For the first time since their journey across the Atlantic, Jackson Hole’s newest gondola cabins slept inside last night. With a parking and storage facility officially commissioned at Sweetwater‘s Solitude Station, 48 luxury vehicles that cost tens of thousands of dollars each now have a world-class home that brings together the latest lift technology with proven principles.
Jackson Hole Mountain Resort opened its Bridger Gondola barn in 1998 and 84 cabins have been going inside for twenty years there. The CWA X models are in incredible shape for their age and number of hours, a testament to their quality construction, dedicated maintenance staff and indoor storage.
JHMR launched gondola number two in December 2016 and its CWA Omega IV cabins remained on the line continuously until yesterday. The winter of 2016-17 proved to be a monster in the Tetons and while the cabins performed well, fifty feet of snow often turned to ice on flat roofs. Frozen chunks would bounce up and down, making sounds that mimicked falling metal. Jackson Hole sometimes goes weeks or even months without a thaw and ice would also accumulate on the cabin floors and in ski racks (other fun liquids would freeze too!) Ice storms that can cripple door mechanisms and plague detachable grips thankfully never materialized last year and the days of worrying that storm would come are now over.
Alterra Mountain Company dropped a bomb at the Outdoor Retailer/SIA show this morning, announcing the forthcoming Ikon Pass will bring together its dozen North American resorts along with eleven other major mountains. Aspen Skiing Company, Boyne Resorts, Powdr Co. and more have partnered with Alterra to add destinations such as Aspen Snowmass, Alta, Snowbird, Big Sky, Killington and Jackson Hole. “The Ikon Pass is a collaboration of like-minded mountain destinations across North America where incredible terrain, unique character and local traditions are celebrated,” said Erik Forsell, Chief Marketing Officer for Alterra Mountain Company. “We’ve curated a community of iconic destinations. We believe this new pass offers tremendous opportunity and appeal to mountain enthusiasts who have a passion for outdoor adventure.”
Pass options will range from a set number of days at varying destinations to an ultimate, unlimited season pass. I can’t stress enough how much this changes big mountain skiing in North America. For years now, Vail Resorts’ Epic Pass has been the largest and most successful season pass product in the world, now offering access to 272 lifts and 44,000 acres at 15 mountains in North America and Australia to some 750,000 passholders. Ikon will one-up Vail’s terrain offering with access to 23 top-tier North American resorts, a ridiculous 363 lifts and 48,840 acres (for both passes, I am counting gondolas, chairlifts and surface lifts with towers. If carpets and rope tows are included, the Epic Pass offers 340 lifts while Ikon has 434.)
Ikon Pass resorts for 2018-19 will be:
Alpine Meadows, California
Aspen Highlands, Colorado
Aspen Mountain, Colorado
Bear Mountain, California
Blue Mountain, Ontario
Big Sky, Montana
Copper Mountain, Colorado
Deer Valley, Utah
Jackson Hole, Wyoming
June Mountain, California
Loon Mountain, New Hampshire
Mammoth Mountain, California
Snowshoe, West Virginia
Snow Summit, California
Squaw Valley, California
Sunday River, Maine
Winter Park, Colorado
Ikon passholders will also receive discounts and special offers at CMH heli-skiing in British Columbia. Epic holders already enjoy limited access to 30 European resorts. The Liftopia-powered Mountain Collective Pass, which allows destination skiers to sample many large resorts, will remain an option in its current form and also go on sale in March. The M.A.X. Pass, founded by Intrawest, Powdr and Boyne, will sunset. Specific Ikon tiers and prices will be released in the coming weeks.
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.