Following a monthslong community process, on July 16 the new owners of Snow King Mountain Resort, Gardner Capital Management, released a document called “Snow King Stakeholder Changes” with their “Phase 2” proposal for massive new development on our Town Hill. At first glance it appears the group has listened to community input and taken the stakeholder group feedback seriously.

However, as I read through the document bullet point by bullet point, it appears they have bent truth after truth. The document reads as if everyone in the community backs all of their development ideas 100 percent, when nothing could be further from the truth. Just take the cover story headline in this newspaper that appeared days later: “Divisions remain on Snow King plans for mountain.” The subheadline reads: “Stakeholders don’t agree on proposed amenities.”

To illustrate just how far they will bend the facts to get their way, let’s talk about just one proposed development: the so-called “zip line.” But first, a trip down memory lane.

Back in the fall of 2012 the proposed “zip line” was set to be a Soaring Eagle brand “zip line” ride. This is different than what most people think of when they hear “zip line” — it looks more like if you turned a chairlift into an amusement park ride. Visitors are loaded and unloaded from a single position, which may be either at the top or the bottom of the ride.

Using Soaring Eagle’s unique reverse lifting system, riders who are securely restrained in the two-seater cart are hoisted up to the top of the ride, then released. They have one between the Rio Towers in Las Vegas.

According to an earlier News&Guide article, Snow King investors actually broke ground on the Soaring Eagle project back in the fall of 2012 without discussing it with anyone. Initially it wasn’t deemed to require Town Council approval because they submitted it to the town as a “minor development plan.” The town shut down excavation shortly after it began because staff wanted the council to interpret the lease before anything was built. This, at least partially, triggered much of the ballyhoo surrounding the King in present day.

Dive into the document they released Monday and you’ll see that they apparently proposed three “zip lines” in 2017 (I only saw two in the earlier proposals), but are now “scaling things back” after hearing from the community that we want just one. Funny how that sounds like a fair compromise when the developers write it themselves.

Head on over to the Snow King master plan webpage and Gardner Capital Management has a stock photo of people on a zip line wearing climbing harnesses and helmets — this is what most people think of when they hear “zip line.” However, if you click on the architectural drawings of the summit gondola landing, the zip line launching platform appears to be a drawing of a hybrid between Soaring Eagle infrastructure and a climbing harness zip line. The launching platform also seems to loom over and block the top of the much-loved summit boot pack.

My point is: Does anyone have any idea what kind of zip line they are currently proposing?

On the master plan website it says they hope to install “A zip line originating at the top of the mountain and terminating at the base, adjacent to the proposed gondola. This zip line would be the steepest in the country and would reach speeds up to 70 mph.”

Sounds like a Soaring Eagle to me. And either way — do we want any kind of “zip line” as the backdrop to our town? So much for “community first, not just a resort.”

Where will the Soaring Eagle land, exactly? And how will that landing area affect the base area? According to their website and the Snow King Stakeholder Changes document, they want to land the Soaring Eagle in Phil Baux Park. Do we really want to give up part of our town ballpark, Peoples’ Market, etc., for an amusement park ride?

Has there been any community discussion about landing a “zip line” of any kind in Phil Baux Park?

Let’s say we all agree on a new gondola, and half of us abhor adding zip lines and other amusement park rides to our Town Hill. Gardner says they need the zip line to pay for the gondola. But why not fund the gondola with a specific purpose excise tax measure and make this a true private-public partnership? After all, much of these proposed developments are set to take place on public land. But do they even need our money?

Gardner Capital Management is under contract to sell a city block they own next to Town Square for $25 million, which will force three small businesses to relocate, and puts the future character of our downtown in question. Gardner Capital Management also owns Brooks Lake Lodge, known for polluting Brooks Lake with raw sewage, killing fish.

I love Snow King as much as anyone, and I don’t want Gardner Capital Management to destroy it in order to save it.

Sam Petri is a lifelong skier and a season pass holder at Snow King Mountain. He works in the outdoor industry and has lived in Jackson for 12 years. Guest Shots are solely the opinion of their authors.

(2) comments

Noah Osnos

Similar to the Tribal Trails Connector, it appears that the proposed expansion & construction would benefit a handful, at the expense of the many (including wildlife). These large-scale constructions projects must be approached with an abundance of caution, because they can not be undone. If the mountain operations are unprofitable today, what is the business plan to make an expansion(!) profitable?

Eric Balog

I think it is a false comparison to the Tribal Trails Connector (which is a project that would benefit far more and seems to be mostly opposed by the few who live there). Was no one worried about the impact to wildlife when all the homes were built in the first place?

My guess is that SK can be profitable -- especially if liberties are taken with public "consent" and if advantaged status (e.g. the favorable land lease from town) is leveraged for-profit. But is operational profit the motive or is it the value of the surrounding real estate?

My hat is off to Sam for writing this missive.

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