The Caribou-Targhee National Forest recently accepted an updated road map for Grand Targhee Resort, which could eventually result in the western Teton mountain operating as many lifts as the more famous one to the east. The 2018 Master Development Plan serves as a guide for what could change over the following decades and includes a whopping five new fixed grip chairlifts, four detachable quads and three additional surface lifts.
Like its two Grand Teton neighbors, Targhee is owned by a wealthy family with decades of experience across multiple businesses. CEO Geordie Gillett is the son of George Gillett, who owned Vail Associates from 1985 until it went public in 1997. The family went on to create Booth Creek Ski Holdings, which bought Targhee along with seven other resorts coast to coast in the late 1990s. Booth Creek continues to operate Sierra at Tahoe, California while Mr. Gillett independently operates Grand Targhee, Wyoming.
Already analyzed and approved is a Peaked lift servicing terrain above the current Sacajawea detachable quad. The new high speed lift would rise a respectable 1,829 vertical feet with a capacity of 2,000 skiers per hour, topping out at almost 9,700 feet in elevation. To me, Peaked Mountain has always felt like an expansion yet to be completed with a lift that ends below some of its best terrain.
Another proposed project within Targhee’s existing permit boundary is the 4,300′ North Boundary fixed grip triple, which would service six gladed trails beyond the new Blackfoot lift. A second short chairlift called Rick’s Basin would provide access to the North Boundary pod, giving guests a much needed option other than Shoshone on a stormy day. “This lift will provide better utilization of the terrain at the far north edge of the resort, as well as providing access to intermediate and advanced terrain that is currently not lift-accessed,” notes the plan.
Speaking of Shoshone, it may be relocated and realigned to load lower. The rebuilt version would likely go detachable to improve the learning experience and follow a trend set by many other mountains. A new platter called Palmer is envisioned as a dedicated race training lift to separate competitors from the general public and provide quicker repeat laps for athletes.
The final lift project within the current permit area is a Crazy Horse high speed quad, which would service the upper reaches of Fred’s Mountain south of Dreamcatcher. This 1,800 passenger per hour lift would allow skiers to avoid a long run out to the congested base area from trails like Wild Willie and Crazy Horse Woods.
The new and most ambitious part of the plan is located south of Peaked Mountain towards the Grand Teton itself. The South Bowl could see up to three lifts in what was once envisioned as cat skiing terrain. “As a skier I want to get out there and I think other people want to as well,” Mr. Gillett recently told the Teton Valley News. “That area provides a really nice range of skiing, the views are amazing, and it’s high enough that the snow stays good even though its south-facing.” Two fixed grip quads would stretch 3,800 linear feet apiece while a third would provide two-way connectivity between them.
Another boundary extension could result in a lift southwest of Sacajawea called Mono Trees. Five new trails would offer skiers a respite from Grand Targhee’s visibility and wind challenges on bad weather days. This area would be serviced by yet another 1,800 pph high speed quad. All told, Targhee’s skiable area could surge by 1,200 acres.
With the exception of the approved Peaked project, each of these lifts will require individual analysis before construction. Even with the support of the Forest Service, it’s going to take a significant increase in skier visits and a lot of capital investment to happen. “With the growth and development of communities in the Teton Basin and the resort’s close proximity to Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks, Grand Targhee Resort is expected to see increases in visitation from both winter and summer recreational enthusiasts,” the plan states optimistically. Targhee is an incredibly fun mountain to ski and I look forward to following its next phase of growth, however long it may take.