Jackson Hole is an absolute mecca for winter sports, and January is the prime time to enjoy the snow. All modes of skiing and snowboarding are fantastic in the area, from downhill to backcountry to cross country, and there are plenty of snowshoeing and fat biking trails as well.
In this article, I will first go over many of the weather, skiing, and conditions factors to consider when planning a visit to Jackson Hole and/or Yellowstone in January. Then, I will go over some of the average temperatures and weather information for the area in January.
Jackson Hole Receives A Lot of Snow
Jackson Hole Ski Area has reliable daily, monthly, and seasonal snowfall records dating back to 1975. On average, December is actually the snowiest month in Jackson by a small margin, but January is not far behind as the second snowiest month.
Abundant snowfall in December helps to build the snowpack, so that by January conditions are typically prime for all winter sports activities. Jackson Hole Ski Area averages 91 inches of snow in December and 84 inches of snow in January, so there are plenty of opportunities to ski powder at this time of year.
The Jackson Hole Valley, Yellowstone National Park, and surrounding regions also typically have a deep snowpack by January as well, affording good and reliable conditions for cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, and fat biking.
Snow Quality is at Its Highest
While every snow year is different, on average January has the most consistent high-quality powder snow for skiing and winter sports.
By the time January rolls around, the snowpack has typically grown to sufficient depths for most areas to be “ski-able”. Add to that, the fact that January snowfall is frequent and abundant, and often dry and powdery.
Since January is the coldest month of the year on average in Jackson Hole, and the sun angle is still low in the sky, thus reducing the impacts of solar radiation on the snow compared to later in the year. As a result, the snow quality in January tends to be outstanding and stays in good shape for many days after a storm on all but the most sun-exposed south-facing aspects.
Beware of Avalanche Terrain
Avalanche danger fluctuates day to day and week to week throughout the winter season, but early season persistent weak layers often persist well into January. As a result, avalanche potential tends to be elevated at this time of year versus late winter and spring.
As a rule of thumb, it’s best to plan backcountry skiing adventures with avalanche terrain in mind and to go for routes that involve lower angle terrain and ridges. January is typically not the time of year to be eyeing big alpine objectives.
As always, check the Bridger-Teton Avalanche Center forecasts and data regularly. Their website contains many fantastic resources to keep up with snowpack and avalanche conditions.
Temperatures Can Be Very Cold
This probably comes as no surprise, but northwest Wyoming has a cold winter climate. Temperatures do fluctuate significantly during the winter months, as this area is in a “battle-zone” type intermountain climate that sees influences from both a milder/wetter Pacific climate and a colder/drier continental climate.
The interaction between these two climate patterns produces abundant snow in the area, but during drier periods the colder continental air-masses can take over. Periods of high pressure also lead to inversions, when colder air sinks into the valleys and lower elevations.
Since the “lower elevation” valleys consist of elevations between 6,000-8,000 feet, this means that temperatures can be bitterly cold during arctic outbreaks and during inversion patterns.
In the town of Jackson, the average high and low temperatures in January are 28 and 5 respectively, while the summit of Jackson Hole Ski Area at 10,400 ft., the average high and low are 19 and 9.
Low temperatures and sometimes high temperatures are usually milder during stormy periods, whereas temperatures can plummet during clear and dry periods. During cold snaps, valley temperatures can fall to 20 below zero or colder and high temperatures may struggle to get into the single digits above zero.
During dry spells, higher elevation temperatures typically start out very cold initially but start to warm up each day as inversions strengthen over the area, while cold air remains “trapped” in the valleys for days on end. During strong inversion patterns, it can be relatively balmy for mid to upper mountain skiing with sunny skies and temperatures in the 20s, whereas valley temperatures will struggle to get above zero!
Access to Winter Recreation in Jackson Hole and Grand Teton National Park
For backcountry skiing and snowboarding, Teton Pass is the most popular spot since Highway 22 travels over the pass, offering a starting point for skiers at an elevation of 8,400 feet. Skiers/snowboarders make runs off of both sides of the pass and from the top of Mt. Glory, and can arrange car shuttles from the lower portions of either side of the pass.
Trail Creek (near Wilson) and Coal Creek are the two most popular “exit route” trailheads. There is also a large plowed parking area on the highway near the start of the Phillips Ridge Trailhead, which offers access to backcountry skiing, cross country skiing, and snowmobiling.
In Grand Teton National Park, the inter-loop road is closed during the winter from the Taggart Lake Trailhead to Signal Mountain. As a result, Taggart Lake is a popular starting spot for winter adventures of all sorts.
There are many wonderful backcountry ski destinations, such as 25-Short, that start from Taggart Lake. Bradley and Taggart Lakes are also popular snowshoeing and cross-country skiing destinations. In addition, the inter-loop road is groomed during the winter months, offering a fantastic option for cross-country skiers. Jenny Lake is about 5 miles one way, and offers a good day trip for cross-country skiing.
To the south, the Moose-Wilson Road is closed in the winter, but also offers good cross-country skiing on the road itself, as well as to Phelps Lake.
Farther north, less-traveled cross-country skiing and nordic skiing options abound around Signal Mountain, Jackson Lake Lodge, and Colter Bay.
Outside of the park, Togwotee Pass is a popular winter spot for cross-country skiing, backcountry skiing, and especially snowmobiling. Many snowmobile tours operate around Togwotee Pass. For backcountry skiing, Angle Mountain offers good options for powder turns.
Access to Winter Recreation in Yellowstone National Park
Yellowstone has limited access to vehicle traffic in the winter, but it does offer access via snowmobile and snow coach, with typical access points from the west and south entrances. Yellowstone National Park’s website has detailed information about winter access.
Yellowstone is a magical place to visit in the winter, and there are numerous options for cross-country skiing and snowshoeing once you access the park via snowmobile/snow coach.
The northern park road between Mammoth Hot Springs and the northeast entrance is the one road that remains open to auto traffic, offering opportunities for cross country skiing/snowshoeing as well as wildlife viewing (think wolves).
Additionally, the highway that heads north from West Yellowstone toward Big Sky, Montana borders the northwest border of Yellowstone, where there are several trailheads offering access to cross-country skiing and snowshoeing.
Winter is Less Crowded Than Summer
Jackson Hole is known as a ski destination and there is a relative spike in visitation compared to the fall, but overall visitation is much lower than it is in the summer. Even with the visiting skiers, Jackson Hole still feels relatively quiet in the winter, holiday season aside.
As a result, lodging rates are much lower in the winter compared to the summer as well. Grand Teton National Park also offers more solitude, and in many cases better wildlife viewing opportunities. Yellowstone is certainly quieter and more serene in the winter as well.
Average January Temperatures
|Location||Average High||Average Low||Avg Warmest|
of the Month
of the Month
|JH Ski Area||18.9||9.0||–||–|
Average January Temperatures by Date
|January 1||January 16||January 31|
|High 30 |
|Old Faithful||High 26|
|JH Ski Area||High 16|
Average January Snowfall and Precipitation
|Days of Precipitation||Total Precipitation||Total Snowfall|
|JH Ski Area||–||–||84.0″|
Average January Snowfall and Snow Depth at Jackson Hole Ski Area
|Jan 1 |
|Jan 16 |
|Jan 31 |