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Jackson Hole considers widening famed chutes

ski diva

Administrator
Staff member
From Unofficial Networks:

"Jackson Hole News & Guide reports that the Wyoming ski resort submitted a Recreation Enhancements Project plan with the U.S. Forest Service. Among those proposals was a plan to create more usable terrain” in the Alta Chutes. This would be done by blasting a large rock near the bottom of Chute 1, blasting high-point rocks on Alta Chutes 3, and removing trees on 2 and 3. An Alta Chute 4 trail would be created by downing trees east of Alta 3, giving it a width of 60 feet."

What do you think of this? Good idea or bad?
 

snoWYmonkey

Ski Diva Extraordinaire
I ski new school, but I guess I am old school when it comes to some of the proposed changes.

Unfortunately there is no "let's test it and see" option. Once the dynamite has blown away the rocks, they are gone forever. I suspect some of the thinking also has to do with being able to open the chutes earlier with less snow to cover up a lot of the rocks.

I personally believe that what makes them safer is that they are challenging and thus less crowded. Make them more usable and suddenly there are more people crowding the run.

When bike or ski trails end up with the cruxes removed, then suddenly the next step up in difficulty is that much harder as there was never a chance to practice the level below.

There are other ideas being mulled around that I am completely opposed to, but I have a feeling that the Alta chutes will be blasted, and the ridge that accesses them widened and turned into a run.

I find it interesting that as many resorts aim to open up more and more challenging terrain, Jackson Hole is striving to do the opposite.

Most of all I miss the days when they left at least one blue run with moguls on it, so that we had a place to teach our students how to ski bumps without the double whammy of teaching the first real bumps on a JH black level pitch and run. Those cats can go anywhere and everywhere nowadays. Bumps won't keep a person from sliding, but they do slow down the speed, which is good on really steep slopes where people are inclined to straightline when at all possible.
 

AJM

Ski Diva Extraordinaire
I personally believe that what makes them safer is that they are challenging and thus less crowded. Make them more usable and suddenly there are more people crowding the run.
We have a similar situation here, a big face that is Black / Double Black with a really sketchy entrance.
Ideas have been bounced around to make the entrance more accessible but the general consensus is that if you cant make round the entrance then you shouldn't be there.
 

Christy

Angel Diva
It's public land so this shouldn't be a fait accompli. Bridger Teton NF should be soliciting public comment at the least. Anyone can sign up to be an "interested party" in any particular public lands jurisdiction, and get emails about public comments solicitations for this kind of thing.

Are there local enviro groups that are pushing back?
 
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snoWYmonkey

Ski Diva Extraordinaire
@Christy not sure about the groups, but the public comment for certain. Of course most of those who work for the resort are leery of having those comments on file. The list of proposed changes is massive. It is the 6th major master plan revision proposed since opening in the 60s. Alta chutes are just one of many modifications planned to the ski runs that include tree removal and regrading of slopes. It feels like monoculture farming. All one wannabe blue groomed run. As a matter of fact for years the marketing campaign was focused around blue runs. The resort use to cater to the extreme skier, now it caters to the luxury skier who needs to look good on social media. Here is the link to the multi page change requested of the USFS proposal and a screenshot of the section on the runs slated for change. Some make sense.Screenshot_20230917_042352_Chrome.jpg
 

MissySki

Angel Diva
@Christy not sure about the groups, but the public comment for certain. Of course most of those who work for the resort are leery of having those comments on file. The list of proposed changes is massive. It is the 6th major master plan revision proposed since opening in the 60s. Alta chutes are just one of many modifications planned to the ski runs that include tree removal and regrading of slopes. It feels like monoculture farming. All one wannabe blue groomed run. As a matter of fact for years the marketing campaign was focused around blue runs. The resort use to cater to the extreme skier, now it caters to the luxury skier who needs to look good on social media. Here is the link to the multi page change requested of the USFS proposal and a screenshot of the section on the runs slated for change. Some make sense.View attachment 21602
Seems so strange given that they are extremely popular and do tend to pull from higher level skiers the most with their renowned terrain. Why the push to take things down in level?? I would think they’d want to retain that reputation and draw. No need to try and be all things to everyone. Not like they are hurting for business.
 

Christy

Angel Diva
@Christy not sure about the groups, but the public comment for certain. Of course most of those who work for the resort are leery of having those comments on file
I can see why an employee would hesitate to use their name given that it's part of the public record, but I can't think of why you wouldn't be able to use a fake name.

If you want to work to oppose this it might be worth contacting local enviro and friends groups and see if they are organizing something.
 

marzNC

Angel Diva
Seems so strange given that they are extremely popular and do tend to pull from higher level skiers the most with their renowned terrain. Why the push to take things down in level?? I would think they’d want to retain that reputation and draw. No need to try and be all things to everyone. Not like they are hurting for business.
Not sure how it is these days, but when I first started reading about the advanced and extreme terrain at JH, the guys writing about it were essentially ski bums. Meaning they loved staying in the hostel at a the base of Teton Village, figuring how to avoid paying for lunch on resort, and taking the bus into town for a bar crawl in the evening. They weren't spending much money at the resort.

I had no interest in going to JH until I felt like I was low advanced in terms of skiing off-piste. Even so, having been there a couple times in the last decade it's not in my Top Ten list for destination resorts out west.

JH was a co-founding resort on the MCP. Now the MCP requires reservations. As does Ikon. Also requires Full Ikon or Ikon Base Plus. The shift to aiming for a different market happened a while ago. With new ownership, sounds like the new owners are hoping to take in a different direction.
 

marzNC

Angel Diva
I personally believe that what makes them safer is that they are challenging and thus less crowded. Make them more usable and suddenly there are more people crowding the run.
Blasting out rock seems like a silly idea. Feels like a reaction to low snow seasons.

In contrast Taos decided a while ago not to build a lift to access the west Ridge terrain. I gather the entrances are quite narrow and steep. The hike to those chutes requires a hike that takes travelers 30-45 minutes. Although for locals and regulars, they think nothing of lapping Wild West more than once on the same day because they do the steep section of the hike in 10 minutes.
 

AJM

Ski Diva Extraordinaire
Not sure how it is these days, but when I first started reading about the advanced and extreme terrain at JH, the guys writing about it were essentially ski bums. Meaning they loved staying in the hostel at a the base of Teton Village, figuring how to avoid paying for lunch on resort, and taking the bus into town for a bar crawl in the evening. They weren't spending much money at the resort.
Having no knowledge whatsoever of JH this somehow resonates.
We seem to be having that same "ability profile" showing up as mentioned in the screenshot @snoWYmonkey posted and my thinking is that this same "ability profile" are not shy of spending $$$$.
I count myself and hubby and many of our friends as modern versions of "ski bums" , iie we buy a seasons pass, preferably as early as possible (cant be spending too munch money :laughter:) and thats pretty much it. We dont then go and buy lunch, rent equipment, take lessons etc etc.
I've always said the money is down on the beginner/intermediate slopes not the advanced/expert.
 

scandium

Ski Diva Extraordinaire
My immediate reaction is HECK NO mainly because if you blast that rock there are no take backs if you screw it up. I understand wanting to capture the big spending begintermediates, but chutes - even wider ones - seem the wrong place to send them.
 

snoWYmonkey

Ski Diva Extraordinaire
@marzNC in what way do you see the new ownership changing direction? Just curious what you've seen and read. I am not so sure as they have been part of the board bringing about all the changes in the past five to ten years.
 

marzNC

Angel Diva
@marzNC in what way do you see the new ownership changing direction? Just curious what you've seen and read. I am not so sure as they have been part of the board bringing about all the changes in the past five to ten years.
Was just a guess. In general, a change in ownership often changes the pace of the evolution of any business. Although as you said, given that the new owners have been part of the Board for a while, the moves towards broadening the target market is likely to be a continuation of a business plan that's been around for a while.

The only Master Plans I've paid attention to in the last decade has been for Alta. It wasn't obvious initially that getting Forest Service approval for a change in a Master Plan doesn't necessarily mean the resort will actually implement a particular change such as adding a lift.
 

MissySki

Angel Diva
Not sure how it is these days, but when I first started reading about the advanced and extreme terrain at JH, the guys writing about it were essentially ski bums. Meaning they loved staying in the hostel at a the base of Teton Village, figuring how to avoid paying for lunch on resort, and taking the bus into town for a bar crawl in the evening. They weren't spending much money at the resort.

I had no interest in going to JH until I felt like I was low advanced in terms of skiing off-piste. Even so, having been there a couple times in the last decade it's not in my Top Ten list for destination resorts out west.

JH was a co-founding resort on the MCP. Now the MCP requires reservations. As does Ikon. Also requires Full Ikon or Ikon Base Plus. The shift to aiming for a different market happened a while ago. With new ownership, sounds like the new owners are hoping to take in a different direction.
I was quite intimidated heading there for Diva East in 2020, but found when I got there that a large amount of the mountain was way more accessible and doable for me than I had feared from the reputation. I loved it and do consider it one of my top favorites in the West now. However, we had fabulous snow and almost all powder days while there, so I’m sure that helped influence the accessibility and overall experience. I also found the food on mountain really good, and the apres and night life scenes were great too.
 

marzNC

Angel Diva
I was quite intimidated heading there for Diva East in 2020, but found when I got there that a large amount of the mountain was way more accessible and doable for me than I had feared from the reputation. I loved it and do consider it one of my top favorites in the West now. However, we had fabulous snow and almost all powder days while there, so I’m sure that helped influence the accessibility and overall experience. I also found the food on mountain really good, and the apres and night life scenes were great too.
Yep, snow conditions make a big difference for first impressions.

We weren't so lucky during my first trip to JH in January 2014. We had blue skies and great views, but the only good snow was on one section of North Hobacks. It had been too warm everywhere else. Back then I was only up for one "adventure run" off-piste per day. @snoWYmonkey was such a good instructor that she guided us to that area as the last run of the semi-private morning lesson I set up for myself, Bill, and Jason. The trails I felt most comfortable on were the blues off Casper or Aprés Vous. The Teton Quad and the Bridger Gondola hadn't been built yet. I stuck to the blue groomer off Sublette while Bill and Jason did the bumps in Laramie Bowl.

Knowing how JH has evolved and having skied off all the lifts at least once, my personal preference in that part of the country is Grand Targhee.

Unlike Alta, JH making changes to advanced/extreme terrain may be a reaction to recent low snow winters. Alta also has a reputation as an experts' paradise but I've known from my experience as an intermediate in my teens that Alta has always had great green/blue terrain as well.
 

RachelV

Administrator
Staff member
Not sure how it is these days, but when I first started reading about the advanced and extreme terrain at JH, the guys writing about it were essentially ski bums. Meaning they loved staying in the hostel at a the base of Teton Village, figuring how to avoid paying for lunch on resort, and taking the bus into town for a bar crawl in the evening. They weren't spending much money at the resort.
...

While there probably are more dirt bag types that spend very little money among the more advanced crowd, there are also a lot of very well off finance / tech / etc dudes who take luxury trips to JH every year and spend an absolute ton of money. Think Steep & Deep camp clientele. I wonder how it balances out.
 

marzNC

Angel Diva
While there probably are more dirt bag types that spend very little money among the more advanced crowd, there are also a lot of very well off finance / tech / etc dudes who take luxury trips to JH every year and spend an absolute ton of money. Think Steep & Deep camp clientele. I wonder how it balances out.
I would guess that what JH would like is for the Steep & Deep students to bring along family or friends who aren't yet advanced skiers. Or take a second trip to JH at another time with others who aren't interested in extreme terrain.

With Grand Targhee intent on adding lodging now that the terrain expansion off Colter is done, probably more people are considering staying on the Idaho side of Teton Pass. Certainly a lot cheaper when looking for VRBO/AirBnB lodging. If JH can entice those people to make the drive when GT is covered in fog and clouds, that could add to the bottom line.
 

snoWYmonkey

Ski Diva Extraordinaire
As I hear it, they base a lot of their changes from guest surveys and terrain difficulty is often mentioned. Not too many broke tram lap skiers left in the hole these days, but a lot of well to do skiers have skills. The more terrain becomes accessible through changing it to make it easier, the more the transition to truly hard runs will be massive. It already happened with the grooming of anything that can be groomed, effectively removing all but the steepest bumps. This makes it impossible to teach bumps as mellow bumps are where people need to start. Nothing like adding huge moguls to a student's first JH black diamond run when they have not had much if any practice. I suspect similar challenges will pop up in terms of navigating around rocks in narrow double black chutes. I am a big believer in baby step progressions for success. Massive steps have a lower rate of positive outcomes. Thankfully a lot of other north american resorts have really focused on opening up more challenging terrain.
 

MissySki

Angel Diva
As I hear it, they base a lot of their changes from guest surveys and terrain difficulty is often mentioned. Not too many broke tram lap skiers left in the hole these days, but a lot of well to do skiers have skills. The more terrain becomes accessible through changing it to make it easier, the more the transition to truly hard runs will be massive. It already happened with the grooming of anything that can be groomed, effectively removing all but the steepest bumps. This makes it impossible to teach bumps as mellow bumps are where people need to start. Nothing like adding huge moguls to a student's first JH black diamond run when they have not had much if any practice. I suspect similar challenges will pop up in terms of navigating around rocks in narrow double black chutes. I am a big believer in baby step progressions for success. Massive steps have a lower rate of positive outcomes. Thankfully a lot of other north american resorts have really focused on opening up more challenging terrain.
I feel like most mountains do not have enough beginner/intermediate trails suitable for learning and practicing bumps. It really bugs me, all in the name of grooming everything for the masses. I feel like it has taken me soooooo much longer to learn to ski bumps this way, because your practice is most often on steeper more difficult terrain, so it’s harder and scarier to learn and practice than it needs to be. At my home mountain I am constantly seeking out bumped up edges on greens and blues whenever possible for practice. Not as good as a full trail width, but better than nothing. The good thing in those cases is they are usually the safest part of the beginner trails imo because 99% of the other people on said green runs are staying as far away from the edge and small bumps as they possibly can!
 

snoWYmonkey

Ski Diva Extraordinaire
@MissySki sad but relieved to learn that we are not alone having to use the edge bumps for easy mogul lessons. The edges scare me because kids come flying out of the trees without looking, but I warn my students to be looking not just down the line but to both sides. We should do a national resort petition for mellow bump runs!
 

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