Town puts off decision on Snow King for now

JACKSON HOLE, WYO – For the second consecutive regular meeting, town officials opted to put off a decision on Snow King—namely, whether they were ready to sign a letter on the resort’s behalf that would give the green light to the Forest Service to begin its approval process for the ski area expansion planned for phase 2.

Town electeds again made clear they wanted a seat at the table during and after the NEPA (National Environmental Policy Act) process, which could take up to two years. Bridger-Teton district ranger Dale Dieter explained that the USFS was bound by the Ski Area Recreational Opportunity Enhancement Act to grant Snow King, within reason, all the amenities and enhanced ability to be sustainable it was seeking.

A restaurant on the summit would be in keeping with the Act, Dieter said. So would potential ziplines, planetariums, and a high-speed gondola. Town councilors were more interested in what would happen at the base of Snow King where a million square feet in commercial entitlements have had relatively little return to the town.

Jim Stanford, in particular, has made it clear he would like to see a new master plan from Snow King, given that the current one is more than 15 years old and includes as a main focal point a convention center, which has never been built, and a homeowners’ association-type entity (SKRMA), which has been created but that’s about it, planner Tyler Sinclair said.

Snow King representatives Ryan Stanley and Jeff Golightly explained the lack of comprehensive vision for Snow King was partly because they don’t know what they will be able to move forward with until the Forest Service weighs in, and the base area is complicated by numerous different ownership groups created when former owner Manuel Lopez began selling off parcels at the base in order to stay solvent while the resort lost money.

Free Snow King founder Shane Rothman suggested the town wait a little longer. Snow King said they were working on an updated master plan they hoped would be completed at the end of July. Parks and Rec is also expected to have its new master plan completed by then, which would better voice what that department envisions for the future of Phil Baux Park and the Snow King ballfield—an area where Snow King managers would like to put the Gondola.

Councilors decided to hold off for two more weeks while staff prepares a carefully worded motion that might have the town sign a letter of intent to the Forest Service with the guarantee that they would be a cooperating entity in the decision process.

Currently, Snow King’s plans call for less expansion to the east where neighbors fiercely objected to the encroachment. Instead, backside runs into Leeks Canyon would be explored. Total expanded acreage would be up to 80 additional acres.