Back then Jackson, named after a local beaver trapper, was still a small ranching town. Then, in 1965, two skiers with dreams bigger than their pockets threw in a cable car on the other side of the Snake River, where the hills get really big.Fifty years later, Jackson and its resort at Teton Village, 25 minutes up the valley in the north-western cowboy state of Wyoming, have become and remain one of the great American winter destinations, where the personalities tower as high as the peaks and, despite considerable development, the founding spirit of the place somehow endures.The Teton chairlift, due to crank into life just before Christmas, opens up the Craggs area formerly accessible only to those willing to hike.Earlier that Sunday in March, as my plane from Chicago dropped into the valley, Grand Teton rose up like a great pyramid, its east face turned golden by the morning sun.The 4,200m peak is the tallest of the toothlike Tetons, a range of the Rockies just south of Yellowstone.Banjo player Bill Briggs hadn't missed a beat, ageing with his bandmates and a good chunk of the congregation. In the early days, riders from the old rodeo out back would get into fights at the bar.As I watched them dance in pairs through an arch of arms, in their buckled jeans and swirling skirts, a man wearing an oxygen mask rolled through on a mobility scooter. The band was brought in to provide a distraction; two-stepping was better for business than brawling.You go to Jackson Hole for the skiing and fall in love with the place for the other stuff, like Sunday nights at the Stagecoach.
The resort itself peaks at Rendezvous, at the top of the cable car, or tram as they call it (a shiny new one replaced the original in 2008).You step out a good 1,000 metres lower than the Grand Teton, and some way south, but on to some of the most serious lift-served terrain in North America.