The temperature drops into the minus figures and despite several layers of clothing, gloves and a couple of pairs of socks, it’s difficult to feel fingers and toes as we float along the gently bubbling Snake River.
This winding body of water is flanked by some of the most breath-taking scenery we’ve seen in a long time. The Teton Mountain range is almost perfectly framed by dense woodland that reaches skyward, the branches home to eagles and other gigantic bird of prey. Trout swim in the crystal clear shallows below and the small wooden craft we are sat in silently navigates the meandering river.
Just moments before embarking on this beautiful but chilly excursion, we were wafting along in equally serene comfort thanks to the famously wafting ride of a Rolls-Royce. But rather than leaving the limo parked at the side of the road and hiking to the river bank, we rolled onto the loose shingle and stepped out of the sumptuously heated leather seat and directly onto the wooden pew of a boat.
This would have been impossible in any other Rolls-Royce product, unless you’re willing to witness a Wraith get beached on a riverbank. But then again, the Cullinan is like no other Rolls-Royce that has ever gone before it.
Jets to Jackson Hole
Stepping off a small plane at Jackson Hole airport is an experience in itself. The tarmac is flanked by enormous mountains that seemingly scratch the sky and the handful of small commercial aircraft are outnumbered by the myriad private jets parked up in the far corners of the runway.
Land here was snapped up by the John D. Rockefeller Jr. back in the 1920s and promptly donated to the federal government in order to conserve the stunning beauty in the form of a national park.
The result was bittersweet, with nature preserved from man’s desire to build but the price of land soaring to the point that only the wealthy could afford the scant percentage available to buy.
Numerous celebrities have homes in the area, albeit homes that sit empty until the desire to retreat to the tranquillity of the Wild West arises, and the town of Jackson, which is nestled at the foot of the Teton Mountain Range and the Gros Ventre Range, is popular with the jet set.
Walk around the quintessentially cowboy downtown area, which is surrounded by some of the finest ski slopes in the country, and you’ll be taken aback by the number of exclusive art galleries and jewellers that sit behind Spaghetti Western facades.
With exclusive hotels and eateries nestled in the shadow of some of the most staggering mountain vistas on planet, Jackson Hole would also be the perfect place for Rolls-Royce to launch the newest member of its family.
The average age of a Rolls-Royce customer is steadily declining and what was once the preserve of industrialists, captains of industry and the moneyed gentry is now equally coveted by grime artists, dot com billionaires and celebrities.
It seems obvious, then, that the manufacturer of the most exquisite and expensive cars on the planet would one day cave in to consumer pressure and unleash a decidedly en vogue sports utility vehicle.
But Cullinan, named after the largest diamond ever discovered, is not your run-of-the-mill family wagon, as it boasts a price tag of around £250,000 (before you even look at the options list) and comes decked out with more opulent touches than a Tsar’s palace.
Touch screen entertainment in the rear, massaging seats, trick event seating that electronically folds out of the boot space, umbrellas in the doors and as much leather, chrome and wood surfaces as the customer desires.
It also silently wafts like the most sumptuous limousine on earth, yet packs the sort of advanced off-road technology that will see it dispatch of a double black diamond ski run without breaking a sweat.
Downtown Jackson (Jackson Hole refers to the entire valley) looks like a Hollywood set from a Western movie, with the wooden boardwalks and shop fronts harking back to a time of trappers and frontiersmen.Granted, you can walk into one of the many sporting goods stores and purchase some outdoorsy gear for a trek across the plains, but it’s more likely you’ll stumble into a Starbucks than happen upon a spit-and-sawdust saloon.
After a quick walk around the delights of downtown, we check into the jarringly modern Hotel Jackson (see sidebar), which is overshadowed by the ominous Snow King Mountain but packs plenty of style and sophistication (and roof-top hot tub) into its relatively small shell.
Its FIGS restaurant specialises in Lebanese-Mediterranean food and after eating our bodyweight in kofte, tabbouleh and flat beds, we retire to bed to sleep off some heavy jet lag.
A battered body clock means we wake early, which gives ample opportunity to witness the sun majestically rising from behind the expansive mountain range.Humidity here is almost non-existent and an altitude of around 6,200ft above sea level takes a little getting used to, but laboured breath and chapped lips are soon forgotten as we get the first taste of Cullinan.
Where to stay
This beautiful little hotel is nestled right in the thick of Jackson Hole, surrounded by the numerous restaurants, diners and classic cowboy bars that the area is so famous for.
Owned and run by a family that has lived in the valley for more than four decades, Hotel Jackson’s expansive public spaces and 55 guest rooms and suites thoughtfully blend old (reclaimed barn wood, stone) and new (steel, concrete) materials with contemporary artwork from the valley’s many galleries.
The FIGS Restaurant serves an exquisite mix of modern Lebanese-Mediterranean cuisine, while its Smokin’ Iron grill offers the more typical steaks and burgers fare you’d expect from an old Western town.
All of the rooms have the touches you’d expect at any luxury hotel: Turkish Towel Company robes, pillow top beds, wireless surround systems, Nespresso espresso machines, spa-like bathrooms, in-room safes, L’Occitane bath products, and natural gas fireplaces.
It’s also surprisingly reasonable, especially given the clientele that frequent this place, with rooms available from around $300 a night. Visit the site for more.
The imposing 4×4 pulls up outside the hotel and it’s unmistakably a product from the hallowed factory at Goodwood, but it’s not exactly the most beautiful machine in R-R’s history.
An enormous front grille, bulging bonnet, raised ride height and extremely short overhangs aren’t typical of the company but then this isn’t a typical Rolls-Royce.
Still, its sumptuous interior beckons me to clamber into leather-clad rear seats, which also come specified with beautifully finished stow-away walnut tray tables and entertainment screens.With the soles of my boots buried into the deep-pile lambs wool carpets, we waft majestically the Amangani Hotel, arguably the most exclusive boltholes in the area.
All Hail the Snow King
Perched at 7,000ft above sea level, Amangani is surrounded by some of the most impressive mountaintops in the USA. Jackson Peak, Taylor Mountain and the brilliantly named Bacon Ridge are all in the vicinity, as is the coveted National Elk Refuge that plays host to thousands of protected elks as snow blankets the plains in winter.
The Boy Scouts of America have owned a permit to collect the antlers shed by migrating elk since the 1950s, which are then auctioned off to local towns for use as art instillations.
It’s not uncommon to walk through an arch made entirely of antlers in downtown Jackson or dine underneath a sculpture fashioned from the bony extrusions.
Where to drink
Roadhouse Brewing Co.
Even Jackson Hole isn’t immune to the charms of the hipster ale-maker, as the Roadhouse Brewing Co. so perfectly proves.
Located on what looks like an industrial estate on the outskirts of Jackson Hole, this amazingly cool location is home to an amazing Tap Room (open 4pm-9pm most days), where you can sample some of the delights that are brewed on-site.
Enjoy American Pale Ales, IPAs, Imperial Stouts and some tastebud-tingling concoctions that are all made using the freshest hops and the surrounding glacial waters to achieve a magnificent flavour.
Once suitably lubricated with local ales, head to downtown Jackson Hole and the Cowboy Bar for a massive dose of Wild West drinking action.
After a hearty breakfast in the Amangani’s restaurant, which might just have one of the best views in the world, we are tossed the keys to a pristine white Rolls-Royce Cullinan and instructed to head to Snow King.
Popular with hikers in the summer and skiers in the winter, Snow King is a fairly compact mountain that belies its size with some seriously challenging runs if you’re willing to explore.
Boasting fifteen expert trails and advanced and expert tree skiing, the peak rises to 7,808ft and experiences around 167 inches of snow each year, meaning it’s highly likely you’ll enjoy some killer powder during the season.
But there’s no snow today, which means Snow King is the perfect canvas to test the Cullinan’s off-road abilities. With a simple press of the ‘off-road’ button, the gigantic Roller raises its ride height, restrains the 915Nm of torque delivered by the 6.75-litre V12 and engages all sorts of technical trickery to ensure traction is available at all times.
We must admit, it’s surprisingly eerie to be behind the extra-large wheel of a Rolls-Royce, surrounded by chrome, leather and hand-finished wood, as the Spirit of Ecstasy points skywards.
The wheels scrabble for traction at some of the steeper sections and we have to refrain from applying to power to avoid spraying an early morning hiker with shale.
We reach the summit of Snow King, as baffled dog walkers stare at the £250,000 vehicle perched precariously on the edge of the mountainside. Impressive doesn’t do it justice.
Following a faultless descent back down the trail, which expertly demonstrates the merits of the vehicle’s advanced ‘Downhill Assist’ mode, we hit Highway 191 and make a beeline for Moose, Beaver Creek, Elk and the Grand Teton National Park.
America’s speed limits are laughably low, but with signs warning to keep the miles per hour needle below 45mph, it feels like it could take all day to get to the next town.
Local police enforcement takes speeding extremely seriously and it’s not just to protect the welfare of Jackson Hole residents, but also to ensure the safe migration of animals from one habitat to another.
A quick glance down to the Cullinan’s beautiful digital dials, which are finished with polished chrome surrounds in order to instil an element of craftsmanship, reveals that 95 per cent of the engine’s power reserve is still available.
It’s tempting to floor the throttle, but we keep the speed low, as a collision between the 2.4-tonne Rolls-Royce Cullinan and an adult male bison could effectively reverse the earth’s rotation.
A slow cruising speed also allows attention to be shifted away from the linear road ahead and out of the large passenger window, which perfectly frames Grand Teton.
The 191 eventually leads to the Yellowstone National Park, which is often difficult to traverse at this time of year thanks to the regular flurries of snow that force many roads and passes to close, so we swing right towards North Breccia Cliffs and the quaint Turpin Meadow Ranch.
This small hotel and eatery is a Western adventurers paradise: horses roam free in the meadows, deer are often found wandering the area and main lodge boasts an open fire for warming gloves and boots, exposed beams and various hunting trophies fixed to the walls.
As a Wild West-loving bunch that has devoured many a Cormac McCarthy novel, we can’t help but picture the US Rangers of yesteryear stopping here to warm up following a punishing scalping mission.
All down stream
Stepping outside just before sunrise the following day is enough to wake even the worst morning folk, as the temperature has plummeted to -12°C overnight.
The heated seats, armrests and steering wheel of the Cullinan are extremely inviting but the warmth and comfort soon dissipates as we arrive at the banks of Snake River.
In a final display of its off-road prowess, the plush Rolls-Royce effortlessly creeps over the rocky creek and delivers it occupants directly into a small wooden craft that would serve as transportation from here on in.
The plan is to gently float down Snake River, which affords unobstructed views of the wildlife that frequents the area.
Our guide for the day, who effortlessly manoeuvres the boat through rough rapids and shallow sections, confirms that both brown and grizzly bear sightings are commonplace.
There are signs everywhere warning folk to be “bear aware” and to ensure food is always locked in special bear-proof tubs, but we suggest it is just our American cousins being dramatic.
“We have had two bear attacks this month already. Both victims were hunters. One survived but the other one sadly died,” our guide explains in a sombre response to our light-hearted ribbing.
The area is beautifully unspoilt and the strict regulations that forbid development have seen the reintroduction of previously rare and endangered species.
Wolves are now thriving, birds of prey are a common sight and fish are so abundant that Jackson Hole is now one of the most coveted areas for fly-fishing in the US.
But no matter how hardy or adventurous this faux Rolls-Royce owner might be, there’s nothing more comforting than returning to the plush surrounds of the Amangani Hotel.
Or better still, the heated, reclined and massaging rear seats of the impressively capable and infinitely opulent Rolls-Royce Cullinan.
A version of this feature was written for the excellent Amuse, Vice Media’s travel channel.