JACKSON HOLE, WYO – Teton Pass has been closed to vehicles all day yet there is evidence people have been skiing and riding up there. And this isn’t the first time.
Pass ambassador Jay Pistono is worried that someone’s careless actions are going to mess up things for everyone. The Wyoming Department of Transportation and Bridger-Teton National Forest are currently on an officially ‘one strike and you’re out’ policy. Should someone trigger an avalanche on Teton Pass that causes damage or injury, it is quite possible backcountry access would be taken away.
During scheduled closures, a no parking policy is in effect for the pass summit and Coal Creek trailhead/parking lots. Some backcountry users are finding other ways to head for the hills during these closures.
“We can’t monitor every single access point. We have to rely on people using good judgment about what is sensible and what is not,” Pistono said.
And it is not just about avalanche worries and the fear that someone could bring down snow onto motorists or road crews.
“They are shooting the 105. It’s not just the Gazex,” Pistono said, referring to the occasional use of a 105 mm howitzer used to bring down snow in addition to charges planted in permanent known locations.
The big gun was used today, in fact, and anyone violating the pass closure could have put themselves in serious danger. Skiing the pass on days like today also puts others at risk.
In the past, skiers on Glory have triggered avalanches that ran to the highway and damaged vehicles. If this happens again, even once, it is likely “everybody out of the pool.”
As Pass ambassador, Pistono spends almost every day interacting with skiers, rides, and others up on Teton Pass. Most are fairly aware of what’s going on including current avalanche dangers, and most are extremely happy with getting info from Pistono. But some aren’t, and they’re putting everyone at risk.
“I had a sign on Old Pass Road that said ‘No higher than Crater Lake,’” Pistono said. “Someone took it down. My sign got taken away and honestly I would like to know if anyone knows who took it.”
Camera evidence from today shows skiers did travel above Crater Lake and skied terrain that may have been very dangerous. It is quite possible that users new to the area simply did not know given the sign was missing.
“With the freedom that comes from using the backcountry here is responsibility,” Pistono urged.
Self-regulation needs to be improved or a few bad eggs may spoil it for everyone.
Be a part of the solution
The Teton Backcountry Alliance invites Teton Valley residents to an evening aimed at addressing important issues facing future use of Teton Pass. Featured will be talks by several local experts, a silent auction, and time for an open exchange of ideas.
The event, “Keep Teton Pass Open,” will be held at the Wildwood Room in Victor, Idaho on February 20. Doors open at 5:30pm; presentations and discussions from 6:00-7:00pm; silent auction closes at 7:30pm. The Wildwood Room will be vending beer, wine, and several menu items.
Teton Backcountry Alliance is a new local grassroots organization with the mission to promote community (STOKE), stewardship (STEWARD), and sustainable access (SUSTAIN) for Teton winter backcountry community. “The future access of Teton Pass by backcountry users is far from guaranteed and depends on our knowledge, awareness, and good decision making,” shared Jay Pistono, Teton Pass Ambassador and Teton Backcountry Alliance Steering Committee member.
The first “Keep Teton Pass Open” event at the Stagecoach Bar in January was a huge success with a packed room and many eager and enthusiastic new members. The group looks forward to bringing the same line up of pertinent information, dialogue, and sense of empowerment and responsibility to the Teton Valley community this February.
“Issues facing the future winter use of Teton Pass are not just a Jackson issue. Teton Valley residents also rely on Teton Pass both as a place to access terrain and commute to work and home” explained steering committee member and Victor, ID resident, Peggie dePasquale.