mountain town seclusion, surprisingly good intermediate runs, and of course, its legendary expert terrain.
And in between, you’re probably splitting hairs between the general atmosphere, and then flipping a coin on what types of crowds you get.
Hope this guide was helpful in helping you decide which resort was best for you! Hint: You’re probably gonna have to plan trips to both and then choose for yourself! 😉