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Jackson Hole getting an new lift for the 15-16 season

post #1 of 21
Thread Starter 

From Powder Mag:
 

It’s more than a year out, but a new lift is going up in Jackson Hole. Spanning 1,600 vertical feet, the Teton Lift, a high-speed quad, will be ready for the 2015-16 season, providing skiers access to what has so far been accessible only via hiking. Work on the lift has been going on all summer; you can see the grading of the trails and tree-removal from the valley floor.

The reason it’s a topic of conversation now is because of how dramatically it will shift how people approach some of the best—and potentially dangerous—backcountry terrain in North America. When it starts spinning next year, the chair will deposit skiers less than a hundred feet away from the resort’s northern boundary. This radical terrain—known as Granite Canyon—lies out of bounds within Grand Teton National Park. Current access is through a few different bootpacks and a series of backcountry gates at the resort. It is a prized stash with incredible skiing—2,000-vertical-foot shots that take your breath away and leave you delirious.

But because it lies almost entirely within serious avalanche terrain, Granite is not the domain for everyone and it claims victims every year. Just last winter, Greg Epstein, the supervising producer of TGR who has a lifetime of backcountry skiing experience in Jackson and elsewhere, was caught in a slide in these very chutes and nearly lost his life. Unlike other popular Jackson backcountry zones, like Rock Springs and Cody, Granite is one giant terrain trap with few safe zones in which to descend in a relatively safe manner.

This photo was taken earlier this month from Jackson Hole, where the new Teton Lift will be erected. PHOTO: Matt Hansen

Jackson Hole’s already getting to work clearing a path for the new Teton Lift. This taken earlier this month. PHOTO: Matt Hansen

From the time the resort opened in 1965 until it unlocked its backcountry-access gates in 1999-2000, this terrain was strictly off-limits. Those who poached it risked losing their pass or even getting arrested. Today, the area often shows up online and in social media as skiers proudly claim their shots (though films and magazines tend to leave out specifics). Though skier traffic has grown back there every year, the Teton Lift will likely only increase the flow due to much easier access. What used to be a 20- to 30-minute hike will be less than 10 minutes with the new lift, not to mention how tempting it will be for some to simply duck the rope right off the lift.

“It’ll let people right into Granite,” says Jason Tattersall, a skier who moved to the valley in the late ’80s and starred in many of the early Teton Gravity Research films. “There will be moguls in there now.”

Anna Cole, communications manager at the resort, says there are no plans to put a backcountry gate in this area for at least the first year, and that the resort is working with the national park and Teton County Search and Rescue to build an awareness campaign to clue people in on the potential dangers.

“Jackson Hole Mountain Resort neither discourages or encourages skiers and snowboarders to leave the ski area boundary,” says Cole.

The chair’s location is just north of the Casper quad, with its base station being on what is now the South Pass Traverse. It will deposit skiers along Sheridan Ridge, just north of the Crags—a steep, rocky zone that has historically been hike-to only. From the top of the chair to the base of Teton Village will be 3,000 vertical feet. The views are stunning. Direct fall line is a trail called “Kemmerer’s Run,” named after a Wyoming town and the resort’s owner, Jay Kemmerer. From the top of the run, the terrain is so steep and straight that you can see all the way down to the base area. The lift helps the resort expand on its intermediate terrain, but also positions it for another long-term goal: hosting a World Cup downhill.

Resort Senior Vice President Tim Mason said while it’s true that the resort hopes to pursue such an event, several difficult logistics exist to overcome first in order for it to become a reality. The course would likely need snowmaking from top to bottom and there’s a question if it would be long enough for FIS approval. So any World Cup event would be a long ways out, he said.

Ultimately, Tattersall says the new lift is “no big deal.” The out-of-bounds is still vast, you need to know where you’re going, and enough skiers are already feasting on Jackson.

“It’s so crowded out there already its crazy,” he says. “Feed the monkey!”

Link: Powder Magazine, Teton Lift

post #2 of 21

I like it but I can certainly understand the concerns.

post #3 of 21
Hmm, curious how locals think about it
post #4 of 21

Well, I guess Moran woods are going to be a lot more crowded.

post #5 of 21
I've only been there at the end of the season but how crowded to Jackson really get?
post #6 of 21
Thread Starter 

It's a shame the lift won't be in for the 2015 Gathering. 

post #7 of 21

Conflicts over bringing hike-to terrain into the service boundary seem to be increasingly frequent- I'm reminded of the Kachina Peak flamewar that has spread across my facebook feed all summer every time Taos posts any mention of lift construction.

 

When Wolf Creek announced their 10-20 year upgrade plans 3 years ago, which included no less than SIX new lift installs (and HSQ replacement of two more), the ONLY point of controversy was a lift that would make Knife Ridge and Horseshoe Bowl lift served (with a lift that would only run during storm cycles and leave the terrain hike-to otherwise). After lots of negativity, they removed this lift from their proposal.

 

One of those lifts would bring popular (but mild) lift-served backcountry into resort boundaries, no problems expressed.

 

Hike-to terrain certainly hits a nerve.

 

The BC aspect of this is another component.  I wonder if the National Park will come into play at all? It seems to me the park service could close off access if they decided that too many people were getting injured/dead/needing SAR after leaving the ski area and entering the park boundary. That would really piss people off.

 

And the motivation here is a WC course? Maybe I am ignorant- is there really no place within the existing lift service in JACKSON HOLE that would work for a WC course? Surely on a mountain like this you should have more sustained vert than one would need, no?

post #8 of 21

could more skiers = safer avy conditions?

post #9 of 21
Well you don't hear too many stories about mogul runs sliding. wink.gif
post #10 of 21
Quote:
It's a shame the lift won't be in for the 2015 Gathering. 

Not exactly. Not having the lift means one more year of easily finding untracked snow in Moran Bowl. That is where I found some of my best powder last year and got to see somebody launch Headrush rock. I never hiked to The Crags, but saw lot of people going that way from top of Apres Vous and that will no longer where untracked will last after a storm.

Quote:
Well, I guess Moran woods are going to be a lot more crowded.

Exactly.

Quote:
I've only been there at the end of the season but how crowded to Jackson really get?

My experience was very crowded for the first couple of hours with powder on a Saturday in early February, especially tram and gondola, and even Apres Vous had long, not well-managed lines early. I experienced two to three tram waits most of the days I was there. Monday was the only day with smaller tram lines so I was able to get five rides.

 

For more info, see http://www.firsttracksonline.com/boards/viewtopic.php?f=3&t=11342 for a 5-day trip report (long).

post #11 of 21

I've only skied 2 days at JHMR, but Moran Woods / Face aren't exactly hidden now - it's hard to miss the 15 foot wide cat track right off the top of Casper chair.  I'm sure traffic will increase there from people above coming through the crags, but it's not like Moran was some unknown zone full of untracked lines as it is.

 

My guess is that a huge motivation for putting in this lift is to lessen the crazy long lines for the tram.

post #12 of 21
Quote:
Originally Posted by tseeb View Post
 
...
Quote:
I've only been there at the end of the season but how crowded to Jackson really get?

My experience was very crowded for the first couple of hours with powder on a Saturday in early February, especially tram and gondola, and even Apres Vous had long, not well-managed lines early. I experienced two to three tram waits most of the days I was there. Monday was the only day with smaller tram lines so I was able to get five rides.

 

 

My experience has been that a storm after a dry spell brings out the "few runs before work" crowd, making it very crowded for a few hours, then it empties out.  When there has been a string of storms, it gets less crowded.  

 

I wasn't there, but didn't someone say last year was much busier than normal?  Didn't they get a higher than usual rating in Ski magazines annual ranking?  Maybe someone does read that thing.

post #13 of 21
Quote:
but it's not like Moran was some unknown zone full of untracked lines as it is.

A few steps up at the end of the traverse was so good when I was there last Feb. that I hate to put it out there even if it's only good for one more year. I could post more pictures of what I found at 11 AM, but won't.

 

Quote:
My guess is that a huge motivation for putting in this lift is to lessen the crazy long lines for the tram.

Should help, but does not compare to what tram gets you.  A lot of Teton lift faces S and SE so snow will not last and it will require two chairs or gondola to get to it.

post #14 of 21
Quote:
Originally Posted by mdf View Post
 

 

My experience has been that a storm after a dry spell brings out the "few runs before work" crowd, making it very crowded for a few hours, then it empties out.  When there has been a string of storms, it gets less crowded.  

 

The deepest day I was there was Saturday, although snow was heavier and more wind-affected than some of the other days. I think a lot of people move to Jackson for the lifestyle, but enough of them end up with M-F 8-5 jobs so a Saturday powder day can get extra crowded. There was new snow the three preceding days I was there. The "very crowded" Saturday also was stormy and windy with some lifts not running for the entire day (Sublette only ran 12-2) so it stayed crowded most of the day. 

post #15 of 21

The bottom line I suspect, is that a mountain with relatively inefficient lift layout was manageable when skier visits never exceeded 400K until 2006.  Last year was over 550K and we are now reading more comments about excessive lift lines.   We all like snow to be slow to track out, but most people hate long liftlines even more.  Alta had to face this reality and build high-speed Collins in 2004.  I suspect Jackson is responding to the same issues.  I'll bet JHMR management is quite pleased to have increased skier visits by ~50% over a decade when overall US skier visits are increasing at a 5% per decade rate.

post #16 of 21

Tony, do you have a source for skier visit history?  I'm wondering if last year was anomalously busy.  I don't remember lines being particularly bad when I was there two years ago.

 

Except the tram, of course.  But the tram lines have always been horrendous, so far as I can tell.

post #17 of 21
Quote = http://www.jacksonhole.com/activities-events/off-mountain/latest-news.html?release_id=5313#release:
The resort’s approximately 563,631 skier visits surpass the previous record set last winter.  The increase in skier visits of 12% over last year was achieved with visitation increases in every month of operation.

 

I have only seen a graph. Last year's increase was sharp, but visits are up over 100% since 1989 and 75% since 1996.  The overall trend looks very linear with no end in sight.  So I see Jackson upgrading lift capacity at least at a parallel rate if they don't want to have chronic liftlines. 

 

My personal experience has only been to avoid the tram for excessive lines, but my most recent visits were early February 2012 and late January 2006.  I have seen and heard enough that I would definitely avoid peak holidays.  

post #18 of 21

Unofficial has posted some comments about the impact this chair will have on Jackson Hole. 

 

The Teton Lift will Change Jackson Hole Forever

 

One comment in the article 

Quote:
 The biggest concern by locals, search and rescue, and resort officials alike will be the easy access granted to Granite Canyon. The canyon, which lies just beyond the northern boundary line, contains some of the most avalanche prone terrain in the region.

I'm not familiar with Jackson Hole enough to know this area.  I'm curious to hear from those "in the know".

post #19 of 21

Nice bump, Trekchick.  I've not been in Granite Canyon, but I know a few who have.  The long hump out of there will keep casual visitors down to one trip apiece.

 

As far as exposing more casual skiers to the dangers of Granite's avy terrain in the link's article, I don't see where it changes things much from the current situation.  No matter what the experience level, people are going to get in trouble:

 

http://www.sweetwaternow.com/one-skier-dead-mount-moran-avalanche-one-skier-sustained-life-threatening-injuries/

 

:deadhorse:

post #20 of 21

I'm not currently a fan of the "new" lift.  They didn't ask me though.

post #21 of 21
Quote:
Originally Posted by SpikeDog View Post
 

Nice bump, Trekchick.  I've not been in Granite Canyon, but I know a few who have.  The long hump out of there will keep casual visitors down to one trip apiece.

 

As far as exposing more casual skiers to the dangers of Granite's avy terrain in the link's article, I don't see where it changes things much from the current situation.  No matter what the experience level, people are going to get in trouble:

 

http://www.sweetwaternow.com/one-skier-dead-mount-moran-avalanche-one-skier-sustained-life-threatening-injuries/

 

:deadhorse:


Thanks TPJ and Spike for a local's view. 

 

As for the link you posted about the Avalanche that took the life of Luke Lynch, Sad. 

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