Eagle’s Rest has been reincarnated.
When the Sweetwater Gondola was built, Jackson Hole Mountain Resort decommissioned and dismantled the popular lower-mountain chair that shepherded beginning skiers uphill for five decades. But after a Saturday ribbon cutting, Eagle’s Rest is back, and slightly modified.
The 281-vertical-foot chairlift has been a long-planned piece of the revamped learning area. Along with the area around the Solitude Station lodge at the Sweetwater Gondola, the Eagle’s Rest terrain gives skiers a chance to get their bearings before heading to higher lifts like Casper or Apres Vous.
“This was a critical element in the redevelopment of the Solitude area,” resort spokeswoman Anna Cole said. “It has a steeper pitch at top, so we’re providing new terrain preparation before they head onto the bigger mountain.”
The 20-minute opening ceremony featured remarks from President Mary Kate Buckley, an essay by longtime Jackson visitor Janie Hopkins on the old Eagle’s Rest chair and an appearance by resort owners Jay and Connie Kemmerer.
Following the remarks, more than 50 skiers lined up to put the lift through its paces, loading the chair for the first time and being whisked away. The bottom of the lift is uphill from the base area, so it is accessible only from the Sweetwater Gondola. That placement removes it from the hustle and bustle of the base area, making it more inviting for skiers who may be unsteady on their feet.
Much of the Kemmerers’ investment in the resort in the past few years has been in the Solitude area. Jackson Hole has a reputation for steep skiing and deep powder, but families and beginners are a big slice of the skiing market, so the owners have been making the beginner terrain more comfortable by moving it uphill from the hectic base and diversifying the slopes skiers have to learn on.
After Eagle’s Rest was taken out in 2016, skiers had to move from the mellow slopes off Sweetwater to Casper or Apres Vous, a drastic increase from their point of view.
“One of the big experiences with beginner and novice students is that when they release their edges they accelerate more on steeper terrain,” said Jim Kercher, head of ski school. “That acceleration is something they haven’t felt before. This enables us to gradually increase the steepness of the slope.”
Kercher said his instructors are happy to have the expanded terrain, as are their students.
“The instructor feedback has been awesome,” he said. “I deem it a huge success.”