Snow King Mountain and the Jackson Hole Ski and Snowboard Club are celebrating their 80th anniversary this winter season, and it is amazing that our small community ski area has achieved this milestone. The King has played an important role in Jackson Hole, helping foster the ski and outdoor recreation culture in the valley we have today. Throughout this time it has seen many ups and downs, as various ownership and management teams have done their best to keep the lifts spinning against all odds.
For decades the King saw very few changes, with limited capital improvements and only the bare minimum in annual maintenance to keep things going. This lack of investment and change resulted in deferred maintenance of the ski area, and a mindset in the community that the ski resort can continue without change.
However, during this time, most other ski areas have continually upgraded their facilities, lifts and services to meet changing market demands. Those that have not are finding themselves in a similar position to Snow King, where they must either make substantial changes or grapple with shutting the doors.
Our community knows Snow King needs investment. The owners of Snow King know this and are hungry to invest in this hill to bring better infrastructure and improvements to locals, particularly our Jackson Hole Ski and Snowboard Club and Doug Coombs Foundation families. The two organizations are at the heart of our mission, and we hope investments in a gondola, beginner and intermediate terrain, and facilities will have children and their families making turns and improving their skills for generations to come.
Current proposals for the mountain seek to substantially change winter operations and create a successful, sustainable small community ski area that is attractive to both locals and visitors. This suite of improvements combines community benefits and economic drivers to create a compelling business plan that can justify a long-term investment into the winter operations of the ski area.
Things like a first-class zip-line experience, downhill mountain biking, improved beginner and intermediate ski terrain, and modern lifts and facilities are the economic drivers, while improved hiking trails, a planetarium and observatory, employee housing and a restaurant at the summit are community benefits. Some might even conclude that simply investing in our small local ski area and keeping it alive is a spectacular community benefit.
After struggling for so many years to keep the lifts spinning, it is sad to see the negativity associated with proposed improvements to the mountain. For the past five years Snow King has gone above and beyond other businesses to reach out to the community for input and suggestions, while investing in some of the best ski industry consultants, to establish a viable plan for the future. No other ski area, or business, in the region has voluntarily sought input from a group of community stakeholders and continually adapted plans to achieve community desires.
Our doors are open, and we continue to do our best to listen, explain and make changes based on the feedback we receive for the mountain. However, our opposition, which is supported by well-funded nonprofit lobbying groups, continues to paint a picture of Snow King as though we are not listening to the community, and rather than checking facts, continues to distribute false information about our proposals and history.
At no point has the current ownership proposed a Soaring Eagle zip-line, and at no point has Snow King stated that it was not totally flexible with respect to the location of a proposed gondola. To the contrary, Snow King has continually stated that it seeks to build first-in-class outdoor experiences for this community, and that there are many options for the location of a new gondola.
We submitted two revised maps to the town of Jackson on Monday based solely on public comments and conversations we have heard since submitting the Base Area Master Plan Amendment for consideration. These revised maps both show the gondola moved further south, preserving amenities like the ballfield, a parking lot for People’s Market and other events and the east-to-west flow.
Rather than write letters with false information, please stop by and chat or drop us an email. We are happy to inform the community of our goals, past successes and failures, and find a common path to create a successful community ski area in the heart of Jackson.
Snow King is a gem, a diamond in the rough at the heart of our town and community. Our opportunity for investment and a bright future for the King is now, and we must not let it slip by.
We are listening. Continue to engage in the process. Our goal is to create a Snow King for all. Sustainable and vibrant for 80 more years.
Ryan Stanley is the general manager of Snow King Mountain Resort. Guest Shots are solely the opinion of their authors.
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