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Snow King zipline squeaks by despite concerns over noise

JACKSON, Wyo. — Ending years of debate, town council finally allowed Snow King Mountain to move forward with one of its proposed summit-to-base zipline legs as the resort’s master plan for expansion inches forward.

With a gondola already approved in Phil Baux Park, Snow King reps Jeff Golightly and Ryan Stanley were hoping to be greenlighted for one final amenity—a zipline beginning at the base of the mountain. Other proposed zipline ‘legs’ are planned for further uphill on land leased from the Bridger-Teton National Forest. A ruling from the Forest Service is expected sometime this year.

The vote was close. Jim Stanford, the lone councilman seated for the entire saga, has been the most outspoken critic of the resort’s master plan, calling for a more comprehensive approach to negotiations that recognizes all aspects of the ski resort as well as the numerous concessions already made by the town to previous ownership.

In the end, Stanford didn’t care for the racket the amenity would create, and again cited a long history of “handouts and subsidies” made by the town and the community.

“I can’t think of any other business we’ve gone out of our way to please, nurture and constantly feed,” he said.

Stanford continued, “The people who are going to pay for these amusements on Snow King Mountain are not the only users of the mountain. A significant portion of our community, and visitors for that matter, use this mountain every day, all day, from before sunrise to after sunset, and do so in a quiet and reflective manner. I cannot make the most basic findings that this meets the standards and intent of the planned resort district in our Comprehensive Plan. [‘Encourage recreational activities that rely on the indigenous, natural attributes of the area,’ among other things.] That was codified in our LDRs. The zipline meets none of these things.”

Fellow councilman Arne Jorgensen agreed about the noise, saying he was uncomfortable not knowing the level of clamor that will be created by zipline users and how it will be mitigated. He also wanted to see more about how the zipline would integrate with the mountain as a whole.

Mayor Pete Muldoon expressed the time to vote for or against a zipline had come and gone.

“I understand the majority of residents probably don’t want a zipline, but we are discussing the parameters of a zipline that has already been approved in the master plan amendment that we negotiated over years,” Muldoon said, reminding his colleagues the town has got a lot through the bargaining process including employee housing, a guarantee lifts would keep spinning, and a ban on developing KM6—a highly marketable parcel used now for parking.

Muldoon added that living in town might inherently include dealing with hustle, bustle, and noise. “It’s part of the social contract,” he said.

Vice Mayor Hailey Morton Levinson said she was uncomfortable with proposing a too-confining set of restrictions on the operation of a zipline which was already approved, and she wished to negotiate in good faith with the owners of Snow King.

“Snow King is something we all love and see in a different way. We all see it as something we want it to be. Tonight, we are just trying to make it the best for all users and for our community and I feel we have got there,” Morton Levinson said.

Councilman Jonathan Schechter also gave a thumbs up vote, citing his biggest concern was the ecological consequences of expansion to the east and on the backside of the mountain. He also acknowledged noise could be an issue.

“I would love to talk with Snow King in a much more cooperative setting about trying to get objective measurements on noise levels because I think that is going to continue to prove highly problematic,” he said.

The council voted 3-2 Monday to approve a zipline beginning at the base of the mountain. Councilmen Stanford and Jorgensen were opposed.

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