Let me start by noting this post, like all others here, is my own and not an official account of my employer, the Jackson Hole Mountain Resort.
Tuesday nights are my Sunday nights at home before I start my work week every Wednesday. I was watching the news last Tuesday when our risk manager casually posted on Facebook that the power was out in Teton Village. I didn’t think much of it on a day when the roof of the local bowling alley had collapsed due to snow and with both a Winter Storm Warning and Flood Watch in effect. Unlike at some ski areas, losing power is a rarity for Jackson Hole (Crystal Mountain, where I grew up skiing, has its own dedicated power plant for such occasions; Kirkwood and Mt. Baker run without grid power every day.)
Seven minutes after the initial Facebook post, another employee wrote, “the power poles along the village road totally toppled,” just as thousands of workers and guests were headed home. We later learned seventeen 75-foot steel transmission poles had indeed fallen to the snow along ‘the windy mile,’ that last stretch of Wyoming 390 before Teton Village. The time was 6:05 pm, the stamp that would grace the webcams on jacksonhole.com for days. It was no doubt howling that night, but the poles had withstood forty years of fierce winds Wyoming is known for.
Lower Valley Energy is the electricity provider in Teton County. It’s a co-op, owned by 15,000 members like myself. While our tiny utility got to work recruiting much-needed regional help, ski area employees who could make it rallied first thing Wednesday morning. Instead of heading up, cat operators headed out to push ten feet of snow away from the power corridor. Lower Valley conceded at 9:40 am to “expect Teton Village to be out of power for 5-7 days,” and the resort announced it would not open until at least the following Monday. The internet thought it was crazy, we knew it was not.
Complicating matters, Teton Pass has closed earlier that day and ended up staying closed for almost five days amid the biggest storm cycle since 1986. WYDOT also closed the two canyon routes leading into Jackson Hole due to avalanches relentlessly coming down across them. The Teton Village substation also serves the Jackson Hole Airport and all Tuesday night flights were canceled. Whether it was workers, generators or fuel, it became tough to get anything we needed. The mountain was able to buy every available 2000-watt generator from a Honda dealer in Afton, Wyoming.