*Editor’s Note: ‘Them on Us’ is a new series from Buckrail that highlights external media coverage of Jackson Hole.
JACKSON, Wyo. — Teton Gravity Research’s (TGR) latest film “In Pursuit of Soul”, explores local ski hills across the U.S., and gives rise to Jackson’s own, Snow King Mountain.
The film’s introduction touches upon the transformations that have occurred in the ski industry in the last century; from the early years of thriving independent mountain resorts to the present day with most ski areas being absorbed by big collectives and corporations.
“In 1934 the first rope tow opened up in the United States. By 1970 there were over 1,000 independent mountain resorts across the country. But in 2021 the number of ski areas has shrunk below 400 with most (mountains) being corporately owned.”
Today, mountain sports come with significant barriers to entry, the film argues.
“I think the large mountains are just pricing skiing right out of a lot of people’s realm. It should be for anybody who wants to be on skis,” said Kerry Mara of Magic Mountain Ski Area.
Meanwhile, the film also weaves in narratives of small mountain stories that shine a light on the importance of keeping local mountains alive and well.
“I am here at Snow King today on an audacious goal of training to become the first ever alpine ski racer to represent the nation of Jamaica in the next Winter Olympics,” said downhill racer Benjamin Alexander.
Featured employees expressed how the remaining small, local and affordable ski resorts are how families are still able to get involved in the sport.
“You talk about what’s the difference between skiing for a family at a destination resort and skiing with a family at a smaller resort, and [it’s] is about 500 bucks a day. It’s just economically more affordable,” said Brian Maguire of Snow King Mountain Resort.
Maguire went on to highlight how Snow King represents the soul of Jackson’s community, such as its after-school program that gives local youth easy access to the mountain.
“We have a couple of programs that we are very proud of, one is you’ll see kids getting off the school bus they come direct from school…they go to ski club and ski school,” said Maguire. “We turn a lot of people into lifelong skiers.”
Ryan Stanley general manager at Snow King Mountain, discussed the extent to which the mountain has impacted the community.
“The Doug Coombs Foundation started here on Snow King Mountain. Getting the Latino community involved in skiing has been a spectacular thing we now have a few hundred kids who take lessons after school at Snow King,” said Stanley.
While fewer privately owned mountains like Snow King remain in the U.S., the latest release from TGR illuminates both the challenges and the importance of their survival.