Cable to the Sky

A second-generation tram car at the base of Jackson Hole Mountain Resort has been repurposed as an art gallery that’s now screening a preview of Peter Pilafian’s “Cable to the Sky” documentary. The video chronicles the construction of the resort’s new Aerial Tram, which ran from 2007 to 2008.

Art galleries come in all shapes and sizes.

In Teton Village, uphill of the Aerial Tram dock, there’s one in the shape of a big red box: one of the cars removed when the original tram was decommissioned in 2006.

The Teton Village Association rescued the tram car from the “boneyard” where Jackson Hole Mountain Resort’s old groomers, tram parts and other mechanical pieces spend their golden years. The association’s art committee decided it should have a second wind.

“We were looking for great ways to enhance and enliven the village,” the association’s Executive Director Melissa Turley said. “We were aware the previous generation tram cars were not on display, so we thought it was a good opportunity to clean one or two up.”

One car still lives in the boneyard, but this one is living its days in splendor with a new powder-coated paint job, lighting and flooring. Turley said the refurbished car is a chance for people to learn a bit about the tram’s history. To help that cause the association added a sign telling some of the tram’s backstory, which will live inside the car during the winter and outside it in the summer.

For those who don’t know the history, you can check out the Valley cover for a look back at some of its biggest moments, but here are the spark notes: Completed in 1966, the first version lasted 40 years, with the cars being replaced once in 1989. A whole new tram came online in 2008, which is the one tourists, groms and locals alike ride today.

Turley and her staff at the association weren’t the only ones excited by the opportunity to restore the car. Carrie Geraci, the executive director of Jackson Hole Public Art, said her organization enjoyed the idea of an outdoor public art space that connected with the valley’s history. Public Art helped facilitate the renovation by procuring a grant from the Wyoming Cultural Trust Fund.

“The restoration was done to keep it as authentic as possible,” Geraci said. “The siting was specific as well so you can see the difference between the second generation tram and the new one.”

The space’s first art exhibit directly ties into its historical aims. A preview of Peter Pilafian’s documentary “Cable to the Sky” is showing on a loop inside the repurposed car, giving people the chance to learn about the construction of the new tram.

Pilafian is a mountaineer and filmmaker who worked on movies like “The Eiger Sanction” and “Dogtown and Z-Boys.” The resort let him film the construction of the new tram that ran from 2007 to 2008.

“Everyone is doing an excellent job to build the best possible tram,” he told the News&Guide at the time, “I just had to film it.”

The tram-car-turned-gallery is open from 8 a.m. until 5 p.m. every day, giving resortgoers a great excuse to take a break when their legs start to ache around lunchtime. Neither Geraci nor Turley had an idea what the next art installation might be since the space is so new, but they want to have a rotation to give other artists the chance to show their work.

For now, they are happy to have a new outlet to simultaneously honor the valley’s history and artists.

“The Teton Village Association art committee I’m sure will continue to brainstorm and come up with interesting ways to activate the space,” Geraci said. 

Contact Tom Hallberg at 732-7079 or thallberg@jhnewsandguide.com.

Tom Hallberg covers a little bit of everything, from skiing to long-form feature stories. A Teton Valley, Idaho, transplant by way of Portland and Bend, Oregon, he spends his time outside work writing fiction, splitboarding and climbing.

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