A proposal to make the Alta Chutes at Jackson Hole more usable has drawn ire from expert skiers at the notoriously difficult ski resort.
Jackson Hole News & Guide reports that the Wyoming ski resort submitted a Recreation Enhancements Project plan with the U.S. Forest Service. Among those proposals was a plan to create “more usable terrain” in the Alta Chutes. This would be done by blasting a large rock near the bottom of Chute 1, blasting high-point rocks on Alta Chutes 3, and removing trees on 2 and 3. An Alta Chute 4 trail would be created by downing trees east of Alta 3, giving it a width of 60 feet.
This part of the proposal drew a lot of flack from locals. In the public comment period, which closed on July 31st, many disapproved of the plans due to degrading some of the best steep terrain at the ski resort, along with the negative impacts that such a move would likely have on the ski resort’s local environment. Due to this opposition, it’s possible that the U.S. Forest Service may conduct an Environmental Impact Statement.
Local Jackson skier Karen Parent wrote the following comment to the US Forest Service:
“These proposed alterations to the mountain cannot be undone. JHMR leadership states that they are concerned about skier safety when they are just really trying to expand their market base by making the mountain skiable by a lower and lower level of skier.”
Michael Werner, who’s worked for over a quarter century at Jackson Hole as a ski patroller, cited numerous concerns about the proposal in his letter to the US Forest Service:
“The blasting of rock and trees out of big, steep, avalanche-prone slopes could possibly add to our avalanche mitigation problems, adding more unknown risks to our patrollers working in that terrain prior to opening it…The Alta Chutes’ natural terrain is limiting for guests who might not venture into them due to their natural hazards. This keeps people who should not ski terrain like this out of harm’s way.”
In response to these concerns, JJ Markman, who is director of resort development at Jackson Hole, released the following statement to the News & Guide:
“We have submitted a proposal for rock removal and select tree thinning/limbing in the Alta Chutes with the goal of earlier openings and less closures throughout the season. We do not wish to take the character or difficulty away from the Alta Chutes as it’s one of the premier steep skiing spots at JHMR…JHMR’s vision for the North Woods is to spread skiers out and provide more terrain options by enhancing underutilized areas.”
The Alta Chutes isn’t the only major change that’s proposed. Other plans include the replacement of Sublette with a high-speed quad or six-pack chairlift, sculpting new ski trails, widening existing trails to reduce congestion, reducing pinch points on the mountain, expanding the Bear Flats Café and Rendevous Lodge, adding new hiking and biking trails, expanding their via ferrata network, and improved avalanche control methods. Another plan that has drawn scrutiny is creating a new trail through North Woods. This proposal, which would require tree cutting, is intended to give lesser-skilled riders an escape route, along with spreading out guests to a lesser-used area.
Jackson Hole is going through a lot of changes right now. Last month, it was announced that the Klemmers would be selling it to a group of local investors by the end of this year. The group is led by board members Mike Corbat and Eric Macy. The mountain itself is changing as well, with the newest high-speed chairlift being installed last winter and a skywalk at the summit opening back on September 1st.
Some of these proposals sound cool, like the Sublette replacement and more hiking trails, but I have to agree on keeping the Alta Chutes as rugged as they currently are. If you are interested in learning more about the plans, you can read the proposal here.
Image Credits: Jackson Hole Mountain Resort