Bridger-Teton signs off on Snow King expansion plans

JACKSON, Wyo. — A record of decision is in from the Forest Service and it reveals Snow King will get most everything it wanted in its expansion plans.

The Jackson Ranger District of the Bridger-Teton National Forest today released a Draft Record of Decision (ROD) and Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) for the Snow King Mountain Resort On-Mountain Improvements Project. The decision authorizes the implementation of improvements included in Snow King ski area’s current master development plan (MDP) over the next 10 years.

Supervisor of the Bridger-Teton NF, Tricia O’Connor, signed off on Alternative 4 which includes boundary expansion (67 acres to the east, 88 acres to the west), terrain development including ‘backside’ skiing in Leeks Canyon, a novice ski-way and summit access road, ski lift, conveyors (surface lifts), gondola, summit restaurant and guest services building, and zipline along with mountain bike trails.

“Ski areas provide an opportunity for the public to connect with their National Forests year-round, and the selected alternative provides enhanced winter and summer opportunities at the resort,” O’Connor said. “Concentrating recreational use such as skiing and downhill mountain biking makes them more accessible and affords the forest the opportunity to meet public demands while avoiding unnecessary sprawl into backcountry areas that provide critical wildlife habitat and undisturbed watersheds. Wider, year-round accessibility to these enhanced opportunities contributes to the quality of life we enjoy and supports local economies.”

A portion of Snow King Mountain Resort is eligible for listing on the National Register of Historic Places as a district under the National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA). The Bridger-Teton, Snow King, the State Historic Preservation Office and other historic preservation groups are signing a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) which commits to measures that mitigate potential changes on the historic landscape.

With the release of the draft ROD, a 45-day objection period begins. Objections will be accepted from only those who previously submitted specific written comments regarding the proposed project during a designated opportunity for public comment.

To file an objection, submit an objection, including any attachments, to: USDA Forest Service, Intermountain Region, ATTN: Objection Reviewing Officer, 324 25th Street, Ogden, UT  84401; or by email. The objection reviewing officer is not accepting hand-delivered objections currently due to precautions in response to the coronavirus. For additional information, contact Sean McGinness.

Recently appointed president of SKMR and general manager of Snow King, Ryan Stanley, stated, “We are extremely excited to take this leap forward for Snow King to ensure that the historic ski area can be economically viable and sustainable long into the future. We have gone through a very extensive review process with both the Town of Jackson and USFS over the past five years and are now looking forward to making some exceptional improvements to the Town Hill that the community will be able to enjoy for decades to come.”


Specifics of the decision

Permit Boundary Adjustment

    • A 67-acre permit boundary adjustment on the front side, east of the existing permit area, to accommodate part of a summit access road/novice skiway, intermediate-level terrain lower on the slope (including groomed runs and tree and glade skiing), and a novice route down from Rafferty lift (via the access road/novice skiway).
    • An 88-acre permit boundary adjustment on the front side west of the existing permit area to accommodate a summit teaching center, an additional segment of the summit access road/novice skiway, and expert-level tree and glade skiing.
    • The southern border of the western boundary adjustment area will be shifted to the actual ridgeline to provide a buffer between summit development and use and the winter habitat lower on the slope.

Terrain Development

    • A new ski school/teaching center with beginner and novice terrain on the ridgeline west of the Snow King summit.
    • New ski runs on both the front and back side and adjustments to some existing runs totaling 133.6 acres of new terrain. This includes runs 1–7, 9, and 13–25, Lift B and C terrain, and modifications of Moose, Belly Roll, Upper Exhibition, and Bearcat.
    • Gladed ski terrain and forest health maintenance totaling about 30.9 acres.

Summit Access Road/Novice Skiway

    • A new roughly 2-mile, front-side, access road to the top of the summit gondola that would also serve as a novice skiway.

Lifts

    • A new gondola replacing the aging Summit lift.
    • A new back-side chairlift.
    • Two teaching center conveyor lifts.
    • A new surface tow or conveyor lift on the back side bringing skiers to the summit.
    • Cougar lift bottom terminal would be shifted about 250 feet up the current alignment.

Facilities

    • Summit restaurant/guest services building and ski patrol facility, 20,000–25,000 square-feet. Construction would require removal of the existing Panorama House and the unloading dock of the original Summit lift.
    • Development of the historic Civilian Conservation Corps cabin near the summit as an interpretive center showcasing Snow King’s history.
    • A 500-square-foot observatory near the summit.
    • A temporary ski patrol building at the top of Cougar.
    • A year-round yurt camp at the southern point of the permit area, with nine yurts 20-30 feet in diameter and a 1-mile ADA-compliant access trail from the summit.
    • A small, open-air wedding venue west of the summit building.

Night Skiing

    • 27.3 acres of expanded lighting for night skiing.

Snowmaking Coverage

    • 147.2 acres of added snowmaking (with few exceptions, all existing and proposed runs).

Summer Activities

    • One of two zip line options may be implemented, both with top terminals west of the gondola top station and bottom terminals near the Rafferty lift mid-station:
      o Option 1 – a straight line, 3,200-foot, single span from the summit to the mid-station.
      o Option 2 – three separate segments with a combined length of about 5,200 feet. Two intermediate terminals would connect the first segment to the second and the second to the third.
    • About 5.6 miles of front-side mountain bike trails and a 110-acre back-side mountain bike zone with a skills park and trails of various difficulty levels. Detailed plans for this zone will be developed and submitted for engineering review prior to construction authorization. A phased, adaptive management approach will be implemented to guide development (see Appendix B).
    • Hiking trails between the summit and the west base, west of Exhibition run, including an improved 0.6-mile Stairway Trail and a new 1.2-mile trail in the Bearcat Glades area.
    • Forest stand thinning on 154.2 acres to improve forest health and reduce fuel loads at the wildland/urban interface.
    • Obliteration of user-created trails and 1.5 miles of existing service roads made unnecessary by the proposed summit access road/novice skiway.

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