TETON VILLAGE, Wyo. — On Saturday, Dec. 17, Jackson Hole Mountain Resort hosted a ribbon-cutting ceremony at the base of the new Thunder lift.

Saturday’s ceremony included speeches from JHMR President Mary Kate Buckley, Chairman and CEO Jay Kemmerer and a blessing from Pastor Ben Pascal from the Presbyterian Church of Jackson Hole and the chaplain at JHMR.

The marketing team was on hand, handing out free donuts and Thunder t-shirts. The Tram Jam Band moved from their usual Saturday morning post at the Bridger Gondola and played on the bed of a snowcat at Thunder.

According to JHMR, the speed of the new lift is 1,000 feet per minute, twice the velocity of the original Thunder and will cut riders’ time down from just over 7 minutes to 3.6 minutes. Similar to Teton, the new lift has a contour load and unload system, eliminating the need for lift attendants to “bump” chairs, the act of slowing down the chair manually just before riders load.

Former Thunder lifty Jameson Killeen spoke to Buckrail at the ceremony about the end of the era of bumping chairs. Killeen worked at Thunder for two winters and then at Sublette for two winters before taking a job this past summer as a mechanic.

“I’m sad to not be bumping chairs anymore because bumping chairs was always fun, and it connects you with the customer a little more, but it’s cool to see the new lift; nice and shiny and fast, Killeen said.

“The old Thunder will definitely be missed but the vibes will still stick around with good music,” Killen said. Adding, “hopefully they’ll keep the Grateful Dead ripping.”

During her speech, Buckley introduced the senior team and thanked all of those involved with getting the new lift installed. She talked about the “snafu” involving supply chain issues with the haul rope, praising the vehicle maintenance department for figuring out a way to haul the 33,000-pound cable up the mountain after early season snow had already fallen.

“There was no helicopter in America that was capable of lifting it so our vehicle maintenance department actually welded spikes to the wheels of a D8 [dozer] and carried it up the hill with our winch cats dragging them…so across the board an all-team effort.”

“A big thanks to everyone on our team, especially our ownership, that was willing to make this investment just to improve the overall guest experience for our guests,” Buckley said.

Buckley then turned over the microphone to Kemmerer who said, “Welcome, I’d like to thank the Lord for our snow early this year; what great timing to introduce a new lift for us, so many praises there.”

“Just a quick recap, It was July 9, 1992, when we bought the resort and we spent a year getting our legs underneath us to understand the deeds and the senior team stepped forward and said we need to replace the Thunder lift,” Kemmerer said. “So it was a double, we moved it up to a quad and that was our first major capital investment. The company didn’t have any money back then so once again I had to put in equity to make that happen so, you know 28 years later, here we are replacing this lift”

Kemmerer then pointed out that the two remaining lifts that have not been replaced are Sublette and Marmot and said he wants to replace Sublette next.

“Sublette is a little more complicated, and there is one thing we want to do this coming summer that makes that one easier to complete, which is replacing the “z.” So that’s going away this summer so we can get our equipment up easier and people up easier to the summit terminal area.”

Kemmerer concluded his speech by saying, “We remain diligent and focused on several things; number one, customer service, number two, our employees, number three, remaining a green resort, and number four, running a nonpolitically organized resort. Those are some of our major goals.”

JHMR announced they planned to replace the lift last March. The lift opened to the public for the first time on the afternoon of Dec. 9.

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.