Hill Climb approved by Town Council

JACKSON, Wyo. — During a regular town council meeting last evening, March 1, councilmembers discussed the special event application for the World Championship Snowmobile Hill Climb organized by the Jackson Hole Snow Devil’s.

The motion moved by Councilmember Jim Rooks, carried unanimously following lengthy discussion by the council members.

The event was approved with an attendance limit within the venue at any given time of 1,000 spectators. According to current statewide Health order #2, outdoor gatherings allow for no more than 50% of the venue capacity with a maximum of 2,000 people. health order #2 also outlines conditions that must be enforced by the host or organizer of the event including social distancing of 6 feet, masks, protective equipment for staff, and food and beverage provisions. 

According to the health order, the person limit is not calculated by adding participants and spectators/attendees together. The attendance limit also does not limit the number of tickets sold. Nan Coover, Secretary of Jackson Hole Snow Devils, said, “We could just potentially sell more tickets to a different group of people, if 10 people leave, maybe we could have 10 more people come in,” adding, “there’s a chance if they leave they can’t come back.”

Attendance is subject to change following nightly debriefings following each day of the event, which will involve Chief of Police Michelle Weber, Snow Devils leadership, and Mayor Morton Levinson.

The daily debriefing is meant to gauge how the event is going and reduce ticket sales if health orders are not being followed by organizers and guests. Attendance may be decreased but will not be increased beyond 1,000 people. 

Chief Weber brought up the issue of spectators gathering outside of the venue if they are unable to purchase a ticket due to attendance limitations. “Those outside of the venue have nothing to lose and could perhaps be our challenge,” said Weber. 

Carl Pelletier, Public Information and Special Events Officer outlined the event details and venue capacity. “Historically speaking, the event draws between 12,000 and 15,000 people per year,” said Pelletier. “If you look at the area at the base of Snow King, if you look at the square footage it could have essentially, about 4,000 people there with 6 feet of separation between each person.”

Much of the discussion was rooted in choosing the number of attendees the council was comfortable with allowing at the event, something members struggled to find a common ground on. Councilmember Jonathan Schechter voiced his concerns about the number of attendees, saying,” A thousand feels too many to me.” He suggested a lower cap of 750 people but ultimately voted in favor of the motion.

Councilmember Rooks said, “We have events that are taking place, they are not called special events, they are just called skiing at the village on a Saturday that radically, exceed any of the numbers that we are talking about, and so while 1,000 may seem like the top of that line… I think it is a very appropriate conversation to decide what that number is.” adding, “Even at 1,000 we are 50% more restrictive than we would be otherwise.”

Councilmember Jessica Sell Chambers asked about the Hill Climb overlapping with the closing weekend for skiing at Snow King, “how many participants can we expect and consider in regard to these other participants that will be on the mountain that day?” said Sell Chambers. 

 “I will say, personally speaking, I have been to the event before as both a spectator and a skier, and in my experience is when the spectators are queuing up on the western side of Exhibition and the skiers have first access on the eastern side of Exhibition, and they kind of channel in. I’m not sure how much mingling will go on. I will say this, you are correct. Snow King is a different mountain this year in regards to attendance and people there,” said Pelletier, “I have not spoken with Snow King.”

Alcoholic beverages were also discussed, with concerns raised by Councilmember Sell Chambers about how alcohol consumption might affect mask-wearing. “We won’t have kegs so it won’t be free-flowing, they will buy cans that will be poured into a cup,” said, Nan Coover, Secretary of Jackson Hole Snow Devils.  According to the application, “No more than two beers shall be sold to any person at any one time.”

A new special event policy was passed on Feb. 23 by the council, defining what sized events would be allowed depending on the COVID risk level, defined by the Teton County Health Department. The Hill Climb is considered a large event, with over 500 people and according to the policy, will not be permitted during risk levels orange, red and purple. Teton County Health Department is required to review and approve all events above the green risk level.

If the number of COVID-19 positive cases increases in the community ahead of the event, the event will have to abide by the conditions set by the special event policy.

Vice Mayor Arne Jorgensen questioned if the event would be possible at the end of March, “I will be surprised if we are still in yellow when we make it to that point.”

Coover discussed how the Snow Devils are going to enforce safe health practices, through signage, social media posts, and information provided on their website as well as volunteers on the ground. “We are planning on having our volunteers walking around reminding people to put their masks on, we also have a loudspeaker that we are going to use to remind people, we also have the help of Jackson Hole Security at the gate.” 

Last year, the Hill Climb was the first event to be canceled in the town of Jackson due to the uncertainty surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic. The event is scheduled for March 25 through March 28 at the base of Snow King Mountain. This will be the 44th annual hill climb.

About The Author

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.

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