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    Bill Briggs

    By Britney Magleby
    Bill Briggs plays the banjo at Cowboy Church in the Stagecoach in Jackson Hole Bill Briggs plays the banjo at Cowboy Church in the Stagecoach in Jackson Hole

    A Jackson Hole Legend Tells a 91-Year-Old Story


    The words "local legend" aren't used lightly in Jackson. But there's no other way to describe Bill Briggs.

    To be a local in Jackson, WY is to truly embody the Jackson Hole lifestyle. And to be a legend, in a land full of people accomplishing legendary feats every day, you have to do something truly remarkable.

    Bill Briggs, at 91-years-wild, helped shaped the Jackson Hole lifestyle and has accomplished so many remarkable feats in these mountains that he could be named a "local legend" countless times over. In fact, given all his "firsts" in this Valley, I wouldn't be surprised if the term was coined for him alone.

    For the Jackson Hole Travel and Tourism Board’s Mountain of Youth Campagin, the camera crew met up with Bill Briggs in one of his favorite local spots – the Stagecoach Bar. The dimly-lit hangout, empty in the middle of the morning, opened early just for the occasion. More accurately, it opened early just for Bill, who has likely spent more time on the stage of the Wilson watering hole playing for its patrons than anyone in history.

    Bill walks into the room wearing his signature smile – one of those genuine expressions that take over an entire face and spread contageously throughout a room. Instantly you can tell you’ll be captivated by what he has to say. So he makes his way over to a stool, picks up the banjo with his weathered hands, and starts to tell his stories…

    “The Father of Extreme Skiing”

    If Bill had a award for every “first” he’s claimed, his mantle would be filled with medals and certificates from floor to ceiling and wall to wall. His accalades might read:

    • The first man to ski the Grand Teton
    • The first ski descent on the South Teton and the Middle Teton
    • The first ski descent on Mt. Moran, Mt. Owen, and the Bugaboos
    • The first high ski traverse in the Canadian Rockies
    • The first modern ski descent of Mt. Rainier
    • Director of the Great American Ski School at Snow King Mountain in 1967
    • Founder of the ski instruction ‚ÄúCertainty Training Method”
    • Inductee of the Intermountain Hall of Fame
    • Inductee of the US National Ski and Snowboard Hall of Fame
    • … and maybe even a few untold awards reserved for Bill and his friends alone

    Yes, at 92 Bill could fill a trophy room to hold his precious awards. But that’s not Bill’s style. It seems he receives almost as much joy in sharing his adventures as he does taking part in the moment himself.

    “We had a wonderful time when we got into the backcountry,” Bill reminisces of his early days skiing in Jackson. “I can remember one day we had over 130 clients, so I got my instructors all trained up on how to guide them and got busses and we took them up the path… it was all working according to plan. They were all having a wonderful time and it was a delight to see it all happening.”

    Bill Briggs is a legend in Jackson Hole Wyoming Bill Briggs smiles and tells stories of the Tetons

    Bill Briggs the Band Leader

    “Here in Jackson, you can make things the way you want them to be. And I wanted to make music.”

    Bill Briggs has been playing music at the Stagecoach for 54 years. As a founding member of the Stagecoach Band, Mr. Briggs has made his way to the bar in Wilson, WY every Sunday for more than 2,000 Sundays and counting. “Boy, just about every one of those Sundays in 54 years have been fun,” he says with pure joy.

    Bill Briggs is never short of smiles. But something different comes across his face when he speaks of his music.

    “When I’m playing here at the stagecoach and you’ve got all these people, even newcomers that come in, everyone is so supportive of your music… I never considered us being that good. Technically we’re not. But boy, people seem to appreciate what you try to do.”

    The Next Generation

    Interviewer: Would you say that your music and playing here keeps you young?
    Bill Briggs: Oh, boy, does it ever!

    In Jackson, age doesn’t matter. Children ages 2 to 102 come to these mountains to play on the natural playgrounds, meet up with old friends and new, and remember the carefree joy of a life that prioritizes happiness over progress. It’s a place the bridges generational gaps and ignores cultural standards.

    “There can be two-year-olds dancing here, or they can be 92, and you’ve got everybody in between,” Bill describes. “You have the young people, you have the old people and everybody fits in. I mean, it’s a perfect world from my point of view.”

    Bill Briggs was the first man to ski the Tetons in Jackson Hole Bill Briggs plays the banjo at Cowboy Church in the Stagecoach in Jackson Hole

    Jackson Hole

    Bill moved to Jackson in 1952. Even at 92, he remembers the moment clearly. After a trip with friends “as we were leaving over the Pass we decided, all four of us, that we would live here. The other three haven’t made it yet.”

    You would think it was the grand mountains and the wide open spaces that drove a East Coast, Dartmouth boy West, but Bill has a different reason why he calls Jackson home.

    “Everybody sees the mountains and beautiful valley and all that, but it was the people that impressed me the most. And the reason that I really wanted to live here was I figured that I would have the support to do whatever I wanted to do in life and I would get more support here than I would any other place that I had known of.”

    The Secret to the Mountain of Youth

    When you live to 92, and I mean really LIVE to 92, everyone wants to know the secret. The irony is that it often can’t be found in the places we’re looking. The secret to a long, full life can’t be found in any physical thing. It’s a mindset, and for some reason that mindset is easily encountered while playing in the mountains.

    “I was determined before I came here that I would have a long life, well over 102… and I certainly haven’t finished up.”

    “Boy, it’s still just as much fun now as it ever was.”

    #VisitJacksonHole