Adventures of Amangani
Soon after I arrived at the mesmerising valley of Gangtey, while on my uniquely special circular Amankora pilgrimage in Bhutan, I knew I had to visit Amangani, where Aman occupies a splendidly remote site above Jackson Hole's valley floor in Grand Teton's National Park.
Location is paramount at any Amanresort and if, like me, you love the feeling of unbounded, trackless, pathless freedom, that only valleys such as these deliver, in sweeping proportions, then it is here, at Amangani, that you will feel revived, perhaps fulfilled.
It is a well known fact that Amangani offers some of the most revered and sought after skiing opportunities the world over, and naturally some of the most spectacular. However, the avenue that I wish to pursue is Amangani and the treasures of Jackson Hole during the more temperate months when pristine lakes and rivers become something of a God-given creation.
Around 7,000 years ago, the region now known as Jackson Hole, Wyoming, was home to many indigenous peoples who hunted the prolific game; fished in the abundant rivers; and gathered from the plenitude of plant variety during the summer months. During the 1800's non-native Americans started to explore the region in order to trap beaver and other animals that provided fashionable attributes; however this was not sustainable during the winter months. This was and still is a region where the wild prevails over humankind and, extending over 19 million acres, Yellowstone is regarded as the largest and most complete eco-system within the Lower 48 States.
But the real story of Jackson Hole begins over ten million years ago with a geophysical phenomena - the uplifting of the valley floor from the west of a major fault line and dropping to its east - thus creating the awesome Teton Range. The Teton fault with its majestic ranges provides some of the most arresting mountain vistas anywhere in the world. Amangani is bedded and wedded in rock face on the western edge of East Gros Ventre Butte, around 7,000 feet above sea level, with panoramic views of the snow-capped peaks around Grand Teton National Park. From what I have read and seen, this captivating situation takes most visitors' breath away, as it is, quite literally, breathtaking.
Why the non-skiing season...
With pristine scenery bathed in sunlight, together with an air so fresh it cleanses with every breath, visiting here when you can walk through the valley of sagebrush and into the aspen forests of the Grand Teton National Park, seems like a most invigorating idea; a soul-surging one even, particularly for those who respond to the 'calls of the wild'.
Titbits from the Amangani Explorer's Guide
It seems as though exhilarating opportunities are limitless here. In the summer the days are warm and nights cool; perfect for curling up in front of the fire within your scrumptious suite. The hikes and trails are set within swathes of multi-coloured wild flowers, where the wildlife; from bison to elk, mule deer, moose, pronghorn antelope, grizzly and black bears, wolves and coyotes; live wild and roam free.
From May to October both the Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks can be explored. The town of Jackson, at the tip of the former park, serves as an ideal base from which to venture for a short stay or one day. The Jenny and Jackson Lakes are said to be art works of nature while the surrounding landscape is quite magnificent. It is recommended that at least one full day be spent in Yellowstone: one of the finest, as well as the first, national parks in the world. With two million acres of outstanding beauty; reflective mirror-like lakes, volcanic plateaus, cascading waterfalls, as well as steaming geysers, including Old Faithful; one day must surely be too little. I want to move there, however, Amangani can organise a full day packed with astonishing memories together with a comprehensive picnic basket if requested.
From April through to October you can hike through the hills and take full advantage of the prolific wildlife including nesting birds. From May you can enjoy much of this on horseback and traverse the wilds of the Rocky Mountain West - delivering a real 'yee-hah' feeling to the experience. From late May through to September you can ride the Brider Gondola to the upper reaches of the ski resort in order to catch a view-in-a-zillion then hike down, or not. For all these occasions naturalists and guides are provided.
For the 'piece de resistance' of views you can take a ride up Snow King Mountain, where you will savour eye-watering views of the Teton, Gros Ventre, Snake River, Wind River and Absaroka mountain ranges. How much of nature's glory can one behold from a single vantage point?
Aside from the aforementioned, there are wildlife tours available throughout the year as well as mountain biking from April through October in Jackson Hole and for those who can't bear the thought of a stay with no green; one of the country's most spectacular golf courses resides at the foot of the Teton Mountain Range. A real hole in one!
There are so many more activities to rave about, such as hot air ballooning, or for the more adventurous spirits, tandem paragliding and even glider flights (count me out) are available. There are also festivals and rodeos which provide that unique entertainment that we all feel familiar with, yet it's here that you will experience the real deal.
The serene resort, Amangani
Its location, as mentioned, is unprecedented: high atop the East Gros Ventre Butte, with views we all yearn to bask in, at least once in our lifetime. For many this extraordinary privilege alone would render any other activities null and void: some guests have written that they just couldn't leave Amangani throughout their stay; that is why I think you need at least a week here.
As the first and, until the opening of Amangiri in Utah, only Amanresort in the USA, its unique Oriental signature, together with its organic and sympathetic interpretation of local culture, renders Amangani a one-off. Not only does it respect and appreciate its unparalleled setting, but it also pays homage to its wild-west host. It is by all accounts a romantic reflection of the American West, blending enchanting indigenous influences with the formidable character, essence, and knockout magnificence of the landscape, together with its roaming wildlife.
Suites in all categories offer becoming comforts in typically subtle, yet delectable style: wall-to-wall carpets, faux wolf upholstered chairs, pine-stump low tables, point-and-click contemporary fireplaces, window-side daybeds for vista-gazing, walls decorated in cedar or fir planks, deep tubs, some of which look onto that view. This attention to detail continues into the vital comfort-and-needs zone, with mega beds, twin vanities, a shower room and full-length mirrors. The bathroom floors are laid with clear-heart redwood: my feet are almost there.
The dining areas, lounge, library, traditional 'Dakota Room', health centre, and gallery, are all sensationally appointed, using local materials throughout. For example the lounge has floor-to-ceiling columns of Oklahoma sandstone, the ceilings and walls are in aromatic Pacific redwood, while a two-storey window brings in the magical view of the Snake River Range. Wood burning fires crackle atmospherically in all the reception rooms while you sit in your rawhide-on-rattan chairs, soaking up the radiance of the native soul.
However, I long to luxuriate in that pool, that tantalising 35-metre outdoor pool, decorated in frost-coloured quartzite tiles, with a whirlpool swirling at one end and a feeling of infinity at the other, while watching the sun drop behind those timeless mountains as the sky brandishes a radiant blush-and-amber sunset as it glazes the mountain tips in a golden glow.
Jackson Hole Airport is a ten-minute drive from the valley town of Jackson and less than twenty minutes, complimentary transfer, from Amangani. Major airlines and commuter services fly from many major cities within the surrounding states while there are direct flights from Los Angeles (read our reviews of Mondrian and Beverly Hills Hotel) every Saturday during the winter. Private flights can be arranged via Jackson Hole Aviation and charter flights are also available.
Take the bull by the horns in 2009 and transport your body where your mind is sure to wander: this the year of the Earth Bull.