JACKSON HOLE, WYO – In addition to looking for an elusive memorandum of understanding from the town Monday night—one that would allow them to begin a NEPA process for expansion with the Forest Service with the town’s blessing—officials at Snow King Mountain Resort also unveiled a new event they would like host this winter.
Snow King, along with the Travel and Tourism Board (TTB) and Central Reservations, was hoping to host an AMSOIL Championship Snocross Circuit race on the weekend of December 8-9, 2017. Hoping so hard they had actually already advertised the event on a sledhead website (snocross.com). Councilman Jim Stanford thought that was putting the snowmobile before the horse a bit. By the end of the night, he was right.
The proposed weekend would begin with pre-event preparations on December 4, finish with cleanup by December 11, and prompt a closure of the Tube Park until December 20. The event would run throughout the day from 8am to 10:30pm each day, with beer taps open at 10am and a firework show to mark the conclusion of the event on December 9.
Town spokesman Carl Pelletier called the event very similar to the annual Championship Hill Climb. Two main differences bothered some councilors. Hill Climb in late March was not likely to involve snowstorms where plowing and storing snow in around the ballfields with truck-and-trailer rigs parked everywhere would be problematic. You’ll have to take care of plowing yourself, town public works director Larry Pardee told Snow King reps, not wanting to even send his people near there.
Hill Climb also featured one sled at a time blasting up the King. The resounding “brrrraaaap” was loud enough to be heard throughout town. What kind of din would 10 to 12 sleds all racing simultaneously on a flat track make?
One participant explained it would be less noisy since this event would be for only two days whereas Hill Climb was four.
“?” the council thought, silently to themselves.
Parks & Rec was worried about the ground underneath the track. If the ballfield and base area at the hill got tore up, they wouldn’t know until the spring and even then it would be hard to prove whether the snowcross event or Hill Climb did that.
Snow King GM Ryan Stanley promised they would make snow like crazy at the base (up to two feet). “They would be operating with the ‘Guns of Navarone’ to get this event on,” Pelletier promised.
The event would use $85,000 of lodging tax money from the Travel & Tourism Board, and another 35 Gs from Central Reservations—both organizations missionized with extending Jackson’s shoulder seasons and bringing card-carrying visitors to the valley at a time when the Chamber of Commerce’s Maureen Murphy said hotels are running at a dismal 35% capacity.
Stanley also reminded the councilors that the event would be televised by CBS and aired some 32 times—promoting Jackson Hole to the rest of the adrenaline-fueled, neon NASCAR nation.
Franz Camenzind, speaking as a concerned citizen, said he didn’t think that was the kind of image congruent with the valley’s “sustainable” message. Councilwoman Hailey Morton Levinson agreed.
The race could draw some 5,000 to 10,000 people, Stanley said. That would pump upwards of $2 million into the community and somewhere around $200,000 in sales tax revenue.
But again and again councilors fretted. And there was a lot to worry about. Town planning staff listed no less than 60 conditions should councilors approve the event.
In addition to noise, turf damage, 12-hour beer sales, and a late night (10:30pm) cutoff—some town councilors weren’t too stoked about the return on investment for a piece of property the town leases to Snow King for $100 a year.
Snow King was proposing to donate a dollar of each $20 ticket sale to the Doug Combs Foundation. Beyond that, Stanley said they weren’t prepared to share any revenue with the town before they knew whether the event would be a money-maker or a bust.
What about beer sales? Mayor Pete Muldoon asked. Hill Climb saw some 78 kegs drained on one Saturday alone last spring, according to Police Chief Todd Smith. Stanley said that could be a possibility.
In addition to noise in the neighborhood, Stanford worried about further burdening law enforcement, claiming last year’s Hill Climb was one of the more naughty-behaving crowds in recent years. “It doesn’t matter if it’s a rock concert or Hill Climb—these things spin off and the police department is left chasing the impacts throughout town,” Stanford said.
Stanford also didn’t care for the fireworks component. “If they scare the beejesus out of every dog in east Jackson, what does wildlife think if it?” he pondered.
“There are things to do in early December,” Stanford continued. “Enough is enough. That neighborhood and the town, in general, deserves a break. I have never heard any resident say we need another event like Hill Climb here. It is something that is simply tolerated.”
Morton-Levinson said even though she is in an industry that would directly benefit from the influx of cash, she would not support the snocross because of the extended hours, noise, and disruption to the neighborhood. “I also recognize these events need to be harmonious with us [as a community].”
Muldoon said he doesn’t hear the public clamoring for a motocross event, either, and could not find a way forward to approve. “The costs simply outweigh the benefits,” he said.
Bob Lenz favored the event, saying nothing was happening in town during that time. He also reiterated his oft-vocalized fear that the mountain’s owners could decide to pack up and go home any time they wanted to, and the beloved Town Hill would be no more.
Don Frank also wanted to see the event happen. “We have charged the Travel & Tourism Board with promoting shoulder season events,” he reminded the group.
Frank also didn’t care for the mischaracterization and “antagonistic attitude” toward sledders that bordered discrimination, in his opinion. Maybe they need to blow off a little steam once in a while. Who doesn’t? Frank said.
The event was shot down on a 3-2 vote.