A Kaman K-MAX helicopter will be buzz up and down Snow King Mountain next week to help tear down the 37-year-old Rafferty lift and build a new, larger one.
Officials from the ski area are urging people to obey construction area closures put in place by the Bridger-Teton National Forest.
“We appreciate people respecting the closures,” ski area general manager Ryan Stanley said. “They’re there for a reason — public safety and so forth. We’ll lift them as soon as we can.”
The helicopter, rented by lift-building company Doppelmayr, will take off from the base of the mountain, in front of the cabin that houses the ski area offices, delivering lift towers and concrete up the hill, Stanley said. If all goes according to schedule, the helicopter work will be done by the end of next week.
The aerial construction activity is just the latest highly visible sign of changes at Snow King since new managing partner and financier Max Chapman took over last November. The projects now in the works have proved controversial. Some people have lauded them as efforts to save the historic but financially strapped ski area. Others have criticized the work as a massive project that stands to significantly alter the southern end of the town of Jackson and that has evaded proper and complete review by the public.
The slopes above Snow King Hotel have already undergone heavy logging to clear the way for the lift and new ski runs. It was just last month that the ski resort received final approval for the project from the Forest Service.
The goal is to have the new Rafferty lift up and running by June 15, and the company is still on track to meet that date, Stanley said.
The new lift will extend 1,000 feet farther up the mountain than the old lift, which was built in 1978 and named after Neil Rafferty, an early Jackson ski promoter known as the “Father of Snow King.”
A mountain coaster is also planned for the Town Hill. At the request of Chapman and ski area investors the Jackson Town Council agreed to expedite its approval process late last year. That could allow the coaster to be complete by August.
Ski area officials have said it will be a big moneymaker. The coaster will have four 360-degree loops and will reach a maximum height of 38 feet, according to planning documents.
A new lodge at the eastern base area won’t be complete until late this year, Stanley said.
Since Chapman took over the ski area announced an $8 million capital infusion.