Letter to the Editor: Have a say in the King’s future

By on December 31, 2014
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PHOTO: SHANE ROTHMAN

Jackson Hole, Wyoming – I know that everyone would like to see Snow King thrive and I know that the King has the potential to set an example for other town hills. But as a former employee, direct neighbor, and daily user, I am well aware that the shareholders have neglected our ski area. The owners of this mountain have not been involved in mountain operations. During Manuel Lopez’s tenure, he placed focus on hotel operations. He wasn’t much of a skier. Max Chapman has been a shareholder since 1992, but has not been visible or vocal until November, when he announced that he was buying out Lopez and working with new investors to fund $8 million in improvements. These improvements were said to be for private lands only, and they had their “minor development plan” approved following a November Jackson Town Council meeting. This meeting included the only hour when public comment was considered. Currently, there are two major projects on public lands under review by the USFS under the guise of “categorical exclusion,” which is for projects less than five acres. This means the projects are absolved from following the guidelines of the National Environmental Policy Act. I don’t understand how this is even legal.

Included in one of the projects is extending the Rafferty Chairlift 400 vertical feet and about 1,000 feet into the forest. This will have major impacts that will extend beyond “1.2 acres of clearcut liftline and 3.8 acres of clearcut trails.” This provides access to way more terrain than two intermediate trails; people will be going deep outside of the current SUP area since the top terminal is slated to be right next to this unmarked boundary line.

This is definitely not worthy of the “categorical exclusion” exemption rule for projects under five acres, especially when there are so many future plans – which was also one of my concerns about the 5.6- acre ropes course that is still under review for “categorical exclusion.” These sites border each other and are well more than 10.6 acres. SKMR LLC should follow the rules instead of trying to fast track both of these developments at once.

This lift is being positioned to this site for phase one of a plan to build “intermediate ski terrain” throughout the dense forests and habitat far east of the current terrain. There is another quad lift planned for the far east area if they are allowed to expand their SUP area. The GM’s plan is to build a whole new road that goes far east as well, all the way to the power lines and then back across below the S chutes. SKMR has strategically left the road out of the plans for phase one, and they also claim that there will be no snowmaking or lighting either, though these things seem necessary. The lift is also supposed to be a “top driven” lift for unknown reasons. Maybe there are sensitive humans at the base? What I do know is that this area is home to mule deer, moose, fox and much more, including sensitive species such as owls and the northern flying squirrel. Mountain lions also prey on deer in this area, as evidenced by the bones that can be found here.

I enjoy these public lands as they foster myriad forms of recreation. But I cannot find reason to trust SKMR LLC (or any ropes course concession) to be good stewards of any new lands. Next spring they may be doing a lot of construction clearing lands and building this chairlift and possibly the ropes course. Our public lands will be impacted enough that any future environmental analysis would have untrue data due to this destruction and increased use. SKMR LLC knows that their best hope to expand is to do this in piecemeal fashion and Chapman told me personally how excited he is for this expansion after the November Town Council meeting. As a neighbor, daily user, and former employee, I know for a fact that this intelligent man is oblivious to the priorities of the ski area and the sentiments of locals.

Besides these public lands projects, other rumors for the base area private lands range from new buildings to parking garages to senior homes to movie theatres to a new ice rink and no more old cabin near the hotel. And of course the mountain coaster and hefty projects like these were supposed to have public comment, as stated by the “rules” set forth by our Land Development Regulations.

SKMR LLC should follow the correct procedures and not bend them or break them. Our Town Council and County Commissioners have not set a good example with the recent “minor development plan” and also allowing variances to the proposed Marriott and the JHMR housing, as well as the Puzzleface Ranch home and the short term rentals at Shooting Star. Now I can only hope that the United States Forest Service sticks to its motto of “caring for the land and serving people.”

Please notify our mayor, town council, county commissioners, U.S. Forest Service representatives and the shareholders of SKMR LLC that we will not tolerate being ignored and left out of the Town Hill and other pressing issues that impact our town’s housing and workforce, as well as wildlife and community character.

Comments to USFS concerning Snow King’s lift replacement and ski trails are due by January 12. Email your comments to [email protected]


About Shane Rothman

8 Comments

  1. Shane Rothman

    December 31, 2014 at 1:32 pm

    Follow Free Snow King on Facebook for up to date information regarding the Town Hill. SKMR LLC’s Snow King Mountain FB page does not provide any news or encourage discussion, and any comments deemed “negative” will be erased, and users will be blocked.

  2. Scott

    January 5, 2015 at 9:38 pm

    Shane,
    Where were you in the 60’s when they allowed the lifts to go up? Perhaps you could have stopped the evil ski empire back then – but I guess you’re to”much of a skier” to want that. you want things the way they were when you got here.
    You are a user and consumer of SKR like anyone else and if you think its over developed – do us the favor of leaving you miserable scunt.

  3. Was here in the 70's

    January 6, 2015 at 7:02 am

    “…..do us the favor of leaving you miserable scunt.”

    How thoughtful and insightful.

    Everyone is entitled to express an opinion. Yours included.

  4. Shane Rothman

    January 8, 2015 at 1:01 am

    Hi Scott, not sure what your last name is or when you were born or whatever, but if you are here now after 5, 10 , 20, or 50 years, you should know some King history, and everyone knows it has been BS for a looong time.. I should be a perfectly viable ski area, especially when you compare it to other community hills such as White Pine, Sleeping Giant, Snowy Range, Hogadon, and anything else outside Teton County. These other areas are not operated by millionaires or billionaires, and they do not try to cater to oblivious tourists or locals that bow down to the latest trends of this trendy industry. I’m proud to know the facts and not be obliviously loyal to the King’s private ownership. And also there have been ski lifts for 76 years now, but in my opinion the whole ski hill has been neglected since it became part of a hotel during the 1970’s. Bye Scott.

  5. Sam B

    February 19, 2015 at 11:22 am

    The fact is, not one of the areas you name is competing with JHMR, a #1 rated resort, in the immediate vicinity. The underlying challenges of operating those remote areas, which are served by larger population bases in the immediate vicinity with no competition from the #1 resort in North America, are much smaller, and vastly different, to say the least.

    Go ahead and show your naivety by arguing otherwise.

  6. Sam B

    February 19, 2015 at 11:23 am

    Seconded.

  7. Bradley H

    February 19, 2015 at 2:33 pm

    Shane I can’t help but notice the “about” section above is conspicuously BLANK.

    Since you are the self-elected ‘Kill the King’ leader, I consider you to be a self-selected public figure. As such, I have some important questions which you should completely and truthfully answer for the benefit of our community, which overwhelmingly supports this development:

    1. Is there any evidence of your public scorn for Snow King’s management prior to being terminated as a lift operator?

    2. You call yourself a ‘local’. Tell us, how long have you lived full time in Jackson?

    3. What amazing work did you do to afford such an expensive ski-in, ski-out home at such a young age? It must be an impressive story, worthy of a leader like yourself?

    4. What experience do you have as an executive of a ski resort?

    5. What’s the most complex service business you’ve headed?

    6. Would jibbing in the cemetery, as in your video of yourself, be opened up to the public under your stewardship of Snow King, or will that remain your private stash?

    7. Why should tax payers spend tens of millions of dollars to keep Snow King running in perpetuity (under your plan) when it could have otherwise lived on by simply being profitable?

    8. Why are you so vehemently and actively irate over the cutting of trees on this particular .00000000001% of Wyoming’s land, next to a town, near your expensive house, but seemingly nowhere else?

    9. Economic development at the base area of Snow King was always envisioned, per the long-standing zoning of that area. Other than your scorn for your former employer and you and Jim Stanford owning expensive homes in the vicinity, what are good reasons for the community to consider as to why planned development should be stopped, leaving taxpayers to foot the bill for the King?

    I have more questions, but I’d like to know your responses to the above first. As someone who is attempting to kill jobs and economic development and force taxpayers to foot the bill for the “Snow King” you envision, these seemingly insincere questions are actually quite serious. They deserve specific and complete answers. Myself and others are wholly unconvinced you comprehend the implications of your actions.

    I personally have no investment in the area, and no ‘up side’ to its success, other than subsequent enjoyment of the new facilities. But its failure, or the subsequent tax bill… that’s something for me to consider. You represent money taken from my pocket through public tax, or, alternatively, the death of Snow King, neither of which I appreciate.

    You don’t have to answer any questions if you’re uncomfortable, but if you can’t answer the above questions, you don’t belong in the ring.

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