There’s something about a town that reinvents itself twice a year. It’s like there’s an electric current running just below the ground that releases a jolt of excitement every six months. When I arrive in Jackson Hole, Wyoming the very last weekend of ski season, I expect a general malaise, something of an emotional 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 that will be celebrating its first official summer this year – is just steps from the ski lift. Meet Caldera House. The eight-suite stay opened in November and has already hosted the likes of Gigi Hadid, Mandy Moore and Olympic skier Bode Miller, plus it landed on Travel + Leisure’s list of ‘Best New Hotels in the World’. Enthusiasm for summer at Caldera House has practically reached a 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…
The hotel design is fit for all seasons (and tastes)
One-note 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, however, every detail has been considered, including the change in seasons. The communal lounge, which feels inviting for both apres ski and apres SUP, is decked in blonde oak wood and earth-tone mid-century furniture – a palette that echoes the surrounding rocky terrain (not the North Pole).
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 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. Four of the suites have two bedrooms and similar designs, while the rest are sprawling four-bedroom pads, each with a unique interior. One, for example, is more modern, and another more traditionally western. The idea, says Paige, is that repeat guests can enjoy a totally different design experience each time they visit.
Adventure lies just beyond your suite
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 Teton Mountains and lessons in working a ranch (haltering and saddling horses, as well as ‘punching’, aka moving 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 (Peter says one of Golliher’s favourites is about a man falling asleep at church). They’re not your typical hotel offerings. ‘Caldera House is looking for activities that get to the heart of Jackson’, says Peter. ‘That’s cool to see a hotel really value that.’
Wyoming has its own spin on wellness
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 Tarahumara Indians in the book Born to Run.
For culinary wellness, the hotel offers cooking classes and nutrition consultations that are fully customizable. ‘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 better 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.
There’s cuisine worthy of the Wild West
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 aerial tram, 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 bakeware, mean you can cook up a masterpiece of your own, or have the hotel book you a personal chef.
Additionally, Caldera House’s location puts you right in the heart of Teton Village and just a quick stroll from the Mangy Moose Saloon – a steakhouse with an outdoor deck in the summer and a full lineup of live music. 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 he’s 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 the Jackson town square’, says Peter. ‘It’s a great end-of-day place, especially if you’ve been out hiking all day.’ Lauren – either dreaming of the wine or 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.’