1. It has the largest income disparity in the United States.
Forbes just named Jackson the most unequal city in America. It’s no secret that ski towns have an astounding amount of inequality, but Jackson tops even Aspen and Veil. This rich man’s playground has the largest gap between the top 1 percent and bottom 99 percent, with the top earners making 213 times more than the bottom 99 percent of families. There’s a saying here, that the billionaires are pushing out the millionaires. You may laugh, but deep down, you’ll wonder how long this game can be played.
2. You’ll need to drive a car that can potentially house you.
The housing crisis is real in Jackson. It is the priciest place to rent right now, with the average one bedroom going for $2000. Part of the prices are driven up by wealthy folk buying a vacation home or two in the valley that sits empty for all but one week of the year (those currently make up 47% of the homes in Jackson). Part of it is the unmatched scenery in close proximity to protected lands. But another factor is due to 97% of Teton County belonging to public lands, meaning Jackson literally cannot expand to make room for those demanding a housing solution. Between 2010 and 2013, 503 jobs were added by the county. In that same time period, only 53 more housing units became available. The popular temporary solution? Calling your van, truck, or Subaru home on nearby Forest Service land. Or the Albertson’s parking lot.
3. You’ll need a mountain bike, packraft, kayak, and a townie…if you want to fit in.
If you want to fit in, really fit in here, best to be a sponsored or semi-professional athlete, have muscles visible through down jackets, or at least have a sweet pro deal with big name brands. You’ll need that townie for getting to all the free music shows at Snow King and your mountain bike for everything else. Secondly, you’ll need something to float down the Snake with. A packraft, kayak, or paddleboard are great to start with if you want to be taken seriously, but a $14 inflatable tube at K-mart will bring anyone just as much joy at the end of the day. It wouldn’t hurt if you drove a Toyota Tacoma to haul it all around either.
Jackson is a city by Wyoming standards, the country’s least populated state. Even so, you won’t find a Target within 100 miles. You’ll find more grizzlies than Wal-Marts in your proximity. The nearest HOV lane is in the closest city: SLC, 4.5 hours away. And it’s not uncommon to call your boss, informing them you’ll be a bit later than planned, as there is a moose planted between you and your car. And locals like it this way. Jackson sits in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, four miles south of Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Park and is surrounded by five more national forests. There are enough Ma and Pa shops to get anyone by, but it’s the general lack of strip malls and abundance of space is what attracts and keeps so many.
5. And it’s crowded.
Being a gateway to Yellowstone, Jackson sees over 4 million visitors each year. Otherwise, it’s a town of 10,000 people. The roads are not designed to host Denver’s traffic. But in July and August, you’ll find your normal 10 minute route across town taking up to an hour. Sometimes, the cell phone towers shut down because they can’t handle the business, or a forest fire burns through a sub station in Idaho and knocks out power for the whole region, leaving thousands of tourists without a dinner option for the night.
6. Unless you find a sweet spot on your own in the Gros Ventre.
Ah, the Gros Ventre Mountains. Is there anything sweeter? Within spitting distance of the Tetons and nobody goes there. You’re bound to see more wolves than humans even in the middle of July. The fishing is top-notch, the air is filled with sweet silence, and the sky freckled with stars. From the Red Hills, to the Lavenders, to the Greys, and beyond, you certainly have your pick of the land if you crave some solitude.
7. You will never, ever want to leave. And if you do, it will never leave you.
Whether you come for the mountain biking, the skiing, the phenomenal wildlife, the iconic Tetons, or the open lands, your heart will be stolen. Sure, Jackson has its woes, but it also has its charm. There’s a reason people pay the price to live in this town. There aren’t any others like it.