Image from Jackson Hole Blog
Looking west towards Idaho from Jackson Hole Mountain Resort, a grey nebulous is sweeping into the mountains. The snow falls first on the western slope of the Tetons at the sparsely populated Grand Targhee Resort. However, on the eastern slope of the Tetons lies Jackson Hole, where skier populations are growing immensely, especially in the past 5 years (during the last two seasons JHMR consecutively broke records for single day skier visits). This increase in skier visits could be linked to Forbes naming JHMR as the Top Ski Resort in America every year since 2012. With skier visits rising and tramline mazes getting more and more elaborate, Jerry Bland and The Kemmerer family are trying to keep up with the times. In doing so, they developed the Teton Lift, which will be able to sweep 2,000 skiers every hour to the summit of Sheridan Ridge, consequently accessing an area known as “The Crags.” The Crags was formerly hike-to-terrain only and the area became known by tourists and locals as a backcountry-esque experience without the avalanche danger. This year, for the first time in Jackson Hole Mountain Resort’s history, The Teton lift will be open and its existence will change the mountain for better and for worse.
The biggest concern by locals, search and rescue, and resort officials alike will be the easy access granted to Granite Canyon. The canyon, which lies just beyond the northern boundary line, contains some of the most avalanche prone terrain in the region.
Once at the top of the lift, skiers will have to hike up to legally use an established backcountry gate in order to enter Granite Canyon. However, people will find their way, one way or another, to the other side of the rope—legally or not. Whether following tracks or creating their own, skiers with and without avalanche education, wilderness first aid, or backcountry extraction experience will be able to ski out the boundary and into Granite Canyon with unprecedented ease. The worry amongst locals is that Granite Canyon will start to be treated like the Rock Springs drainage, which lies to the resort’s southern boundary. In Rock Springs, it’s commonplace to see paper ticket flapping, camel back wearing tourists skiing into areas with no clue as to their susceptibility to avalanches in avalanche prone terrain.
On the other side of the coin, The Teton Lift will be a boon for folks who like to ski and ride the inbounds terrain at JHMR. Lately the tram lines are so crowded that on a big day, the wait can be up to an hour. With the Teton Lift, the tram will receive a much needed breather and loyal tram riders might reclaim the tram in a sense. Intermediates will likely use the Teton Lift instead of the tram in order to access the more intermediate terrain under the Casper lift, bringing more novice visitors to the less populated north end of the resort.
Whether or not you like the idea, The Teton Lift will provide untold solutions and problems for locals, visitors, ski resort officials, and support staff in and around the Jackson area. We’ll just have to wait and see how everything shakes out.