Midwest Sportsters (especially Alpine skiers and ‘boarders) fortunate enough to participate in this coming March’s trip to Jackson Hole, Wyoming, will hopefully be able to reserve at least part of that trip to reflect on the history of that region, especially of course, of the Grand Tetons themselves.
My memories of the region revert back to the years between 1960 and 1965 when I was doing my television weathercasts, hosting an afternoon children’s television show and also announcing on KID-TV and KID radio in Idaho Falls, Idaho. Idaho Falls was, and is, a pleasant two-hour drive from Jackson Hole and I made the drive and those visits frequently. I didn’t know then how skiing would be a major part of my life, both as simply a skier and also eventual television ski show host from 1966 until the mid-1980s in Seattle-Tacoma, Las Vegas, Minneapolis-Saint Paul, Washington, D.C. and Detroit. The Twin Cities shows, on KSTP-TV especially and initially (THE SKI SCENE), allowed me to form a great relationship with then Jackson Hole’s Director of Skiing, Austrian Olympic Slalom Gold Medalist racer, Josef “Pepi” Steigler. Pepi was quiet and reserved off the slopes, but when Pepi was on the steeps of the highest vertical drop slopes in the U.S., now-named Jackson Hole Mountain Resort at Teton Village, Pepi skied more brilliantly than can be described.
When I began visiting Jackson Hole in 1960, the ONLY ski area there was Wyoming’s first ski area, Snow King Mountain, now known as the town hill, just steps away from the town square. Snow King still welcomes every skier and ‘boarder, from beginner to expert, night skiing, a winter coaster and a tubing park. Snow King also hosts the World Championship Snowmobile Hill Climb. If you’re into “retro” or nostalgia, reserve at least part of one day to enjoy Snow King and an excellent view of the town of Jackson/Jackson Hole and the Teton Valley to the north of the town.
The Teton Valley holds some special personal memories, the most memorable of which I’ll share here, to wit: In the late spring of 1963, I was invited to interview, for KID-AM radio, the stars of a new Warner Bros. film that had been shot in the Teton Valley and Grand Teton National Park, entitled SPENCER’S MOUNTAIN. The stars were Maureen O’Hara, Henry Fonda and James MacArthur, with a newcomer named Mimsy Farmer. The director, Delmer Daves, was the only director to whom Jack Warner ever gave a lifetime contract. At the first press conference, Mr. Daves asked me if the radio station would allow me to spend several days with the stars and him and if so, if I would mind being his driver during that time. The station said yes and so did I.
The most blessed time for me during that week was to be invited by Mr. Daves to attend a private party for only the cast, Mr. Daves and Art Linkletter. I had gotten to know Art Linkletter a few months earlier at Sun Valley, Idaho, when for his TV show, HOUSE PARTY, I filmed him and his family learning how to ski there. The party was held at the Grand Teton National Park home of Laurance Rockefeller. The land for Grand Teton National Park was owned by the Rockefeller family, but eventually donated by that family to the U.S. government to establish Grand Teton National Park.
The party, needless to say, was lavish. Both Henry Fonda and Maureen O’Hara were kind enough to take me aside, as they had during the previous few days, to privately tell me stories about their lives, stories never made public, but would also not be embarrassing if made public. (Some of them I chronicled in my autobiography, released almost three years ago.) I continued my friendship with Mr. Daves, thanks to his kindness. In subsequent years, he allowed me to visit with him at his home at 107 North Bentley Avenue in West Hollywood. He scheduled a Warner Bros. screen test for me, but two weeks prior to my taking the test for him, he passed away in 1977 at age 73. The test didn’t happen. Ironically, Mr. Daves’ wife, Mary, who was an actress, also passed away at age 73, in 1991. Both she and he were wonderfully unaffected for all they’d achieved.
Other luminaries who have called Jackson Hole and environs their homes include Harrison Ford and my late friend, singer/actor Robert Goulet and his then wife, and, proud to state, my friend, actress/singer Carol Lawrence. The Goulet home was situated on the north side of a hill at the south end of the Teton Valley, facing north, with a spectacular view of the Teton Valley to the north and the Grand Tetons themselves, to the west.
So, dear reader, now you know more of why the Jackson Hole region has some exciting modern-day history as well as this country’s formative history. Happy skiing and ‘boarding at one of the world’s most exciting spots to do so. Happy 2019, too!
Editor’s note: You can reach Barry at [email protected]. He welcomes ideas for future columns and is available as a speaker at club functions