Summit Lift prior to being disassembled at the end of the 2020-2021 season. The lift will be replaced with a gondola this summer. Photo: Nick Sulzer // Buckrail

JACKSON, Wyo. — Forest Supervisor Tricia O’Connor of the Bridger-Teton National Forest signed the Record of Decision for the Snow King Mountain Resort On-Mountain Improvements Environmental Impact Statement (EIS), yesterday March 30.

The iconic Summit chairlift spun for the last time on Sunday, March 28. The lift will be replaced this summer with a gondola.

The decision by the Forest Service authorizes a modification of Alternative 4, including a permit boundary adjustment, additional ski terrain development, a novice ski-way and a summit access road, gondola, summit building, zip-line and mountain bike trails. This decision will allow Snow King Mountain Resort to move ahead with certain elements immediately while other elements will be contingent upon additional requirements.

“The decision of a modified Alternative 4 allows moving forward with some aspects of Snow King Mountain Resort improvements immediately, while pausing others, and is a direct result of the desires of some within the community of Jackson to minimize the footprint of development until necessary and to ensure that the designs are consistent with visual and historic elements of the surrounding community,” O’Connor said.

Four aspects of the project were not approved in this decision. These elements include the yurt camp, eBikes on trails, a wedding venue, and a zipline. A year-round yurt camp was proposed for 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. The “Option 2” zipline proposed is a three-segment zip line with a combined length of 5,200 feet, with terminals connecting each section.

Phase 1 of the Snow King improvement project. Photo: USDA Screen Shot

Phase 1 of the decision allows Snow King to meet its primary goals of developing beginner skiing opportunities and increasing some level of summer recreation. This includes developing beginning ski area terrain and constructing a summit building up to 10,000 square feet with a new gondola to replace the aged Summit lift. “Phasing development will allow the Bridger-Teton, with the public, to assess assumptions and design criteria outlined in the EIS before expanding into other areas of the permitted ski area,” she said.

After Snow King completes Phase 1 development, the Bridger-Teton will assess that development considering the effectiveness of design criteria on scenic quality, noise, and other environmental and social resources. The Forest will document the results of this assessment and consider them in determining if any additional requirements are necessary before authorizing Phase 2 development in Snow King Mountain Resort’s annual operating plan.

O’Connor participated in three objection meetings in January and February 2021 where various members of the community provided suggestions and considerations for the pending decision.

In October 2019 the Forest released a summary of the draft alternatives that were developed based on public comment during the scoping period for this project.

The three main issues derived from the scoping comments are in the interest of preserving the cultural/historic nature of the ski area, wildlife habitat impacts, and recreation demands. The issues identified by the public helped determine the focus of the analysis in the Draft Environmental Impact Statement and subsequently the Final Environmental Impact Statement which disclosed the potential effects of four alternatives, including the no-action alternative.

The objection resolution period was extended from January 7, 2021, to February 5, 2021, in order to discuss the objections received from 47 Objectors. The Forest was given various instructions including information to add to the project record before the final decision was made.

“Ski areas provide an opportunity for the public to connect with their National Forests year-round, and the decision provides enhanced winter and summer opportunities at the Resort”, said O’Connor. “Concentrating recreational use such as skiing and snowboarding and mountain biking makes them more accessible and affords the Forest the opportunity to meet public demands in a limited relatively small footprint while maintaining the large backcountry areas that provide critical wildlife habitat and undisturbed watersheds across the Bridger-Teton Forest. Wider, year-round access to these enhanced opportunities contributes to the quality of life we enjoy and supports local economies, she said.

Buckrail @ Lindsay

Lindsay Vallen is a Community News Reporter covering a little bit of everything; with an interest in politics, wildlife, and amplifying community voices. Originally from the east coast, Lindsay has called Wilson, Wyoming home since 2017. In her free time, she enjoys snowboarding, hiking, cooking, and completing the Jackson Hole Daily crosswords.