A gondola at Snow King Mountain Resort is finally ensured after the Jackson Town Council approved a lease for its base and accompanying ticketing facility in town-owned Phil Baux Park following months of back-and-forth over the issue.
But the decision for that lease — along with two other leases between the town and Snow King — didn't come without contentious and vigorous debate regarding concessions some council members wanted from "the town hill" in exchange for good value on the leases.
Specifically, Councilor Jim Stanford was adamant the lease include language that would ensure affordable skiing options for Jackson residents. For example, he encouraged the lease to include language requiring Snow King to either bring back the once-available two-hour pass at a rate to be determined by the hill's officials, or a reduced rate on half-day passes, which currently stand at $49. A full-day pass costs $59, and Stanford argued that $49 was too much to pay for someone who just wants to ski on their lunch hour or a parent who wants to take a couple runs with a youngster who would be off the ski hill in search of hot cocoa after a mere few runs.
Mayor Pete Muldoon and Councilor Arne Jorgensen initially supported Stanford's idea, though they didn't take the same line-in-the-sand stance as Stanford on that issue. The pair ceded that newly added language requiring Snow King to address the affordability issue in some way was sufficient. All three acknowledged that they weren't trying to set Snow King's prices, but rather were trying to ensure that Snow King remains the town hill and affordable for locals who want to access it, even if just for an hour or two as their day allows.
The gondola lease, along with the other two leases, including an amended one for the Snow King Sports & Events Center for $1,000 per month, which Snow King officials said they rent out for $1,000 per night, ultimately passed after much discussion and debate amongst council members and Snow King officials. Those two leases passed 4-1, with Stanford being the sole vote against. Stanford voted in favor of the unanimously passed tubing park lease.
Other council members, including Jonathan Schechter, expressed reservations about voting for the gondola lease, but felt the good outweighed the bad.
While noting that it isn't the reason he voted in favor of the lease for the gondola base in the park, Schechter said, "I'm feeling a sense of weariness," regarding the Snow King issues. He added that his unease about the vote relates to his perception that "for many years now, Jackson Hole has seemed to attract people who want to exploit the community." While he didn't point his finger at Snow King regarding said exploitation, he did note that his aim is to keep the town's hill affordable and accessible to residents of the town.
For the full story, pick up a copy of Wednesday's News&Guide, or visit www.JHNewsAndGuide.com on Wednesday.