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Teton central

A conversation with Heather Falk, tourism manager, Jackson Hole, Wyoming, Chamber of Commerce

Location and size:

Jackson is nestled at the base of the Grand Teton Mountain Range in Wyoming. Grand Teton National Park is our neighbor, and Yellowstone National Park is only 52 miles to the north.

We often hear the question “What is the difference between Jackson and Jackson Hole?” Nothing really: A hole is a high-elevation plain surrounded by mountains, and ours happens to be named after David E. Jackson, an early partner in what became the famous Rocky Mountain Fur Co. in the 19th century. So, Jackson Hole is the valley, and Jackson is a town within the valley. As of 2000, “The Hole” had a year-round population of about 18,251, and Jackson had a population of 8,647.

What is distinctive about your area?

Jackson is home to the Jackson elk herd, one of the largest concentrated wintering herds of elk in North America. Operated by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the National Elk Refuge borders Jackson and was established in 1912 to preserve and manage habitat for the elk wintering area in the valley.

Your group will be interested that elk once ranged from the eastern states through central and western North America. They grazed the open prairies, mountain valleys and foothills. But as civilization pushed slowly westward, the distribution of these animals was rapidly reduced to the western mountainous regions. By the beginning of the century, elk had disappeared from over 90 percent of their original range in the United States.

What are the main group attractions in your area?

We offer a wide variety of group activities that include white-water rafting, scenic floats, horseback riding and, during the winter, snowshoeing and sleigh rides on the National Elk Refuge. Bundle up for an unforgettable wildlife experience when you climb onboard a horse-drawn sleigh to watch thousands of elk, see a few eagles and, occasionally, spot a wolf pack.

What are the major annual events in your area?

The Chamber of Commerce hosts two annual events: the Old West Days celebration and the Fall Arts Festival.

As Jackson has long been referred to as “the last of the Old West,” the Old West Days, held over Memorial Day weekend, is a favorite even for locals. But newcomers are the ones who really get a kick out of the live music, the theatrical entertainment, the arts and crafts, the delicious food, the rodeo events, an authentic Mountain Man Rendezvous and much more.

The Fall Arts Festival is celebrating 25 years as one of the recognized premier cultural events in the Rocky Mountain West. The festival is held annually in September with world-class installments of visual, contemporary, culinary, Western and Native American arts. Groups experience the works of worldwide-acclaimed artists in addition to an array of music, cowboy poetry and cuisine. More than 50 events — gallery walks, workshops, artist receptions and more — round out the 10-day festival.

What’s new in your area?

We have a new map of the area called the Greater Yellowstone Geotourism Map, sponsored by the National Geographic Society Center for Sustainable Destinations in cooperation with the states of Idaho, Montana and Wyoming. Geotourism is tourism that sustains or enhances the geographical character of a place: its environment, culture, aesthetics, heritage and the wellbeing of its residents.

Much more than a road map, the new Geotourism MapGuide to the Greater Yellowstone Region and its companion Web site share locals’ knowledge on everything from where to find the best huckleberry milkshake to where to watch rescued grizzlies and wolves in their daily activities.

The 1,100-acre Lawrence Rockefeller Reserve, within Grand Teton National Park and opened to the public in 2008, has allowed visitors a fresh look at an American icon. Walk along the trail system through sagebrush meadows, forests, wetlands, creeks and Phelps Lake.

Take in Jackson Hole to the Max, a new historical short film on Jackson Hole starring country singer Reba McEntire, at the Pink Garter Theater. The film is a staple at the theater, along with other forms of entertainment such as concerts and theatrical performances.

Where are some great places to get a taste of your area?

The Rendezvous Bistro, or the Bistro, as the locals call it, has a fun, upbeat atmosphere that is great for every dining experience, from a prerodeo bash to a romantic dinner. Lively and welcoming, it offers classic favorites like veal Marsala, duck confit and, on Wednesday nights, the ever-popular fried chicken.

The Q Roadhouse has a neighborhood-meeting-place feel with a great outdoor patio and a large private dining room with space for every type of gathering, especially bank groups. The Q offers live music throughout the week and is a great venue for taking in the latest gossip on the summer or winter terrain while enjoying house-smoked ribs and a local brew.

Villagio Osteria offers a warm and cozy, yet modern environment that allows groups to dine in a relaxing atmosphere. The Osteria is nestled at the base of the Jackson Hole Mountain Resort in the Hotel Terra and offers authentic Italian flavors ranging from fresh bubalis mozzarella wrapped in speck, Kobe beef, meatball lasagna and a wide array of wood-oven-fired pizzas. The outdoor patio is the perfect spot for a quick pre-Grand Teton Music Festival dinner.

What is one souvenir everyone should bring back from your area?

Hands down, a ring or a necklace from Hines Goldsmiths Teton Collection is what your group members will have stashed in their luggage. Capturing the essence of the Tetons and the Snake River Valley is no easy task, even for the best of photographers, so we are lucky to have these artists at Hines who replicate that beauty in gold, silver, sterling and platinum.

What is one surprising thing people will find in your area?

Although Jackson has been recognized for our long-time strength in traditional landscape, Western and wildlife arts, Jackson is today evolving into a cosmopolitan cultural scene with a variety of venues, including the new $35 million Jackson Hole Center for the Arts; a Broadway-ready theater; an international juried film festival, Jackson Hole Wildlife Film Festival; and cutting-edge contemporary art galleries.

At the National Museum of Wildlife Art, don’t miss a guided tour through the galleries that house the world’s premier public collections of fine wildlife art. Featured artists include Rungius, Russell, Bierstadt, Kuhn, Rodin, O’Keeffe and Warhol.

More culture and the best of the best is what you will hear at a Grand Teton Music Festival concert. Each summer, nearly 300 renowned musicians perform seven weeks of orchestra and chamber music concerts in Walk Festival Hall at the base of Teton Village ski resort, a venue acclaimed for superb acoustics.

Is there an annual event or time of year that a bank group should consider in planning a trip to your area?

June and October are amazing months to witness Mother Nature in Jackson Hole. In June, new baby animals are waddling, jumping and running on new legs in the parks, offering outstanding wildlife viewing and photography opportunities. In October, our views seem to be even more majestic.
What is your Web site address and what on the site would be particularly helpful to a bank travel planner?
The most useful information on our site for a leisure group tour leader would be the full-service and limited-service amenities on the conventions/meetings page, and the flight map and coupons/discounts on the Go Jackson Hole page. To ensure you’re dressed correctly for our temperatures, check out the weather page.

Are there any special programs and services for groups in your area?

Our tourism manager at our chamber of commerce will do whatever is necessary to assist groups with their planning. We provide printed collateral, such as town maps, national-park maps and informational booklets, and we can also send requests for proposals to our membership for lodging and activities. Should you need digital images for your promotional piece or Web site registration page, we can supply scenic images of the Tetons and a wide variety of activities, restaurants and events. Our goal is to be a one-stop-shopping mecca for all things Jackson Hole.

Tell us your favorite story about your area.

“Don’t honk at the wildlife!” was the lesson learned the hard way by a couple driving in our area one fine spring day. Meeting up with a herd of bison, the driver honked in hopes of moving these gigantic beasts a bit faster. One of those bison was a mama with a calf to her side. She was not appreciative of the honk and let the driver know it by ramming her head into the front quarter panel of his rental car. Note to visitors: Cow bison (females) weigh roughly 1,200 pounds, and bulls (males), a ton.

So when a herd of bison is holding up your itinerary, remind your motorcoach driver not to honk. Take advantage of these moments by capturing a Kodak memory for your scrapbook.

Heather Falk
Tourism Manager
P.O. Box 550 or 980 W. Broadway
Jackson, WY 83001
(307) 733-3316, Ext. 13
(307) 733-5585 (fax)