By Jim Stanford on April 7, 2009
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.
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.
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).”
Video by Jim Stanford and Christie Koriakin