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There is big skiing to be had in the states of Wyoming and Montana, with wildlife and stunning scenery par for the course, writes Helen Hayes.

Wonderful Wyoming
The two peaks of Jackson Hole Mountain Resort, Rendezvous and Après Vous, offer the equivalent of a theme park for snowlovers, with runs to excite everyone from tiny tots who have never skied before to those that love tackling the equivalent of a double looping, high-speed roller coaster: the chutes and couloirs that ramp up the heartbeat. Always known for its extreme skiing, the beginner and intermediate terrain has been expanded over recent years, including the addition of the Teton chairlift last season and the Casper area a few years before that. A new gondola is going in for next season which will link up with Casper, and also broaden the terrain for kids starting out.

Kids are treated like VIPs in the Kids’ Ranch with guidance from top-notch, enthusiastic instructors. Children from three years can ski and it is a joy to watch them gaining their confidence around Teewinot and Eagles Rest (this chair will be replaced by the new gondola next season). Before long, they’ll be skiing or snowboarding past you on the runs around Après Vous, Casper and the Bridger Gondola. And how’s this for a deal? Book a condo or home for at least four nights and for each paying adult, kids 14 and under ski free! Teton Village is a vibrant village with plenty of fabulous eateries and a visit to the town of Jackson with its western shops is a must. You don’t have to go far to see wildlife; we saw moose on the way in from the airport and loved seeing the huge elk herd in the refuge on the way into town. Kids love: Kids’ Ranch and Kids’ Night Out. Parents love: The new Piste Restaurant and après at the Handle Bar.

Another great thing to do while at Jackson Hole is to visit Grand Targhee, a Resort on the other side of the Teton Range. The scenery at Grand Targhee is breathtaking and while the terrain is perfect for all skill levels, there is enough to challenge advanced riders – especially the cat skiing on Peaked Mountain. The Kids’ Fun Zone around the Shoshone lift is exceptional, as are the views of the Grand Teton. We could have done the runs off Sacajawea, Dreamcatcher and Blackfoot all day long… in fact, we did. Catch the Targhee Express bus from Jackson Hole; the US$108 ticket includes transport both ways and the one-day lift ticket at Grand Targhee.

Mighty Montana
The drive from Jackson to Big Sky Resort, on the fringes of Yellowstone National Park, is spectacular, as is the panorama that greets us at the resort. It lives up to its slogan – “The Biggest Skiing in America” – with an enormous amount of terrain. With 0.8 hectares per skier (that’s two acres each) and forests of green adding to the beauty, we often find ourselves skiing on perfect runs with no one else on them. It’s just sensational. With 300 named runs on several connected mountains, we are like kids in a candy store. From the gentle beginner runs around Pony Express, Explorer and Lewis and Clark chairlifts to the sea of blues around Lone Mountain’s Six Shooter and Lone Tree chairs, and the easier blacks around the Bowl, we don’t even touch the sides on the runs available. For advanced skiers and riders, the Lone Peak tram leads to the snowy Nirvana of the South Face and for park-lovers, there are seven to choose from.

To add to our delight, we have dinner in a yurt up the mountainside one evening, transported there sitting on the roof of a snowcat under the stars. We have a drink by the outdoor fire, looking over the forests of pine and firs, with the peak of Lone Mountain glowing high above us and surrounded by an ocean of stars. Kids and adults giggle as they do laps of a make-do sled run, before we all head into the yurt for a scrumptious dinner. All that and you can do tours into Yellowstone. Absolute magic. Kids love: The Adventure Zip Line Tour. Parents love: The uncrowded slopes and après in the Carabiner Lounge.

Located at the top of Montana, next to the unbridled wilderness of Glacier National Park and just an hour from Canada, Whitefish Ski Resort on Big Mountain is nature at its finest. With views into Canada and Glacier National Park from various vantage points, the skiing and riding is incredible. With 105 named runs, 14 lifts, five terrain parks and a rider-cross course, take a free guided mountain tour to get your bearings. We swoop and holler all over, falling in love with the views from the aptly-named Inspiration, zip down Moe Mentum and gape in awe at the scenery from Toni-Matt and in the Ptarmigan Bowl. On the North Face, we giggle like kids going through the natural halfpipe, George’s Gorge, love the story about the Jesus statue which you can find near the top of the Flower Point lift and skirt the border of the resort on Gray Wolf.

Lunch is exceptional at either Hellroaring Saloon – the nachos is massive - or Ed and Mully’s, and the Summit House is the place for a warming hot chocolate. But you won’t want to waste too much time eating, as the skiing and snowboarding is just too much fun in this awe-inspiring scenery. The Kids’ Center is welcoming and if your little one wants to snowboard, kids as young as three years old can do lessons. You have a choice of where to stay with family-friendly places at the resort or in quirky Whitefish (there is a free shuttle bus to the resort just 20 minutes away). A cool holiday choice is to bundle up a snow holiday in Whitefish with either Seattle or Portland, both hotter than hot cities right now. Amtrak’s Empire Builder train departs both cities in the evening, arriving in Whitefish in the morning. Kids love: George’s Gorge. Parents love: Hellraising Saloon and the casual, feel-good vibe.



Getting There
There are direct flights from Dallas and Los Angeles to Jackson. Big Sky Resort is an hour’s drive from Bozeman Yellowstone International Airport, and for Whitefish, fly into Glacier National Park International airport in Kalispell. Amtrak’s Empire Builder has an overnight service into Whitefish from Seattle and Portland.

We drove from Jackson to Big Sky (3.5 hours) and then up to Whitefish – (six hours)

Near Jackson, Amangani is style all the way and has its own lounge at the base of the gondola. Snake River Lodge and Spa is in Teton Village and is very well set up for families. See if the kids can find all the bears hidden around the hotel. Huntley Lodge is slope side in Big Sky and is so handy to restaurants, shops and the snow. As it is owned by the resort, kids 10 and under ski free. Hidden Moose Lodge is midway between the town of Whitefish and its ski resort, and its lovely owners and staff treat you like family. You might even spot some deer while you are sitting in the outdoor hot tub in the evening.

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