Why this Jackson Hole hotel is the ultimate summer retreat


Why this Jackson Hole hotel is the ultimate summer retreat

Meet Caldera House: a mountain getaway that’s as epic when the sun shines as during ski season...

Amelia Mularz

BY Amelia Mularz21 June 2018

There’s something about a town that reinvents itself twice a year. It’s like an electric current that releases a jolt of excitement every six months. When I arrive in Jackson Hole, Wyoming on the very last weekend of ski season, I expect a general malaise – tumbleweed rolling through the area. All the slopeside fun has come to an end. And yet, surprisingly, I find the city in a celebratory mood. Everyone, from the ski instructors to snowboard-rental staff, is buzzing with anticipation. It feels like the last day of school. When I ask a lift operator how he feels about the inevitable arrival of summer, he practically jumps out of his boots, batting away a late-season snowflake, and exclaims, ‘Are you kidding?! Summer’s the best time in Jackson!’

Yes, the current is strong in Jackson Hole, and the epicentre of excitement – a new boutique hotel – is just steps from the ski lift. Meet Caldera House: the eight-suite stay, which opened in late 2018, and has already hosted the likes of Gigi Hadid and Olympic skier Bode Miller, plus landed on Travel + Leisure’s list of ‘Best New Hotels in the World’. Enthusiasm for summer at Caldera House has practically reached fever pitch, with plans for cowboy poetry by firelight and horse whispering at a nearby ranch, plus a whole host of holistic experiences. Here’s why we’re calling Caldera House the ultimate summer retreat…

One-trick mountain retreats tend to cater to the cold, but all that flannel and faux fur can feel out of place come July. At Caldera House, every detail has been considered, including the change in seasons. The communal lounge, which feels inviting for both après ski and après SUP, is decked in blonde oak and earth-tone mid-century furniture – a palette that echoes the surrounding rocky terrain.

All eight suites feel like luxury alpine homes, complete with full chef’s kitchens (for whipping up summer salads and peach cobbler), living rooms with fireplaces (equally enticing in January or July, when you have a glass of wine in hand) and private balconies (ideal for moose viewing in both summer and winter). ‘Each of the eight suites has a million-plus invested into their design’, says Paige Johnston, the hotel’s guest-experience manager. ‘And the property took over five years to finish.’ This level of consideration is evident, right down to the bookshelves stocked with outdoorsy reads like Into Thin Air, and the bath accessories – taper candles in iron stands and ceramic bowls filled with soaking salts – placed by the standalone tubs in the master bedrooms. All have one-off interiors – some more modern, another traditionally western – the idea being, says Paige, that repeat guests can enjoy a totally different design experience each time they stay.

Anyone who has read Annie Proulx – and her tales of ranches and rodeos – will tell you, there’s more to Wyoming than black-diamond runs. Guests of Caldera House can get a taste for real-deal cowboy life thanks to a relationship the hotel has forged with Diamond Cross Ranch, a nearby 400-acre, family owned operation with roots in the area that run back more than 100 years. ‘We’re really fortunate to carry on our Western heritage’, says Peter Long, a fourth-generation rancher and the grandson of Diamond Cross’s founder, Walter Feuz. ‘We still run cattle; we still run horses. It’s a rare thing in Jackson because a lot of these historic ranching families have developed their land.’

Diamond Cross Ranch is perhaps best known as the home of legendary horse whisperer Grant Golliher (that and the fact that Kanye West hosted an album-listening party there last year). Through Caldera House, visitors can arrange to see Golliher in action – working with his sidekick Freckles, an alpha equine and local celebrity – to tame unbroken horses through body language and touch (horse whispering doesn’t actually include sweet nothings). The experience, called ‘Caldera’s Old West’, also includes a ride in the surrounding Teton Mountains and lessons in working a ranch (haltering and saddling horses, as well as ‘punching’, aka droving cattle).

Another ranch experience, ‘Sunset Whiskey Ride’, includes a trail ride at dusk with local cowboys, a Wyoming whiskey tasting and a bonfire. If you’re lucky, you may even hear Golliher fire off some cowboy poetry – short stories and lessons told in a rhythmic way. So, not exactly your typical hotel offerings. ‘Caldera House is looking for activities that get to the heart of Jackson’, says Peter. ‘It’s cool to see a hotel really value that heritage.’

Caldera House has a gym – and Peloton bikes loaded with classes to boot – but considering the hotel sits at the base of the Teton Mountains and within driving distance of two national parks (Grand Teton and Yellowstone), stepping outside is the best way to get your pulse racing. If you’re up for an alpine run, Caldera House can hook you up with Eric Orton, the coach who trained Christopher McDougall to run a 50-mile ultramarathon with the indigenous Tarahumara tribe in the book Born to Run.

For culinary wellness, the hotel offers cooking classes and nutrition consultations that are fully customisable. ‘If you want to stay in your suite and have the cooking class come to you, we can do that’, says Paige Johnston. ‘If you want to learn vegetarian or vegan recipes, or if you’ve been stressed out and want to know how you can improve your diet to feel better, we can do that, too.’ And speaking of stress, Caldera House has the antidote to that as well. The roster of summer activities includes forest bathing – a Japanese practice that involves guided meditation in the woods with the goal of finding calm and clarity.

Old Yellowstone Garage, Caldera’s in-house Italian eatery, has motivated many a mountain biker to hightail it back to homebase for the restaurant’s beloved lasagna. The hotel is also home to Southcable Cafe – a casual spot located right next to Teton Village’s cable car, which will lead you up the mountain to a network of trails. Swing by the cafe pre-outdoor excursion for a coffee and breakfast burrito, or post-activity for pizza and beer. Additionally, the full kitchens in each suite, fully loaded with Le Creuset cookware, mean you can whip up a masterpiece of your own, or have the hotel summon you a personal chef.

Additionally, Caldera House’s location puts you right in the heart of Teton Village, a quick stroll from the Mangy Moose Saloon – a steakhouse with an outdoor deck in the summer and a full line up of live music events. As for where the cowboys eat, Lauren Long of Diamond Cross Ranch (Peter’s wife) says Big Hole BBQ hits the spot. This haven for ribs, brisket and fried okra is also Kanye’s go-to when in town, according to Lauren. Peter recommends the Blue Lion, calling it ‘a Jackson Hole institution’. Like the Mangy Moose, the Blue Lion has deck seating and live music in the summer, plus a menu with elk tenderloin and fresh rainbow trout. Another favourite spot among the ranch crowd is Bin22. ‘It’s a wine bar, just off Jackson town square’, says Peter. ‘It’s a great end-of-day place, especially if you’ve been out hiking.’ Lauren – either dreaming of the wine, the hiking or maybe both – quickly adds, ‘You know, Peter and his friends who grew up here always say: Jackson Hole is fun in the winter, but you really live here for the summer.’

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