by Jeff Burke
Population: 8,388 Median income: $51,900 (household)
Overview: Flanked by the Teton and Big Hole mountain ranges, the eight-mile stretch of Highway 33 connecting Driggs and Victor, Idaho is home to a burgeoning mountain town where high quality of life coincides with financial realism. Growing neighborhoods spur off the main drag, with easy access to trailheads that lead to mountain biking, hiking, fishing, and skiing. For decades, the area was known as a sleepy Mormon outpost, but as more would-be Jacksonites began to spill over Teton Pass, driven by ever-climbing resort-town real estate prices, "Drictor," as it's affectionately called, has become a destination of its own. Sure, there are ski-bum commuters, but also families, lots of them (45 percent of the county population), settling in and taking advantage of more attainable homes, a lower cost of living, and year-round recreation. Like Jackson, outdoor pursuits are integral to the lifestyle, but because there are no throughways to Grand Teton and Yellowstone parks, tourist numbers are relatively small. Drictor also sees more consistent weather patterns than its neighboring valley. "Because they have better air drainage out of the valley, their average temps are warmer." says local meteorologist Jim Woodmencey. "While we're stuck in an inversion on the Jackson side with temps well below zero, they'll be 25 degrees warmer."
The skiing: Receiving more than 500 inches a year, Grand Targhee—which sits on the western slope of the Tetons—gets substantially more powder than its neighbors. And they're proud of it. "Snow from heaven, not hoses," declares the localism. Ski passes are a modest $775 ($199 for Jr.) compared to Jackson Hole's $1,970. And the resort is cozy, with four chairlifts, and a simpler, uncrowded skiing experience. The terrain spans three adjacent peaks, with 2,000 vertical feet of skiing on sweeping bowls, gladed forests, and a slice of craggy chutes off Peaked Mountain. The resort also runs its own 600-acre Cat ski operation, and grooms 15 kilometers of skate skiing. And that's just the resort. Teton Pass offers some of the best roadside backcountry skiing in the U.S. (see Teton Passing Lane, this issue).
Real estate: Every town felt the blow of the economic about-face last year. And Teton County, Idaho is no different. "Prices are definitely down," says Ed Scheer of Windemere Real Estate. "There was an unrealistic market frenzy for the past few years." As a bedroom community to Jackson Hole, Drictor has rolled with the punches. "Because they've been priced out of Jackson market," says Scheer, "many people have bought and built stable communities in Teton County, Idaho. While we have seen our share of high-end speculative homes, the entry level for home ownership can still be found in the low $200,000s." But the difference between Drictor and other bedroom communities is that it is its own epicenter for mountain recreation—on par with Jackson if backcountry skiing is your thing—and there's an actual community to go along with the bedrooms.
From the Winter 2009-10 issue