The proposal to improve and expand Snow King Mountain has generated a great deal of interest, discussion and passion in recent months. As a longtime resident of Jackson and a summer and winter user of the King, I want to express some thoughts regarding the Snow King expansion plans.
The current owners of the Snow King Mountain Resort have invested significant money, effort and energy to improve the mountain and to make it economically sustainable.
The debate currently underway will determine which improvements can be built, and that decision will affect the financial future of Snow King. The owners and many community members believe that without these improvements, the mountain cannot be fiscally sustainable, thereby jeopardizing the mountain operations. Other community members fear that the proposed improvements and expansion will forever change the character of the King.
While there are legitimate differences of opinion about whether the proposed changes to Snow King are appropriate, everyone involved in this debate wants the King to be economically sustainable and to continue to be a community ski hill. In some respects these are competing objectives.
While my opinion and $2 will get you a cup of coffee, I believe the best solution to address these competing objectives is for the Snow King Mountain to become a community-owned asset.
It is in the community’s long-term best interest for the town of Jackson (with private/nonprofit partners) to purchase Snow King Mountain Resort from its current owners. I would propose this acquisition be accomplished through the use of specific purpose excise tax funds and private philanthropy. It seems to me that if this community values a community ski hill as much as has been articulated recently, then we as a community should be willing to put our money — or, as in the case of sales tax, the tourists’ money — where our community mouth is.
In order to operate the mountain effectively and efficiently, the model I propose envisions that Snow King Mountain Resort be governed by an independent board of directors appointed by the Jackson Town Council. The board would be composed of the various interest groups and would operate the mountain. I believe that structure is somewhat comparable to Bridger Bowl in Montana. Another option would be for the town to contract with a nonprivate organization created to manage mountain operations.
It is my understanding there will be a SPET election in August 2019.
I propose that the community reach an agreement with the owners of Snow King Mountain Resort to buy the mountain and that elected officials include a question on this ballot to fund the acquisition of Snow King. Obviously, any agreement would need to include contingencies related to a successful SPET election and meeting the private fundraising targets.
While there are many details that need to be resolved for this to happen, I wanted to initiate a discussion of this matter in order for us to have a community conversation about it.