You may only know the teeny town of Jackson, Wyo., for its giant, celebrity-owned ranches and fabled ski slopes.
But hotelier Erik Warner, whose 49-room Anvil Hotel opened this month within a 20-minute bus ride of the lifts, wants skiing to be the last thing on your mind when you visit.
“Jackson is out-of-control beautiful—no matter which way you turn, you’re just wowed,” he said of the city that he’s adopted as a second home. “It’s one of the most special places in the world.”
His little inn, a high-design conversion of a 1950s motel, might now be Jackson’s most special spot. There’s no argument that it’s certainly the coolest—assuming you didn't get the invite to Harrison Ford's 800-acre ranch nearby.
The clean-lined, Shaker-inspired design is the work of Studio Tack’s Jou-Yie Chou—a longtime veteran of Ace hotels. The rooms (from $195 per night) have two-toned wainscot walls and rustic, iron bed frames, a nod to frontiersmen on the Oregon Trail who passed through Wyoming in the 1800s.
The hotel bar is run by the booze-slinging wizards of Death & Co., whose New York institution features what's been called the world’s best cocktail menu. The general store, despite its Western-leaning products, is curated by the Soho-based outdoors specialist Westerlind. The old motel’s restaurant, Nonni’s, has been reincarnated as a more modern Italian concept, with the help of ex-Pok Pok sous chef, Troy Furuta.
And then there are the more local tie-ins, such as a coffee shop by Jackson’s Snake River Roasters, breakfast pastries by nearby bakery Persephone, and elk jerky in the minibars. It’s the perfect mix of global taste and local cred to make the place appeal to out-of-towners and area residents alike.
None of this happened by accident. In fact, the hotel’s genesis goes all the way back to the summer of ’96, when then-Cornell hospitality student Warner took an internship at the Spring Creek Ranch just outside town. The work was rewarding but didn't pay enough to make ends meet in pricey Jackson, so Warner scoured town for additional income. That's how he ended up working the front desk at—you guessed it—the Anvil Hotel.
Warner’s original husband-and-wife bosses at the Anvil had been toying with selling the property for years when Warner revisited it on a family trip to Jackson in 2014. Buoyed by the success of his previous projects—his company, Eagle Point Hotel Partners, has worked on hotels that range from the peaceful Lumeria in Maui to the stylish new Arlo hotels in New York—he made a sales pitch and a bid and walked away with the Anvil’s deed.
“To be able to buy something that you worked on as a kid? It’s a little strange,” said Warner, whose next projects will include the Sound View on the North Fork of Long Island, the Grove Hotel in Portland, Ore., and a venture in Napa Valley. “But it’s meaningful on so many levels.”
Given his personal connection with the place, all bets were on: Warner knew he needed to transform the Anvil into something that would reflect upon the local community and also give back to it.
“My goal was to open something that feels of this place. Not your typical 'mountain modern' or log cabin design. Not something forced,” explained Warner. To execute on the directive, he and his designers spent a full year living in Jackson and absorbing its charms. “We wanted to really understand the history of the place and the people and the culture and the community,” he said.
Nothing was preserved but the hotel’s name—one of the longest continually used business names in Teton County. (The Anvil started out as a blacksmith shop when the town of Jackson was first founded, nearly 100 years ago.) The carpet came out and parquet went in. The old bathroom fixtures were gutted and replaced by hand-patinated pieces from Waterworks. And the walls that shape Glorietta, the new restaurant, were opened up to showcase a custom-built wood-fired grill. If it all looks as if it could have been there for as long as the Anvil itself, that’s exactly the point.
Other luxury hotels exist in and around Jackson. There’s Amangani, one of the most elite resorts in the country, perfect for fully private and bespoke adventures. There’s a Four Seasons, which pampers the most hard-core skiers. But only the Anvil aims to make the town itself the star, with its under-the-radar museums, attention-worthy cultural institutions, and burgeoning culinary scene.
And then there are the mountains. “Think about hiking in the Tetons. You can hike over lakes. You can take easy trails. There’s a whole spectrum of hikes alone,” Warner exuded. “And you can multiply that by the 20-something different outdoor experiences you have here! Fishing, snowmobiling, snowshoeing, biking ...” It’s as multidimensional a destination as they come, he says.
Corporate retreats are not just welcome, by the way. They’re encouraged. "When groups are put in environments like this and have adventures together, there’s a bond that’s created,” Warner explained. “We can do that over and over again out here."