Jackson Hole, WY News

Teton Pass east

The rest of the story

Although the front-page article, “Feds dock St. John’s pay,” in the March 9 and 10 Jackson Hole Daily was factually correct it does not tell the true story.

See a follow-up article on page 22. — Ed.

As a rural hospital St. John’s often cares for patients who live a significant distance away. As everyone is aware, travel, especially in winter, from places such as Pinedale, Dubois and Victor can be difficult, and a decision to readmit patients because of the difficulty they would have returning to the hospital if their condition worsened makes medical sense.

Distance, weather or availability of transport might make readmission the best choice for quality care. For example, consider an individual who is discharged following surgery and doing well but then has pain that is concerning. If the individual visits the emergency room, is found to not have a serious complication and is cleared to go home, the outcome might be different depending on the weather and where the patient lives. If the person lives in Teton County and can return easily, if need be, the patient can be sent home. If the person lives in Pinedale and weather is also a factor, the individual may be readmitted overnight for observation to make sure the person’s condition does not worsen.

Medicare in all its wisdom, in penalizing hospitals for a high rate of readmissions, does not take into consideration the geography or weather in making its determination.

How is it that a hospital like St. John’s obtains a five-star rating, awarded based on quality to a small percentage of hospitals (284), and is then penalized for too many readmissions? It does not make much sense, and if the hospital adhered to the Medicare standards in this instance it would be potentially harmful to patients in our region.

We are fortunate that what is best for the patient is what makes the decision, not Medicare rules that are made without consideration of local issues.

Lou Hochheiser, MD


Pass pressure

On Saturday, March 2 three of us skied south on Teton Pass. Two days after a storm it was untracked. Like the 'old' days but for the wrong reason — a skier-triggered slide had closed the road the day before. There are three kinds of slides that hit the road: natural, skier triggered and Wyoming Department of Transportation bombed. If any of these happen in daylight the pass is probably closed for the day. That's why WYDOT prefers to close the road and bomb at night.

On Friday March 1, there was 6 inches to 11 inches of new snow. A Bridger-Teton Avalanche Center avalanche warning had been cancelled at 6 a.m. Sunshine was predicted and caution advised. The avalanche danger was rated as "considerable." It was not stated whether or not WYDOT had done mitigation work overnight. It was a perfect day on the pass, until it wasn't. Fortunately no one was hurt.

Cy Whitling wrote a heartfelt column last week that was pretty harsh on pass skiers. I disagree with him on a couple of points. A perfect day for me is hitchhiking up from Wilson, marching up the bootpack and noodling around in Coal Creek trees. Many skiers avoid the parking scene at the top by hitching up from Wilson, the Heidelberg or Coal Creek. WYDOT can't start bombing mid-day just because the top lot is empty. Also, many Glory skiers don't have skins or even alpine touring bindings. They mostly have resort gear and pretty much have to walk up the road. (He's right about the dogs.)

So what does this have to do with all the IKON pass holders crushing the tram line at the ski area? Mary Kate Buckley, president of Jackson Hole Mountain Resort, wrote a Guest Shot last week promising more busses and parking lots but nothing about new lifts and terrain. Demand will go up but not supply. I fear that pass prices are going up. Guess where those skiers priced out of the resort will go? Have you heard about the bootpack on Teton Pass?

John Wasson


Kids need opportunity

I just wanted to weigh in about some of the misconceptions that have been expressed regarding Senate File 49.

Ensuring opportunities for education is the responsibility of our state Legislature. When educational opportunities fail to have practical recognition, it is lawmakers’ obligation to step in and ensure equal opportunities for public, private and faith-based schools. This is not an attack on Teton County.

The Jackson Hole Classical Academy has worked for more than three years to identify a proper site for its new school and conserve the necessary land to build it, gone through environmental assessments, held public meetings and open houses, worked with neighbors and community stakeholders, and jumped through a nearly endless number of hoops presented by county regulations.

In the end, the county told the school it could not build a single building over 10,000 square feet — meaning no gym, no auditorium and a series of separate buildings. This would have been incredibly inefficient, ineffective and expensive. Second-graders would be forced to go outside from one building to another to simply have lunch. Eight HVAC systems would take the place of one. Multiple buildings would dot the landscape as opposed to one central building. These all fly in the face of our shared community values of conservation and energy efficiency.

The state Legislature did the right thing in creating equality for public and private schools when it comes to county zoning. We already provide exemptions to county zoning for other things we as a state have decided we value, agriculture being one example. It only makes sense to apply a similar exemption to something as important as education.

As we move forward, I hope we can all stay focused on what makes Jackson truly special — the people who call this place home. Without education options capable of meeting the needs of our young students, we risk losing the families who make this a community.

Abby Smerklo


SF49 helps students

While much has been written and said in recent weeks about Senate File 49, as a parent of young children and a local resident, I wanted to take the opportunity to present a different perspective.

To me, Senate File 49 is truly about one thing — ensuring parents have more choices, not fewer, to meet the needs of our kids. Simply put, Teton County zoning does not permit the practical application of building private schools — even in an area such as the proposed site of the Jackson Hole Classical Academy that specifically allows schools. The location is so ideal, Teton County School District No. 1 sought to purchase land in the same location.

We too often forget that Jackson is a community, first and foremost. A community that values education and parent choice. This school will benefit the whole community by providing extra fields and gym space, which are in short supply. What’s more, this school will take pressure off the public school system to alleviate overcrowding and lower classroom sizes.

I appreciate the efforts of the Wyoming Legislature and the supporters who worked to ensure clarity and fairness in our regulations surrounding education. It will benefit all of us who live, work and choose to raise our children in this wonderful community.

Meredith Ochs


Dude, where’s my skis

I am a season passholder at the Jackson Hole Mountain Resort and have been for years. On Feb. 10 I loaded my skis onto the exterior rack on the Bridger Gondola. I was the last to board and the first to get off. My skis were gone. The resort ultimately gave me a discount on new bindings and free mounting, worth together about $200. I had to pay the rest of the approximately $1,000 for new equipment. Without doing legal research I felt I was forced to place my skis on the rack and that the resort had an obligation to safeguard them, or at least to take reasonable steps to do so.

Although the ski hosts, attendants and guest service personnel all stated that skis are lost off the gondola regularly, mostly taken by mistake, the resort has done precious little to address that, except to operate a lost and found. There are no signs warning skiers to watch out for this risk or even to take care when off-loading skis to be sure not to take someone else’s. There is no advice to place stickers on skis to help with quick identification.

There is no good video to monitor the offloading to see specifically who took which skis, although that kind of detail is available at the bottom. The legal fine print on the trail map and elsewhere does not warn of this risk or purport to shift the risk to the skier. It is unclear whether lift attendants have any particular training. The resort simply claimed that the safety of passengers was its priority. I think the resort simply made a business decision not to spend the money on this documented and foreseeable problem that, however, is small in the larger context of operating a resort and to try to placate victims like me with a modest contribution.

So my conclusion is that the resort should not have it both ways; that is, knowingly not addressing the issue and then not stepping up when the foreseeable consequence occurs. I believe it should have done more in my case.

I appreciate the chance to let the skiers and boarders among your readers know about the risk of loading skis or boards onto the gondola and wonder what their views are on the issue of responsibility for stolen skis.

Rob Duggan


Letters to the editor should be limited to 400 words, be signed and include a town of residence and a telephone number for verification. Letters are due by 5 p.m. Monday. No thank yous or political endorsement letters. Guest Shot columns are limited to 800 words. Email editor@jhnewsandguide.com.

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