a peaceful party for closing day

The Last Tram party returned to Jackson Hole Mountain Resort on Sunday in just about all its glory, after a week of controversy and an attempted crackdown by resort officials and law enforcement.

On the 10,450-foot summit of Rendezvous Mountain, snowballs were fired at passengers disembarking from the last public car of the season. The volley was strong enough to buck authority and uphold tradition but not enough to cause any harm.

JH Underground correspondents covered the mountain from top to bottom and found — surprise! — the controversy had been overblown. On this day the focus was on soft snow and sunshine, and celebrating the end of another ski season with friends.

Dick Cheney drew an aerial bombardment on Closing Day 2008.

For many years, before the closing of the tram in 2006, custom dictated that riders of the last car be bombarded with snowballs by their peers waiting atop the mountain. Somehow the tradition was distorted into pelting the tram itself.

Last week, following two incidents in which current and historic tram cars were damaged by revelers, the resort had announced a “zero tolerance” policy for snowballs, saying any transgression would prompt closure of the iconic lift, which reopened in December after being rebuilt at a cost of $31 million.

A hard snowball fired at the tram from the base during the April 1 “Gaper Fools’ Day” celebration cracked the front window of one of the cars, causing damage estimated at $10,000. Four days earlier, an intoxicated snowmaking employee repeatedly rammed his truck into one of the original tram cars, following a free concert at the village.

While the resort understandably was frustrated by these incidents, its response was widely viewed as heavy handed.

The resort brought in a heavy law enforcement presence to curb drunken hooliganism. But passholders were as irked by the move as they were the preceding acts of man-on-tram violence.

A line of four sheriff’s trucks was parked in front of the tram building on Sunday, and staff checked backpacks looking for beer at the bottom of lifts. The resort canceled a performance by the band Eargazm on the deck of Nick Wilson’s cafe and pressured Teton Village businesses not to sell alcohol after 1 p.m.

There was an uneasy air about the village, as workers and guests fretted whether a confrontation would take place.

Skiers and snowboarders took matters into their own hands, intent on promoting a positive spirit. In the absence of music at the Village Cafe, Christian Senf brought his “Iron Monkey” sound system to the upper parking lot in the morning and set up speakers and a generator. By evening, as the sun set behind the Tetons and the moon rose over the Gros Ventres, a crowd danced to the beats of local DJs in a show of jubilation and defiance.

“The end-of-season party had to go on, regardless of any politics,” said Senf.

Participants seemed relieved that the celebration proceeded without any trouble. Sheriff’s Deputy Dave Hodges and other officers watched with a mix of boredom and amusement. At Senf’s behest, revelers cleaned up all of the trash and recycling in that portion of the base village.

DJ Rich Goodwin struck the perfect note with the last song, the Beastie Boys’ “(You Gotta) Fight for Your Right (To Party).”

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Video by Jim Stanford and Christie Koriakin

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Posted under Ski Resorts, Sports

9 Comments so far

  1. Sabra April 7, 2009 4:09 pm

    “Threw like girls..” really? did I just hear a woman from Jackson Hole saying that?

  2. chrissy April 7, 2009 4:47 pm

    yes you did. it was a compliment to those boys…

  3. Rachel April 7, 2009 4:56 pm

    …and a joke… made me laugh. nice SERIOUS reporting Chrissy! Ha!

  4. David April 7, 2009 5:21 pm

    Conscious Monkeys save the day again. Christian is the man!

  5. Greg April 7, 2009 9:35 pm

    One last opportunity to call Jerry Blann an absolute moron. I’m in. Lucky Jerry now gets a few months respite… Well, until the new pass prices are released and Jerry takes another local-friendly pass away. Moron !

  6. pro-snow April 8, 2009 1:58 am

    We got snowballed! No snowballs, then no alcohol, then no music. I don’t mind people being drunk and stupid, it happens at any ski hill…What irks me is the loss of my freedom at jhmr, and now we have to obey the blann or he’ll “close the tram”. And I don’t blame the snowball-thrower or the tram-rammer. Just blanny.

  7. Patrick April 8, 2009 10:26 am

    Someone almost get arrested for throwing a snowball on Sunday. What code would he of been booked under? Would love to see that one stand up in court. “Your honor, um we were having fun and I threw a snowball at a friend”.

  8. D April 9, 2009 8:31 am

    If you are dumb enough to break a window in the tram with a snowball you should be locked up. It wasn’t just a soft normal snowball. But the idea you can outlaw them is funny. If someone breaks another window whoever sees them do it should hand them over. And if it was a accident just turn yourself in and work something out. Just the same as you would if it was your property. Just because JHMR owns it, its ok um I don’t think so. I am sure its the same person who was shallow enough to rob the shake a day out of nick Wilsons. I am sure if we keep going the way we are soon enough there will be privileges left at the mtn. I love to party as much as the next guy especially after skiing all day. However if you look at it through the resorts eyes, they gave everyone a free concert and they get the old car bashed (I bet its not free next year), along with a broken window on the new one by letting everyone drink on there property after skiing. Whets the incentive to do it again??? On a positive note the party in the upper lot was classic and everyone did a great job of enjoying them selves responsibly let try to remember all this next year when après ski returns.

  9. Christian April 11, 2009 2:45 pm

    Nice one, Jim. Props to the JHMR’s Risk Manager John Bishop, who scoped us out early in the day and came by for a “chat”. He recognized the need for music of some kind and agreed to let us continue as long as people were reasonably well behaved and we finished up by 7pm. It was illuminating to talk with a JHMR employee who understood what we wanted and who laid out clear expectations on his end. We’re not so different after all! I understood JHMR’s concerns, but was glad we found a way to accommodate one another. Thanks to all the participants who helped clean up and informally “police” the crowd to prevent things from getting out of hand. Hopefully we acquitted ourselves well enough this year that next year we can return bigger and better and back by the tram dock!

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