Where The Boys Are
During ski season in Jackson Hole, there are 10 guys for every girl. Liking those odds, Nancy Miller and her wingwoman, Debbie, set off on what turns out to be the ultimate ego trip. But is there such a thing as too many men?
When I've gone on vacations with my girlfriends in the past, our goal has been to unwind, not hook up. But as a newly single woman in my early 30s, I've had it with being cloistered in some desert spa where the only man for miles is a ponytailed craniosacral therapist. These days, I want action! Adventure! And men! And evidently, the men are in Jackson Hole, Wyoming.
With its frontier history and extreme skiing, Jackson Hole is legendary for having major manly appeal. (And we're talking men with money.) Hard numbers are tough to come by, but the male-to-female ratio in Jackson Hole is informally touted as 7 to 1, and it spikes to 10 to 1 in peak ski season, between December and March.
But when my friend Debbie and I arrive in Jackson on a blustery, frosty Thursday evening in mid-January, the ratio feels more like 100 to 1. A flurry of men dash about baggage claim. There are hunky cowboys, stubble-chinned ski bums, moneyed mega moguls, and, if all goes well...my future husband. Hoisting zeppelin-size duffel bags over their shoulders, they high-five each other with thunderous claps and deftly handle six-foot-long skis with the agility of ninjas.
"I think our plane crashed," I say to Debbie as we stand, slack-jawed. "And we're in heaven."
On our bus, we are the only two women out of about 30 ridiculously attractive men. In the row ahead of us, a quartet of 20-something professionals is so over-the-top handsome, they look like they were genetically engineered for the J. Crew catalog. The guys explain that they're buddies who met in college and trek to a different ski resort each year. "It's a dude trip, essentially," says Dan Sutherland, 26, a real estate investment analyst who lives in San Francisco. "The focus is on skiing and having a good time...." He bats his giraffe-like eyelashes. "So, are you skiers? Or 'boarders?"
"Uh...skiers?" ventures Debbie, then looks at me, pleading for rescue.
There's a slight complication: We don't ski. At least, neither of us has skied since junior high school. In fact, during our flight from Los Angeles, we sheepishly admitted that we both secretly hate skiing. It's simply too much hassle--the stinky boots, the unwieldy skis, the creaky chairlift, the freezing weather--and for what, 30 terrifying seconds of flailing down a mountain? So we agreed not to let skiing ruin our fun. Naturally, we're not about to advertise this revelation, because as a rule, you don't come to Jackson Hole if you don't ski. Everyone knows you go to Aspen for that.
"Oh yeah, we're skiers," I fib.
"Then you're going to love it," Dan explains. "At the top of the mountain, there's a sign that warns you that the skiing here is so dangerous, so treacherous, you could die."
The bus lurches to a stop--as does, for a moment, my heart. Did he just say die? What have we gotten ourselves into?
I had rented us a one-bedroom condo, walking distance from Teton Village, through the aptly named Rendezvous Mountain Rentals. Over the phone, when I told the rental agent about our quest, she laughed and replied, "Well, you're definitely coming to the right place. There certainly are a lot of men here." It worked for her: The native New Yorker came to Jackson three years ago and met her husband. "I'll see if I can put you in next door to some cute guys," she added conspiratorially.
We arrive just after midnight at our groovy '70s-style one-bedroom, cluttered with moose-themed knickknacks. As we unpack, we count up our "conquests." On the hour-long drive from the airport, we chatted up over a dozen guys.
Debbie crunches the numbers. "That works out to be," she says, "one man every five minutes."
We put our coats right back on and head for a place the boys from the shuttle told us about. The Mangy Moose Saloon is a local hangout with live music and microbrews on tap (Snake River Pale Ale is a local favorite). It's a five-minute walk from our condo. A reggae band is playing to a packed house: ruddy-faced gents in ski hats swill beer and bob their heads to the beat. I strike up a conversation with Pascal, a swarthy 30-year-old from Denver wearing a faded University of Colorado at Boulder hoodie. We chat about Jackson Hole, where he's been "shredding" on his snowboard for nearly two weeks.
"Guess how many days I skied last year!" he commands.
"How many?" I ask.
"Seventy-five! And guess how many I surfed."
"Forty-five freakin' days, man!"
I nudge Debbie. "He surfs and skis," I say, with a wiggle of my eyebrows. "Isn't that great?" Back home, of course, a 30-year-old guy who calls me "man," doesn't have a job, and lives in his van isn't too great a catch. But here--well, when in Rome, dude. Debbie and I order a second round of Jäger shots and strike up a conversation with one of the few other women in the bar: Kristin, a 23-year-old cocktail waitress from Kentucky. She has lived here a year and is, we're surprised to discover, single. "We have a sayin' about all the men up here," she says. "The odds are good, but the goods are odd."