STAFF PICKS

By on March 21, 2017

Best Homegrown comedy
I Can Ski Forever

Perhaps I Can Ski Forever’s biggest success is how hard it is to distinguish between audience members and fictional characters.

Not only is the audience occasionally the butt of the joke, they’re also in on it. When a character jokes about how many flannel shirts he owns, audience members are forced to look down at their own flannel shirt they’ve probably worn on rotation for weeks. And that’s exactly the point, writer and director Andrew Munz says. He wants the audience to feel a little uncomfortable, but also recognize their own story being acted out on stage.

“The characters aren’t based on anyone in particular,” Munz said. Instead, Munz identified generalizations about the town he grew up in and the people that inhabit it, and gave them names. Suddenly, he said, he had characters that felt “really real.”

Munz draws his inspiration from daily interactions and observations of Jackson life. The third iteration of the hit production is the biggest yet: a full-length musical, complete with 13 original compositions and professional choreography. The plot is based on a conversation that Munz heard out his window and recorded, word for word. It grapples with love, loss, financial woes, and maintaining a persona full of stoke and optimism, even when everything seems to be going wrong.

Munz funded I Can Ski Forever 3 through a Kickstarter campaign that saw almost overnight success, which suggests that his core audience can’t get enough of the show’s raw yet rioutous accounts of Jackson life. Is the show about you, too? See for yourself at the Pink Garter this weekend.

– Shannon Sollitt

Best Show of Solidarity
Jackson Hole Women’s March

The day after the presidential inauguration, an event of unprecedented size took place in Jackson Hole. When the organizers of the Jackson Hole Women’s March decided to hold an event coinciding with marches across the country, they expected just a small turnout. As Sue Wolff put it, “We thought it would be the five of us—the three of us, and Elisa’s [Stephens] and Shannon’s [Burns] babies.” Defying their expectations, the march garnered more than 1,000 people. The newfangled organizers planned the march because no one else did. “I kept waiting for someone else to do something  … when no one did, I realized it was my time to step up,” Wolff explained. Since the election, she has felt that everything she cares about has been threatened—the environment, reproductive rights, immigrant rights, health care access. Organizing the march was a way to channel her fear.

Beforehand, Wolff felt intensely vulnerable. “I’m throwing my political views and my thoughts out to the community and I was afraid of judgment.” But seeing so many people stand beside her renewed her faith in the power and potential of this community. “We can come together. We have the energy to support one another for the next few years … I was crying the entire time. I started in the back of the crowd, and moved forward. I walked through the crowd, and listened to mothers talking to daughters, husbands and wives … every single person marched for different reasons, but there was so much solidarity.”

– Sarah Ross

Best Cultural Neighborhood
Scott Lane

The nexus of Jackson’s hippest, coolest intersection starts where Scott Lane and Alpine Lane converge. There, the stylists at Frost Salon—voted Best Salon by PJH readers—make people of all ages and genders look so good they outshine the chicest of city dwellers.

The newly coiffed need only dip around the corner to grab a gourmet sandwich plus meat for dinner at Sweet Cheeks Meats (winner of Best Burrito). Then a perusal of Linen Alley in case your dishtowels or sheets are, ahem, unsightly, plus a foray at Penny Lane Cooperative to gather the newest in local art, or a cute dress.

One need only venture across Scott Lane to continue the cultural delights: Atelier Ortega chocolates (Best Way to Satisfy Your Sweet Tooth); Asymbol print shop and gallery with works by adventure sports artists and Matterhouse mid-century furniture and design.

OK, you’ve walked less than a block. Radiating out, nearby businesses include Lucky’s Market, Twenty-Two Tattoo and Hole Bowl in the Powderhorn Plaza, plus a dozen other businesses, services, and restaurants nearby to answer nearly every need—from a Mexican beauty shop to a bookstore to a chiropractor. Basically you’d be lucky to just live right there—hello Grove!—and walk to home, health, and gustatory staples. Huh, culturally cool, locally dedicated businesses in a sustainable neighborhood? Jackson needs more of this.

– Meg Daly

Best Maven of Cultural Events
Leah Shlachter of Teton County Library

As Teton County Library’s adult program coordinator, Leah Shlachter dreams up a bustling mix of public events, from author visits to candidate forums, nature talks to storytelling soirees. In fact, she invented the Cabin Fever Story Slam, an ebullient community event that packs The Rose monthly.

“My job is to be responsive to the community amid the changing cultural climate—locally, nationally and globally—and to help make sense of this constant flux,” she said.

One of Shlachter’s most important contributions is her commitment to presenting writers of color. She has helped bring a host of heavy-hitting scribes including Claudia Rankine, Gregory Pardlo, Dinaw Mengestu, Bhanu Kapil, and Nam Le, among others. She believes that bringing these writers to Jackson will broaden the literary taste of the community, and expose local readers to voices they otherwise would not come across. “Writers of color give us the narratives that have been previously left out in American literature and history, giving us a more accurate depiction of what it means to be an American,” she said. “In other words, not only does cultural climate affect the art and literature produced, but vice versa: art and literature transform culture.”

American literature, like the U.S. population, is becoming increasingly nonwhite, and Shlachter is there to keep Jackson current.

– Meg Daly

Best Organizer
Skye Schell, Shelter JH

Ten years ago, Skye Schell was working with people struggling with homelessness in Brooklyn. Now, he’s one of the organizers of Shelter JH, a group tackling Jackson’s historic housing crisis and giving a voice to working class people.

“Our goal is to be a membership organization of hundreds of Jackson workers. We want to create enough political power so that Jackson Hole builds truly affordable housing,” Schell explained.

Along with other organizers, including Jorge Moreno and Mary Erickson, Shelter JH hopes to embody the values of grassroots activism. In Brooklyn, Schell “fell in love with the idea that we could build power among the most impacted people … and work for justice ‘upstream’ instead of just trying to do charity work for people who have been harmed by our unjust system.”

Indeed, in Jackson, there is a vast dichotomy between those who have money and power, and those who do not. Shelter JH is working to shift this balance. “We have no shortage of vacant mansions, and we always talk about how much we care about our community members, but then we turn a blind eye as our most vulnerable workers are evicted from their homes so that new condos or hotels can go up … at Shelter JH, we’re trying to build a voice and power for affordable housing from all of us struggling to make it here.”

As the civic engagement director for the Jackson Hole Conservation Alliance, Schell has also helped create a leadership-training course to groom tomorrow’s activists. The Conservation Leadership Institute holds bi-yearly courses to “give people tools and knowledge on how to run and win campaigns for local change.”

– Sarah Ross

Best Reason to be Rescued
Lizzie Watson 

When you call for help on your worst imaginable day, you hope that Lizzie Watson is one of the people who shows up to help. If you’re sick or hurt? As a paramedic, she’s got you covered. Trapped in a fire? Don’t worry—she’s a highly trained firefighter, too. Stuck in the river? She’ll yank on her swiftwater rescue gear and be right there. Car accident? She can operate the Jaws of Life, no problem. And that’s just the beginning.

Watson is something of a human Swiss army knife when it comes to rescue in Jackson Hole. She is, without question, one of the most extensively and diversely trained ladies in town. She’s equally capable fighting a wildfire as she is dangling from a helicopter with a patient freshly plucked from a remote mountainside.

In addition to her full-time position with Jackson Hole Fire/EMS, Watson volunteers for Teton County Search and Rescue. “I always thought SAR looked like a lot of fun,” Watson said. “It basically encompasses all the sports I love and pushes me to get better and smarter at them.”

Whether you’re facing an avalanche or river, a hazardous material spill or an active shooter, you can be genuinely relieved when Watson rolls up to give you a hand.

– Melissa Thomasma  

Best person on the pass
Jamie Yount, WYDOT

Jamie Yount has had a busy winter. Like, a really busy winter. As an avalanche technician for the Wyoming Department of Transportation, he’s spent many dark, cold mornings ensuring routes in and out of Jackson are safe and clear for drivers. “On avalanche control days, we usually start at 2 a.m. and do our mitigation work and debris cleanup early in the morning,” Yount said. “We try and have highways open for morning commuters.” A former member of Teton County Search and Rescue, Yount’s experience as a first responder makes him an especially important player on the pass when an avalanche occurs and impacts motorists like it did on December 15.

His day typically starts by putting his meteorology degree from the University of Utah to good use: Yount studies weather and snow condition observations in order to generate a highway-specific avalanche hazard forecast. Then, it’s out to the field to measure snow and water content at the Mt. Glory, Snake River and Hoback Canyon study plots. With 50 documented avalanche paths that can impact regional highways, it’s not a short to-do list.

“It’s been a busy winter with lots of large avalanches,” Yount reported. “The four rain events we’ve had have been exceptionally challenging and different from other winters.” From February 4 to 10 alone, there were 38 avalanches that impacted local highways.

Now that spring’s rolling around, Yount’s looking forward to sleeping in a bit and spending more time with his family. Well deserved, Mr. Yount.

– Melissa Thomasma

Best Use of Compassion
Wren Fialka, The Spread the Love Commission

Wren Fialka likes to spend time visiting with homeless people, to understand their struggles, their needs. She remembers talking to people living on the streets of San Francisco during the city’s Ferguson, Missouri protests.

Folks there clued her in on ways she could easily impact their lives. They said that even the simplest items, having clean T-shirts and toothbrushes, would help. So she and friend Dani Robillard made care packages that they distributed to poor people around the city. From this effort the seeds of The Spread the Love Commission were planted.

Since then, Fialka has not only led distribution efforts in places like Salt Lake City, Denver and South Dakota, delivering hundreds of care packages to struggling folks comprised of items donated from Jackson Hole businesses, but she is also working to help people in her own backyard. Her burgeoning nonprofit brought various people together to house a family that had recently lost their home when the Virginian Apartments were sold. She continues to focus on housing families affected by this area’s housing crisis.

As she works to assemble a board and raise funds for The Spread the Love Commission, she is also involving young people in her efforts to help them understand the adversity their neighbors face. “I feel very strongly that we are all connected and one of our main purposes is to help one another,” she said. “Society crumbles without compassion … to remind us not of our differences but of our similarities gives us motivation to treat each other more like family members than strangers.”

– Robyn Vincent

Best Advocate
Mary Erickson

Advocacy is Mary Erickson’s calling. Since moving to Jackson more than 10 year ago, she has committed herself to serving struggling segments of the community that need it most.

Much of that work happens through St. John’s Episcopal Church, where Erickson works as an ordained priest. Social justice and inclusivity, she says, are in the Gospel and the pillars of her priesthood. But she also channels her activism into as many avenues as possible.

Readers may recognize her trademark slogan: “Civility. Compassion. Love.” Those are the tenets on which she based her community organization, Jackson Hole United. What started as a way to encourage civil dialogue in the face of an ugly anti-choice protest has evolved into a dynamic advocacy nonprofit group.

Erickson is a champion of immigrants’ rights and women’s rights, and actively addresses the housing crisis through her work with Shelter JH. She served as director of the Community Resource Center, now One22, for two years, but recently realized she was being called to fill a more active, politically engaged role in the community.

Now she is laser focused on engaging people in the community on issues that affect them most, and wants to provide the tools for locals to become effective activists.

– Shannon Sollitt

Best Reason to Stay Out Late
Jeff Stein, Nomadic Events

Jackson Hole would be a quiet (read: boring) place without Jeff Stein.

The longtime DJ and party promoter has been shaping valley culture for almost a decade as Nomadic Events, throwing parties and after parties that meld unique music, art and performance art.

In a remote mountain town, importing talent that many people here have never heard is a risky endeavor, but it’s a gamble Stein wages with pride and purpose.

“We create the culture we desire,” he said. “We can’t wait for it to come from the outside.”

Last weekend marked Nomadic’s ninth annual Intergalactic Ball, where people donned in space suits danced into the wee hours as electronic producers/DJs The Librarian and El Papa Chango commanded the dancefloor. It’s the type of party that is de rigueur in places like San Francisco and Portland, but not Jackson Hole. Stein’s posh dance party series Dapper, held at The Kitchen for a number of years, will also go down in Jackson’s late night history.

In 2015, Stein, along with Matt Donovan, put Jackson on the map as a music festival destination with the inaugural Contour Music Festival. The multi-day fest featured luminaries like Thievery Corporation, Charles Bradley, Deltron 3030 and the earth shaking performance of Quixotic.

“[Quixotic] is a perfect example of performance art, music and technology,” Stein explained. “I remember the audience’s amazed and wondrous looks … at the end of the night, it brings me great pleasure to see that something we have been able to share with people has brought them joy or happiness.”

– Robyn Vincent

Best Public Art
Walgreens

Now in its third year, the Walgreens installation on West Broadway (better known as the Leaning Tower of Sundries) continues to sink and slide down the hillside’s face as if orchestrated by a billion nefarious embedded ants. A paean to the impermanence of life, or at least the transitory nature of big box stores upon this earth, Walgreens beckons to viewers like a towering wooly mammoth sinking to its knees in the face of the Ice Age. No one can stop time, nor can anyone build a stable building on a pile of gravel, no matter how many structural engineers you pay to tell you otherwise. Walgreens is Jackson’s great urban ruin, a testament to the folly of humankind and an astute commentary on the David and Goliath struggle between mom and pop stores and corporate behemoths.

In contrast to Michelangelo’s version, in which David slumps saucily in a contrapposto above the fallen Goliath, Walgreens is the dried husk of Goliath asymmetrically balanced across the highway from scrappy little David, a.k.a. Stone Drug, where you can pick up your gun license, Tampax, and, say, a model kit of the Area 51 UFO crash site in one go. Sure, toilet paper would have cost less at Walgreens, which is what is killing Davids across America. As public art, Walgreens reminds us that sentimentality is no match for the primacy of top-discounts. It was not our hearts that saved Stone Drug, but the eminent domain of geology and physics.

– Meg Daly and Mark Morgan Dunstan

Best Student Display of Free Speech
Day Without An Immigrant, Nesley Perez-Corona, Jamie Vargas & Michelle Tzompa

On February 16, more than 100 people marched from Jackson Hole High School to the Town Square as part of a national protest called Day Without An Immigrant. The intent was to highlight the contributions immigrants make to communities everywhere. At the march, organizer and JHHS senior Nesley Corona wore a shirt that read, “The land belongs to those who work it with their own hands.”

In just one day, with the help of classmates Jamie Vargas and Michelle Tzompa, Corona dropped off informational pamphlets around town, created a Facebook event, and rallied as many people as possible. “I was very surprised [by] all the people who came to the march. I was very proud since this was the first time that I organized something for the community. It was a big step in my life.”

Organizing felt urgent for Corona: “Everyone, everywhere, wherever I went … the most common question was, what if the government deports us? What if immigration comes to get us?”

The day served as an opportunity to acknowledge this fear as well as to take pride in the Latino community. Corona said she never expected such high attendance, though she says many did not attend for fear of immigration officials touching down on Jackson Hole. The march was about visibility, pride, and inclusivity.

“Another reason we did this was to tell our community we are a part of Jackson and its economy … we are part of companies that are getting rich with our services, we want respect for our Latino community … I wish the non-Latino community could support us more and care about us a little more.”

Thanks to Corona the hopes and fears of Jackson’s Latino populace are being heard on a larger scale.

– Sarah Ross

Best Way to Get Metaphysical
Kathie Chandler & Carol Mann

Kathie Chandler: Master Channeler of the Beyond

Do you want to know what messages your spirits can impart? Intuitive and medium Kathie Chandler to the rescue. She transcendentally connects her clients in Jackson, Wilson, and Idaho Falls to their spirit guides. For Chandler, a near death experience in a 1994 car accident was the catalyst that unveiled her otherworldly gift, and sent her down the path that can metaphysically tune you right up.

Donned in sandalwood and frankincense, which she calls “high frequency oils,” she channels the beyond for clients at her business Sacred Messages.

Chandler points out that “your guides will always reveal something I never could have known.” Chandler’s flowing red hair, deep gaze and gentle manner distinguish her in the local spiritual community. “The energy from the guides is so potent,” Chandler said, “it can be like an out-of-body experience for people to have a reading done.”

Her 22 years of holistic healing using reiki, massage, reflexology and essential oils have offered messages to those seeking help on their earthly journeys.

But Chandler considers herself merely an interpreter. “All I am is a mouthpiece. I teach people to learn and listen to their guides.”

Carol Mann: Clairvoyant Soul Reader

One day Carol Mann’s two cats wandered over to Kathie Chandler’s house while Chandler was healing from her car accident. The two women were neighbors at the time but didn’t know each other. Chandler called Mann to ask if the cats belonged to her and if she wanted to come and get them. “No, they will return home when their work with you is done,” Mann said. And that’s exactly what happened—the cats stayed for two months while Chandler was on the mend. Now, the two women share a friendship and mutual bond offering metaphysical services.

Mann’s weekly column Cosmic Café in Planet Jackson Hole is widely read and appreciated for its interplanetary wisdom. “The soul is to a human being as a cloud drive is to a computer,” Mann said. “The soul records everything it has experienced since it was created. When a person is able to access this, they have access to a true cosmic internet.”

The former psychology professor, radio personality and decade-long Grand Targhee owner offers soul readings: “a clairvoyant glimpse into the blueprint of your soul, revealing information about your current life’s purpose, what you are intending to evolve in yourself now, and what you are naturally designed to contribute in this life.”

She also provides transmissions from those who have passed on, channeling, workshops, and life coaching with an intuitive twist.

– Jessica Flammang

Best Unexpected Place to Impress Visiting Foodies
The Rose

When you’re looking for a classic cocktail—we’re talking the best Old Fashioned in the valley—or an herbaceous 1920s punch bowl to share with a table of five, The Rose is the place. But not as many folks are aware of the Speakeasy-style bar’s culinary offerings.

On a recent evening in November, I found myself with the daunting duty of entertaining visitors while Jackson Hole was in half hibernation. It was only 9 p.m., after all, but kitchens were shut down, bars were dimmed and my people were hungry.

I knew The Rose would be open (something in and of itself to celebrate) so I led the group there with the intention of getting them intoxicated, and subsequently wiping from their memories any notions of food.

Instead we ate sturgeon cured with Yellowstone salt and served with beets and egg yolk. Then it was on to Carter Country beef cooked in sauvignon blanc and served with potatoes from Haderlie Farms. As The Rose’s attentive servers delivered us plate after plate complete with creamy local butter and fresh baguette, I tried to conceal my surprise.

Apparently, with places like The Rose, you can convince visitors that Jackson Hole indeed has it all.

– Robyn Vincent

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