will zip lines save Snow King?

Earlier this year, a prospective buyer signed a nonbinding letter of intent to purchase Snow King Resort. The resort was negotiating with the buyer, said to be JMI, a development company based in San Diego.

For weeks I’ve been hearing — via tips from readers — that Snow King Resort has been or is nearing a deal to be sold. Managing partner Manuel Lopez has been typically coy, either denying rumors or not responding to calls.

This week Lopez did reveal plans for more recreational amenities on the mountain, including two zip lines, yurts, some sort of roller coaster, a ropes course and bike park.

The News&Guide reports: “The plan to keep the ski hill financially viable focuses on five areas: an activity center near the hotel, a camp near the top of the Rafferty lift, a gateway into the property at the corner of Cache Street and Snow King Avenue, a yurt area on the south side of the mountain and another activity area at the summit.”

While it is heartening to hear the resort aims to honor its commitment to providing recreational facilities — after initially seeking to divest itself of the ski area while selling the hotel and development rights — this latest plan is a bit of a head scratcher.

Are zip lines and such really going to generate enough revenue to offset an annual operating loss purported to be $500,000 to $800,000 and debt exceeding $10 million? Although I like the idea of more yurts around Jackson Hole, a lot of the proposed amenities sound like gimmicks.

(Popular video of alpine coaster in Europe)

Maybe I’m naive and out of step with the latest trends in recreation. After all, Jackson Hole Mountain Resort is considering building a zip line. Recently a reader expressed concern about the “Disneyfication” of Jackson Hole. Do we really want this stuff on our Town Hill?

It’s a shame the town rolled over during negotiations between the resort and the community nonprofit Friends of Snow King. If the mayor and council had been willing to put the resort’s development rights on the table, instead of looking to bail out Lopez, we might already have conservation easements on some of the property at the base and a nonprofit running the ski hill.

The town has little in the way of regulatory authority over what sort of recreational amenities the resort can build. The Forest Service has final say, but recently passed legislation makes it easier for ski resorts to build these kinds of facilities.

To be clear: I live near and love the King, and I want the recreational part of the resort to succeed. That’s why I bought a pass last winter. But the community has to stay vigilant to make sure any deal is fair and keep our public land from being turned into an amusement park.


Posted under Economy, Environment, Politics, Ski Resorts, Sports, Town Government

10 Comments so far

  1. jd May 11, 2012 8:05 am

    would you really trust a zip line at Snow King? Manuel is probably on Ebay looking for a used one right now.How’s about fixing the mess they have there now? The only hope for the town hill is a quick sale to someone who gives a shit.

  2. Rob Weinstein May 11, 2012 1:51 pm

    Lol@^. If anyone has ever looked at the bullwheel(s) the last few seasons…they would have good cause to be fearful of a zip line.

    There is a fine line between tourist-trap and revenue producing attraction. I hope those in charge have the foresight necessary to walk that line very carefully.

  3. Mugsy Nields May 11, 2012 4:43 pm

    Whistler has more visits to their bike park in the summer than they do skier visits in the winter. I say bring on the bike park! As far as more winter use is concerned, Howelson hill in Steamboat, is overrun with groms tearing up the terrain park and halfpipe every evening after school. If Lopez wants to keep up w/ the trends, where’s the super pipe and Mammoth Unbound terrain park. Both of which JHMR is lacking.

  4. Rich Eidem May 12, 2012 7:53 am

    While researching ziplines and mountain coasters (riding various installations around the country) one thing that stood out was how incredibly noisy the ziplines were. Both the cable whine and especially the stoping mechanism were so loud that I suggested not installing them at the Alyeska resort. Perhaps the technology has evolved but that would certainly be a concern for the folks in East Jackson.

  5. JH LOKE May 12, 2012 6:24 pm

    No halfpipe @ Howelsen in Steamboat Springs Mugsy. I do agree that SK could become viable through terrain parks & such though.

  6. Brad May 14, 2012 8:49 am

    Forget Manuel’s involvement in any furure development at SKR, folks. Nothing will happen until he’s out; no one is investing with his group going forward, and he wants out. Terrain parks, zip lines, if any of that happens it will be because some new sucker enters the picture. Rob makes the best point: a carfeul look at the exisiting structures is required procedure prior to any assessment of value, present or future.

  7. dp May 14, 2012 5:45 pm

    Not sure on the income end, but let’s not forget what the original purpose of the Snow King ski area. Fun. Skiing may have been gimmicky in it’s day also. The alpine coaster looks damn fun. Not much experience with zip lines, but can’t be much louder than the alpine slide, snowmaking or the hill climb. Living in East Jackson, we realize this is all part of the game. Tourism currently pays and will continue to be what pays the bills for working folks in this town, directly or indirectly (unless you’re one of the many NIMBY trusties around)…

  8. brainthunderin' May 15, 2012 11:59 pm

    I think they should install a bike carrying gondola to the top of Raferty and then create some awesome, vacuum-tubed alpine slide,and yeah, why not a downhill park

  9. js May 16, 2012 10:14 am

    A well-placed source said yesterday that Snow King Resort is under contract to be sold. Not sure if it’s JMI, but likely. Being under contract is a step closer, but I imagine there are hundreds of loose ends to tie up before closing.

  10. Larry June 6, 2012 7:54 am

    I do believe the sale of SK to JMI to be true, and if this deal is complete and does move forward this could be an incredible plus for JH. Based on the “track record” of JMI in San Diego, they will treat JH with respect and integrity it deserves, and the benefits that they will bring to JH will be very community oriented. I do agree we can not have the “Disneyfication” of JH and I am sure that the town and county will not allow that to happen. I am sure that JMI has a vision that will ultimately have a positive impact on SK and the community of JH. They will be good stewards to the community.

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