Endangered: Soul

Nostalgia for great ski town bars

Endangered: Soul

I’ll have another. PHOTO: Chris Figenshau

Editor’s Note: This story appeared in the September (42.1) issue of POWDER. Since then, the Village Cafe found a home inside the Inn at Jackson Hole, a hefty stone’s throw from its old spot. The place is still packed with groms and ski bums, and the Eighth Annual Gelande World Championships went off in spectacular fashion. Nevertheless, Greed’s constant assault on Soul continues.

Skiing took a major hit this year when Soul was added to the Endangered Species List. Though the recent trends of heated chairlifts, foie gras, and pay parking caused observers to worry the listing was inevitable, many skiers believed that strongholds such as the Village Cafe in Jackson Hole would be enough to carry Soul at least into the next decade.

Sadly, they were wrong. Soul suffered a devastating blow this summer when its longtime nemesis, Greed, decided to demolish the Village Cafe, as well as the offices held by Teton Gravity Research for the last 12 years. Located at the base of the Jackson Hole tram, the Village Cafe—or simply, the VC—was one of two bars left in Teton Village that was not in a hotel. The close proximity to the tram made the VC a natural watering hole, but its communal old-school vibe grew in importance as Jackson’s rugged past became increasingly overshadowed by large luxury hotels.

Endangered: Soul

“Everyone from hardcore skiers, snowboarders, weekenders, and people of all tax brackets fit into why the VC was a success,” says Dom Gagliardi, owner of the VC since 2000. “Without it, those people are going to be wandering around the base of this great mountain trying to find a place to go. It’s going to change things quite a bit.”

The VC’s contributions to Soul were deeply revered, including: a no bullshit attitude, cheap food and beer, rolling papers for sale behind the bar, John Verdon, ski lockers, a water jug with free cups, and a welcome embrace of the big mountain ski culture that set Jackson apart from the rest of the world—something that Greed has happily taken advantage of.

The VC was also responsible for the greatest beer-drinking game of all time—Gelande Quaffing, which was invented at the bar in the ’80s when it was known as the Bear Claw. Thanks to the Gelande Quaffing World Championships, which Gagliardi says will continue with or without the VC, the world now has a sport where ski bums do back flips before catching a pint and chugging it. This enthusiastic nod to the carefree days of yore injects so much Soul into skiing that every time it takes place, the snow gods smile and deliver yet another powder day.

Also on the Endangered Species List: Stretch Pants.

While most of the ski world considers these aspects of Soul to be part of an ecosystem worth protecting, Greed equates them to trees blocking his view. Instead of embracing his new habitat, he simply clearcuts the whole thing. “It was very impersonal,” says TGR co-founder Steve Jones of the notice to vacate the building, on September 19. “It just came from their legal team.”

Local skiers were saddened to learn the VC would be replaced by luxury penthouse suites, a private club, boutiques, and a spa. “The VC is the center of the universe,” says Jones. “But the new building, from what I understand, will be a semi walled-off compound.”

Since its heyday in the 1970s, Soul’s range has been drastically reduced into isolated pockets and small ski areas. Soul’s counterpart, Heart, is still found in Jackson Hole, with sightings occurring most frequently on first box, windy ridgelines, and long powdery descents. Soul, however, was last seen thumbing it west over Teton Pass, holding up a sign that read “Grand Targhee.”

Elsewhere on the Endangered Species List: Lifties.

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  • another jaded local

    Soul also took a hit at Rafters at Red Mountain when management placed a ban on all games, included the legendary table crawling. Which, I might add, is not actually a drinking game and is totally cool as far as real life laws go.

  • Dontjivemefool

    I always have to chuckle when I hear the TGR guys talk about how soul has died and how sad it is about the VC…”it was so impersonal” whines Steve Jones, as if it’s not “impersonal” when he shafts some skier’s segment in his movie b/c of those pesky contracts they’ve signed with North Face, etc…

    I’ll bet he isn’t whining when the TGR legal team puts its impersonal stamp on his business.

    Besides, if they were the play-uhs they pretend to be, they’d have put together a group and bought the building. Instead they just whine about it.

    What did Howie say about them? “Everything changed when the TGR boys showed up.”

    Changed for the better? Hmmmmm.

  • Kenny Powers

    Jackson is full of East coast yuppies with college degrees they don’t know what to do with and a bunch of “my shit don’t stink” attitudes. The V.C. was the spot where they all congregated. The so called “soul” you thought you could smell when you walked in there was really just a bunch of assholes stinking up the joint. California may be losing it’s soul too, but there’s more there than there is now, or ever was at Jackson.

  • ptor

    Bars and drinking are not a barometer for soul with respect to skiing…anywhere.

  • Scott Neagle

    Soul is alive and well in Quebec at the Hi Sea Shack and other bars of Sainte-Anne-Des-Monts, serving the indefatigable Chic-Chocs locals. The Rack is a newcomer, and though a welcome addition to Sugarloaf, it has nothing to do with the soul of the mountain, which can be found searching the backside for yellow-nosed voles.

    • Chase McKendry

      Considering the 3 owners have over 90 years of Sugarloaf between us, I think we might have a bit of the loafs soul as well…

  • Lafe

    You’ll find soul at the HydeAway in Warren VT

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