Much to the pleasure of Councilor Jim Rooks — or any thrill-seeker who likes to see snowmobilers do backflips — the Jackson Town Council voted Monday to allow the freestyle snowmobiling event that normally accompanies the World Championship Snowmobile Hill Climb to go on again this year.
Prior to voting on the event, councilors discussed a few related matters, primarily focused on public health and maximum attendance during the ongoing pandemic, just as they did when considering the Hill Climb. The event’s promoter, Octane Addictions, requested an audience capacity of 1,000 people for the show put on at the Teton County Rodeo Arena at the fairgrounds, Special Events Coordinator Carl Pelletier pointed out.
However, Pelletier said the promoter was aware of a risk-level matrix the Town Council passed recently that restricts attendance based on certain COVID-19 risk levels and would limit attendance figures accordingly.
The risk-level guidelines passed by the council allow up to 1,000 attendees at special events when the county is at the Yellow (low) risk level, 500 spectators when in Orange (moderate), 250 at Red (high), and none while in the Purple (critical) risk level. Teton County recently slid back into the Orange zone after reaching Yellow a couple of weeks prior, during which time the council approved the Hill Climb with 1,000 attendees.
Similarly, councilors voted unanimously to approve a motion by Vice-Mayor Arne Jorgensen to allow up to 1,000 spectators for the Octane Addictions freestyle snowmobiling event, recognizing that the number hinges on the risk level at the time of the event March 27. The Hill Climb runs March 25 to 28.
“I’m comfortable with supporting the motion, but I definitely do so with the understanding that as the risk level changes between now and that weekend, that capacity number could look very different,” Jorgensen said.
During the discussion, Councilor Jonathan Schechter inquired why Jackson Police Chief Michelle Weber asked that police have a presence at the event. Chief Weber explained that there will be two officers on foot patrol at the Hill Climb who will then check on the freestyle snowmobiling event, which takes place after the Hill Climb, “just to check things out, and if we need to stay then we will.
“But, historically, we have not been needed there [at the freestyle event],” Weber added, later noting that the freestyle show is typically more of a family event and crowds are less rowdy than at the Hill Climb. The chief also said the two officers are working under an underage drinking grant, so no additional cost will be incurred by the town.
Tyler Johnson, the owner of Octane Addictions Productions, addressed the council during Monday’s meeting, explaining how the company will be able to socially distance attendees in the stands.
Rooks, who bemoaned the lack of the event when the council approved the Hill Climb at a prior meeting, told Johnson he appreciates those measures.
“A lot of times it’s the waiting in line part, and to have potentially hundreds and hundreds of people waiting in one line with a single entrance, it would benefit the event safety-wise to potentially have some separate entrance and exit points,” Rooks said, to which Johnson responded that they will open the doors an hour ahead of the event to spread people out, and will be asking people to distance from each other.