When Connie Kemmerer purchased Wyoming’s Jackson Hole Mountain Resort in 1992 (in partnership with her siblings, Jay and Betty), she envisioned using its grounds to promote holistic wellness—for the body, but more importantly for the mind and spirit. In 2003, her vision was realized when she became the chairwoman of the nonprofit Integrative Health Care Foundation, which then launched the annual Teton Wellness Festival. With the goal of integrating all types of medical and healing practices and practitioners—from holistic medical doctors to Buddhist lamas—the festival inspires people to seek balance and healing in their daily lives.
Q. What motivated you to start the Teton Wellness Festival?
A. Jackson Hole is very sports-conscious. It’s focused on achievement. Climb that mountain or run that river. These are all wonderful things, but there’s a whole other side of life that I wanted to bring to this valley. I wanted people to talk about what they were feeling, not just about what they were doing. I think both can exist together.
Q. What sparked your interest in integrative medicine?
A. When I was a Lamaze instructor in the ’70s, I began to see that there were many ways to approach health. I learned about all kinds of alternatives to the standard medical practices at that time—for example, using the breath and teamwork to control pain, rather than medication. And I saw how these practices could be integrated into the hospital setting. It didn’t have to be either/or.
I think our age—the age of technology, science, and computers—has created a lifestyle that is complex and fast-moving, where the intellect dominates other aspects of being, and outward accomplishments are used as the measure for success. We have become human doing machines rather than human beings of heart who are perfect just as we are. To get in touch with true health, there has been a surge of interest in wellness and spiritual festivals such as ours.
Q. How can people take a more integrative approach to their own health?
A. I think people need to be their own boss, to find out what’s available. People tend to think that they have to do something from some book or follow somebody else’s ideas. But you have to look inward and see what optimal health is for you. When you’re sick, something is out of balance—within yourself, or in your environment—so investigate all aspects of your own health, not just what the doctors tell you.