Tired of the rigmarole at the top of Teton Pass?
If you want to avoid waiting for a parking spot at the top or hitchhiking after skiing down to Old Pass Road, you might enjoy the trial shuttle that will be offered this weekend.
The Teton Backcountry Alliance, in partnership with Rendezvous River Sports, will pick skiers up throughout most of the day Saturday and ferry them to the top of the pass.
The shuttles are part of a response to growing recreational use on Teton Pass. That growth has forced skiers to wait for parking spots, overstuffed parking areas and, at times, put skiers and drivers at odds over public safety and access.
“We know that a single day of Free Shuttles is not the solution,” Alliance steering committee Chairman Gary Kofinas said in a press release, “but we are excited to use this event as a catalyst for a shuttle systems solution in the future.”
From 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., the shuttles will leave on the hour from the Old Pass Road trailhead. They will stop at Phillips Bench, the top of the pass and the Coal Creek trailhead, then make the same stops in reverse on the drive back.
Kofinas said Rendezvous River Sports owner Aaron Pruzan will dig out the vans he uses in the summer for rafting to serve as the shuttles.
Depending on how many people use the service, two vans will be on standby as backups.
Several drivers will work the shuttles, including Kofinas, Pruzan and members of the Alliance. The cycle will be set up to give each of the drivers a chance to ski and to drive a few laps.
Running a shuttle is one of the long-term solutions respondents suggested in a survey the Alliance sent out in the spring. The survey asked open-ended questions about what concerns people had about Teton Pass, and which solutions they saw as necessary.
Shuttles and carpooling were in the top five of open-ended solutions respondents proffered, following closures, education, parking and infrastructure to mitigate avalanches.
In another set of questions that asked people to rate how important certain measures were, 68% said shuttles were somewhat or very necessary.
Kofinas told the Jackson Hole Daily on Monday that he doesn’t have a set goal for how riders use the shuttle service.
“It’d be great if people really took advantage of it. If each stop had a dozen people, it’d be a success,” he said. “I think we can accommodate a lot of people.”
Kofinas said he hopes the free shuttle day will demonstrate that a shuttle would be an economically viable option for someone else to pick up long term.
Other regions with large backcountry skier populations have public transit options that help reduce the number of vehicles at trailheads, like the buses that take people from Salt Lake City to ski resorts up Big and Little Cottonwood canyons.
The Alliance plans to hold two more free shuttle days, one in February and one in March, though dates have not been set.
The trio of free shuttle days is an attempt to demonstrate the value of the service to skiers and snowboarders and to the yet-unnamed entity that might pick up the mantle.
“This free day isn’t the solution,” Kofinas said. “I see it as a demonstration project.”