Trail Talk

Chuck Schneebeck hikes Snow King Mountain in 2014. Most trails in the Snow King area are dry and in good shape for hikers, bikers and horseback riding. If you encounter dead trees, contact the Bridger-Teton National Forest.

I am a Snow King Mountain stakeholder. I pay town of Jackson taxes. I ride lifts, hike, bike and play on and around Snow King. I am an East Jackson neighbor, and my son is part of the Jackson Hole Ski and Snowboard Club. I love that Snow King Mountain is part of my town, my community and my life. I also served on the Snow King Stakeholder Group, for which I feel extremely thankful and responsible.

Throughout the stakeholder visioning process, I reminded myself that the Resort District zoning provides private entities the opportunity to profit through real estate development potential far greater than that on surrounding properties. The trade-off for me and my community is access to recreation on Snow King Mountain, which is meant to be financed in part through the Snow King Resort Master Association. Every property owner in the Resort District belongs to the association. I am happy to invest in Snow King Mountain as long as the private, for-profit entities — the master association — maintain their end of the deal regardless of who owns the mountain.

Snow King Mountain’s success needs to be measured by community access and appreciation, not just money. That’s why having a design vision and implementation mechanisms now will be critical for success into the future.

First the design vision: I applied to serve on the stakeholder team because I felt that the Phase 2 plan proposed by Snow King could be improved to achieve financial success for the owners and meet community interests. I believe that visionary use of existing terrain (no boundary expansion) offers a straightforward way to improve the skier experience and safety without sacrificing wildlife habitat or neighborhood character. Beginner terrain can be enhanced with modifications from the Rafferty lift — especially the mid-station and the addition of surface lifts, such as magic carpets, uphill from the cemetery and on the back-side within the existing boundaries (proposed by Snow King in 1998).

Road designs presented to Snow King by Snow Engineering Group include options that remain within existing boundaries. Use of the road up the backside of the mountain could allow for construction and eliminate the need for a 16-foot-wide road, bisecting signature runs with large road cuts. I worked on the stakeholder sub-group to develop a vision for the western gateway. I am convinced that the gateway, including landing the proposed gondola on what is now Phil Baux Park, could be an incredible asset for Snow King Mountain and the town, but only if the implementation mechanisms (see conditions below) are fairly and firmly in place.

For me to support the Phase 2 development I’ve outlined above, I have three conditions:

1. Snow King Mountain provides a minimum level of recreation access (I suggested using lift closing date 2017 to lift closing date 2018 to define minimum). This means that if the Cougar lift, for example, needs to be replaced it is not just made up for by a gondola or other new summit lift. This is important because this lift is key for racing and race-training.

2. The Snow King Resort Master Association will collect and distribute funds to support the recreation component of community benefit that was a founding reason that the town granted this Resort District in the first place. Since Snow King Mountain will be profitable following Phase 2 development, I propose master association recreation funds be managed by a new entity: the Mountain Community Center at Snow King.

The proposed center will include representation by existing Snow King users, such as the various sports groups and nonprofits, and future user groups plus facilities that could include world-class training space (including a climbing gym and additional ice sheets), infant to preschool child care, a branch of Teton County Library for student use, space for community meetings, etc.

3. Snow King Mountain needs to purchase or fairly lease (fair market value) public land for the gondola landing on Phil Baux Park. This landing needs to be thoughtfully designed to maximize the accessibility and function of this gateway gem. As part of the master association, Snow King Mountain will also contribute funds to support community recreation, which will in part be generated by the infrastructure improvements of Phase 2.

Clearly, the art of setting the diamond of Snow King Mountain in the priceless setting of the town of Jackson is in the details. I am thankful and excited to continue to talk about design and contribute to development of implementation options that will benefit residents and visitors far into the future.

Geneva Chong is a research ecologist who served on the Jackson Planning Commission for 3 1/2 years and ran for mayor in 2014. She has lived in Jackson for 15 years. Guest Shots are solely the opinion of their authors.

(1) comment

Judd Grossman

I agree. No clear cutting or road building outside current boundaries.

Town needs market rate compensation if ball field becomes gondola landing zone. I'm not yet convinced that Town should give up this incredibly valuable piece of property at the base of the mountain. It's hard to know what future use could be more important in the next 100 years.

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