At a 6 p.m. Monday meeting, the Jackson Town Council will consider conditional use permit applications for a new gondola and a proposed zip line course on Snow King Mountain Resort.
While the proposed gondola, which would have its base in Phil Baux Park, seemed to be largely well-received by the council, the zip line faced resistance at the council’s hour-and-a-half-long workshop June 15. Councilor Jim Stanford called it “a bait and switch” after the council shot down a previous zip line proposal last year.
Town Community Development Director Tyler Sinclair presented the proposals to the council at the workshop, outlining key aspects, including vehicle and bicycle parking, as well as pedestrian and traffic flow.
Sinclair noted that several people had asked him if town staff and the council could “say no to the zip line now.” He pointed out that conditional use permits are to be approved if the item proposed meets eight criteria that mostly focus on it being compatible with the surrounding area and not causing negative environmental impacts or creating a nuisance.
The hours of operation for the gondola, zip line, mountain coaster and various lifts on Snow King would be from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. from May 15 to June 14, and from Aug. 16 to Oct. 16. Those hours would be extended to 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. from June 15 through Aug. 15. During the winter, the hours of operation would be from 9 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. from Nov. 1 through Dec. 10, and 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. from Dec. 11 through April 15.
The gondola issue is not new. Snow King brought the proposal to the Town of Jackson Planning Commission in September 2018, then received further guidance from the Teton County/Jackson Parks and Recreation Department in October 2019 and town staff in December. Maintaining the integrity of Phil Baux Park and having the gondola base as far south as possible while not affecting any public streets have been priorities throughout the planning process, Sinclair said.
If the gondola is approved as proposed, Snow King’s Cougar Lift would be moved slightly uphill and east to accommodate the gondola. To minimize the impact of the gondola base on Phil Baux Park, Sinclair said, Parks and Rec suggested shifting the base farther west than the applicant’s original design, with the ticketing area moved to the east.
Parks and Rec Director Steve Ashworth said town staff wanted to avoid bisecting the park with the gondola base. He said it was a priority to maintain the continuity and “integrity of public park space from east to west.”
The proposed zip line, meanwhile, would run to the west of the Mountain Coaster, entirely on private property. The option for a zip line network Sinclair presented to the council — proposed by the applicant — drew Stanford’s ire. The council shot down a summit-to-base zip line proposal in December, he said, and now the idea has resurfaced as a network of zip lines from top to bottom, instead of one continuous line.
“There’s been a major bait and switch here,” Stanford said. “because we were only supposed to have one zip line. But now what’s being discussed is from the top of Rafferty to the base, near the hotel.”
“That’s how it was proposed, then it resurfaced like a zombie proposal after the council had nixed the original suggestion, the initial request, which was to go summit to base. Nowhere, at any point during what was presented to the town council, was that zip line that’s being proposed on the Rafferty side part of an elaborate summit-to-base zip line network. Bait and switch.”Snow King Vice President Ryan Stanley addressed the council during the workshop, advocating for the new gondola and zip line and explaining how Snow King will attempt to mitigate any negative impacts, including noise. Trees would be planted on the eastern boundary of the property, and the gondola and zip line would have elements intended to eliminate noise. If approved, Snow King would also provide signage with a suggested code of conduct.
Stanley said the zip line has been in every presentation he’s given regarding the Snow King master plan since 2017.
“We’re really trying to create a great experience; that’s the ultimate goal,” Stanley said.
Monday’s meeting can be viewed online at JacksonWY.gov.