Snow King is having another go at revising its master plan with the town of Jackson after the first contentious and drawn-out attempt ended in a stalemate earlier this year.
At an informational public meeting last week, Jeff Golightly, chief advisor to Snow King primary owner Max Chapman, said the biggest change in the new master plan proposal is downsizing the Snow King Hotel and adding workforce housing.
“The hotel wanted to reduce the size of the hotel footprint,” Golightly said. “They think more of a condominium style vs. standard hotel rooms makes more sense for them.”
Instead of the five wings currently permitted, the hotel would be allowed to build only two wings, but they could include condos rather than hotel rooms. And three new buildings could be added along Vine Street for workforce housing, to be phased in for required mitigation housing as the Snow King area is built out.
“We essentially got rid of the hotel in exchange for that,” Golightly said.
Hotel manager David Kingston said the additional housing addresses some of the town’s concerns.
“This is some employee housing and market price apartments that help the housing issue in Jackson,” Kingston said.
Technically, the master plan amendment comes from the Snow King Resort Master Association, an HOA-like umbrella organization of all property owners in the resort district.
The group is also proposing to accept a long list of changes suggested by the Jackson Town Council. They range from minor procedural tweaks to broad overhauls of Snow King’s vision and financial underpinning.
SKRMA itself was one of the most controversial elements of the first amendment process. One faction argues that the master association, formed in 2000, has never functioned as intended in funding the ski hill; the other that it was never meant to fund the ski hill at all.
Either way, SKRMA has agreed to submit an annual report to the town detailing information on its membership, financial state and compliance with obligations in the master plan.
The master association will also assess a 1% fee on lodging and ticket sales to ensure it always has enough in reserve to meet those obligations.
Another element of the proposed master plan calls for the landing for a gondola (to replace the Summit Lift) to be moved back to distance it from Phil Baux Park. The Cougar Lift could potentially be removed.
“The gondola would take you to the top in five minutes, Cougar’s 12,” Golightly said. “So the thought is, ‘Who’s still gonna ride Cougar if you can get to the top and ski to the bottom before your buddy gets off Cougar?’”
Under the existing master plan, an undeveloped gravel lot east of Phil Baux Park is entitled to include about 60,000 square feet of convention center development. The new proposal seeks to also allow indoor recreation there.
“We don’t think the community wants a convention center right now, so what we’re asking is to switch it from convention to either convention or recreation,” Golightly said. “So we would switch to something more like whether it’s a climbing wall or indoor putt putt or something that isn’t gonna bring in massive groups.”
Skye Schell, executive director of the Jackson Hole Conservation Alliance and a consistent Snow King skeptic, noted that the first public engagement process expressly omitted the hotel and that gravel lot. He argued that it is unfair to now bring them into the picture, but he remains optimistic about the result of the new application.
“It’s kind of a bummer that they’re changing things up in the middle of the course,” he said. “But it could be that the outcome ends up good, especially if they are really proposing a reduction in future development at the base.”
In compliance with the Jackson Town Council’s previous requests, the landing zone for a potential zip line was moved from Phil Baux Park to be concentrated among the landing areas for the existing Alpine Coaster and other summer mountain activities.
Snow King withdrew its first master plan amendment after elected officials refused to send a letter signing off on several controversial proposals to the Bridger-Teton National Forest, which has undertaken a separate review of the master plan.
But Snow King is no longer asking for the letter in support of the zip line, a summit road and boundary expansion, among other projects on forest land. That removes a major sticking point in negotiations with the town.
The master plan proposals must undergo a review by the town Planning Commission and Town Council.