In 2009, when they were parents to a toddler, 18 month-old Ann-Dallas, Katie Payne Confer and husband Matt moved to Jackson Hole. The couple, who attended college together, had lived in Jackson for one year after graduation. They enjoyed their time here, but when they left the valley to pursue careers and advanced degrees in San Francisco, they didn’t think it was a place they’d ever move back to. Here, Katie shares how and why she and Matt moved back to Jackson with their family. Ann-Dallas is now ten, and her younger brother, Payne, is seven years old.
We loved our lives in San Francisco, but we weren’t taking advantage of activities outside the city. I remember driving back from Tahoe, once, and it took us ten hours. There are opportunities to get outdoors in San Francisco, but they’re not as accessible as people often think. But that wasn’t what really got us thinking about leaving the city. We were turned-off when we had to apply for pre-schools for Ann-Dallas. It was such a process, and we didn’t feel like going through it. It seemed like too much. That was when Matt and I thought, well, if we don’t move now, we’ll never do it. We figured we could always move back to San Francisco if it didn’t work out.
Because we had stayed in touch with friends from our year here after college, and we knew the community, Jackson was really the only place we considered. We knew we loved it here, and there were good schools. Matt worked in startup finance and as an attorney, and he knew he’d be able to assume one of these positions here. Still, it was scary for me because we were happy in San Francisco. We had full lives and many great friends. It was important to know that if we left, we could find a place where we could really put down roots and become part of the community. We moved here in 2009. We’ve never thought about leaving.
In summer we’re either camping, in the drift boat on the river, or hiking. Hiking is the kids’ least favorite of these activities, but we all love camping. For family adventures, we’ll take our camper van into the Gros Ventres. It’s wilderness, but it’s easily accessed from town.
As far as other activities, Ann-Dallas enjoys horseback riding and gymnastics, and Payne plays soccer. They both play the ukulele and attend the Journeys School, a local, independent school focused on place based education. They’re regular kids, but they are able to experience these amazing adventures. In addition to all that, they are great skiers. Payne’s already asking about skiing Corbet’s Couloir. The lifestyle we’re able to have in Jackson Hole as a family is very special.
Like any place, Jackson Hole has its pros and cons—such as winter lingering until May—but Matt always says to me, “we’re living the dream here.” And he’s right. I hurt my ACL this winter, but before that, we spent every weekend skiing together as a family. When the ski day was done, we’d hang out with our friends and their kids—they were amazing days, and because we live here, that’s just our way of life! I think the kids are fortunate to grow up here, but Matt and I are lucky too—to be able to do all those things we might otherwise only be able to do together on vacations. Living here, it’s just what you do.