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Teton Pass Parking

post #1 of 2
Thread Starter 
You've Been Warned!

As Posted on 11/09/05

Fewer spaces to park on pass
Drivers face tickets, towing at popular
backcountry trailhead.

By Michael Pearlman

Backcountry skiing enthusiasts hoping to snare a parking spot at the summit of Teton Pass might want to set their alarms a little bit earlier on powder days this winter.

New signs installed by Wyoming Department of Transportation leave little doubt to where legal parking boundaries lie at the popular trailhead. Additional signs prohibiting parallel parking adjacent to the roadway will also be in place in a few weeks.

The effect will be to restrict parking to approximately 55 vehicles at a lot that has seen up to 95 in years past.

On Sunday, Teton County Sheriff's Office deputies placed warning notices on illegally parked vehicles, and the stepped-up enforcement means that some skiers won't be able to find parking places atop the pass on busy days this winter.

"We want to provide access to Teton Pass, but at the same time there has to be some kind of cooperation from people to make sure that parking also works for people driving over the pass," said Bridger-Teton National Forest Recreation Manager Linda Merigliano.

Pete Hallsten, resident engineer for WYDOT, confirmed that to provide adequate room for snowplows and other drivers, only one row of cars would be permitted to park along the snowbank this winter. Once the additional signs are put in place, vehicles parked parallel to the highway will also be subject to ticketing.

Wyoming Highway Patrol and the Teton County Sheriff's Office, who have joint jurisdiction over the roadway, will enforce the parking rules.

"The regulations are not a lot different from what was there," Hallsten said. "That's a turnout for people to get out and check their chains, so there has to be somewhere up there for that."

With less parking available at the summit, Merigliano acknowledged that backcountry enthusiasts will need to plan on carpooling and hitchhiking, which is illegal in Wyoming, from the Old Pass Road or Wilson. While skiers are currently allowed to park at the Stagecoach Bar and the Fish Creek Center in Wilson, home to Wilson Backcountry Sports, that privilege could be withdrawn.

"We've seen an impact of skiers parking in our lot, and it hasn't been overly problematic to date," said Bruce Simon, owner of Prime Properties and the Fish Creek Center. "It could reach the point where tenants here won't have adequate parking for their customers, in which [case] we'd have to limit it."

"I think the Forest Service has to provide for parking, and they need to get proactive with parking and bathrooms up there," Simon said. "Maybe they need to buy land and build a parking lot in Wilson. They have an undeveloped ski area, and there has to be associated services with that."

Steadily worsening

Jackson snowboarder Mike Moore rides the Teton Pass backcountry four times a week and says he's seen the parking problem steadily worsen over his eight winters in the valley. "I wish they'd subsidize a shuttle," he said.

"It's gotten to be more of conundrum every year, and though it hasn't been a problem for me, it has gotten a little out of hand," Moore said. "That area is for people to check their brakes, and it's definitely a dangerous pass, so I feel bad when I see people up there that can't do what they need to do.

"In the long run, it's going to get more people to carpool and hitchhike," he said. "If anything, it'll get the diehards out there a little earlier."

Merigliano said that when Highway 22 was reconstructed in the 1970s, WYDOT received a 200-foot right-of-way that includes the pullout area now used as a parking lot by backcountry skiers. During a 2000 Environmental Assessment conducted by the Forest Service, most public comments were related to a proposed paved pathway from Victor to Wilson, and the size of the parking area received little attention.

"When you have Forest Service land and a highway right-of-way that overlays that land, it's clear that the nonhighway activities that occur in that right-of-way have to be addressed between the two agencies," Merigliano said. "We don't have ultimate control. By installing the signs there, the intent is to define where the limits are to avoid people going out on the road."

Merigliano has been compiling data on the number of cars parked at the summit of Teton Pass for more than a decade. She estimates that the new signs and the ban on parallel parking will allow approximately 55 cars to park legally in the pullout.

"When you start getting up around 65, we're starting to push the limits ­ parking in double rows and down the sides," she said. "You can probably squeeze more than that up there, but that's dependent on people parking close together and not taking up two spaces. Given that Teton Pass is so popular, people are going to have to make more of an effort to carpool."

The soaring popularity of backcountry skiing on the pass over the last decade has contributed to the increased parking pressure on the summit pullout, Merigliano said. During the winter of 1993-94, out of 98 days cars were counted, more than 45 vehicles were observed in the pullout only five times. The most cars observed was 57 cars on Saturday, Feb. 20.

Record: 95 vehicles

During the winter of 2003-04, there were 22 days when more than 45 cars were parked at the summit. The busiest day of the season was Jan. 3, when 95 vehicles were counted on a Saturday at noon, a day after 20 inches of snow fell in the Tetons.

"When that many cars are up there, people are parking way down the shoulders on both sides of the road, in a no-parking area where plows will pull off and as a tightly parked double row of parallel-parked cars," Merigliano said. "Clearly, the worst of it is going to be in November and on powder days."

Last winter, the Forest Service circulated comment forms seeking public input on a ski shuttle that would run from Wilson to the summit of the pass. While some skiers supported the idea, numerous concerns were raised as well. Some users felt that a shuttle would contribute to crowding because people would be deposited en masse onto the Pass at regular intervals. Others were concerned about whether dogs could be accommodated and questioned whether the service would be affordable enough that people would utilize it. WYDOT officials worried that a large vehicle making regular left turns into the pullout area could pose a safety hazard.

"We saw some pretty significant details we need to work out," said Merigliano. While implementing a skier shuttle would require extensive studies, the Bridger-Teton currently has a federal mandate to study off-road vehicle use on Forest Service lands in 2006.

"It's not going to happen this year, because we've got other priorities," she said.
post #2 of 2
This is not a new problem. We used to park at the Heidleberg and hitch rides to the top of the pass. The owner back then, Bernard, didn't mind as he didn't open until the afternoon.

I am sure things are way diferent today so I pity the skiers who return to the parking lot to find their cars not there.
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