The New Teton Lift

Jackson Hole’s new chairlift for 2015-16 will dramatically shift how people ski the mountain

The Teton Lift, highlighted in the red box, will start spinning chairs in the 2015-16 season. Click on the image to enlarge.

The new Teton Lift, highlighted in red, will start spinning in the 2015-16 season. Click on the image to enlarge.

It’s more than a year out, but a new lift is going up in Jackson Hole. Spanning 1,600 vertical feet, the Teton Lift, a high-speed quad, will be ready for the 2015-16 season, providing skiers access to what has so far been accessible only via hiking. Work on the lift has been going on all summer; you can see the grading of the trails and tree-removal from the valley floor.

The reason it’s a topic of conversation now is because of how dramatically it will shift how people approach some of the best—and potentially dangerous—backcountry terrain in North America. When it starts spinning next year, the chair will deposit skiers less than a hundred feet away from the resort’s northern boundary. This radical terrain—known as Granite Canyon—lies out of bounds within Grand Teton National Park. Current access is through a few different bootpacks and a series of backcountry gates at the resort. It is a prized stash with incredible skiing—2,000-vertical-foot shots that take your breath away and leave you delirious.

But because it lies almost entirely within serious avalanche terrain, Granite is not the domain for everyone and it claims victims every year. Just last winter, Greg Epstein, the supervising producer of TGR who has a lifetime of backcountry skiing experience in Jackson and elsewhere, was caught in a slide in these very chutes and nearly lost his life. Unlike other popular Jackson backcountry zones, like Rock Springs and Cody, Granite is one giant terrain trap with few safe zones in which to descend in a relatively safe manner.

This photo was taken earlier this month from Jackson Hole, where the new Teton Lift will be erected. PHOTO: Matt Hansen

Jackson Hole’s already getting to work clearing a path for the new Teton Lift. This taken earlier this month. PHOTO: Matt Hansen

From the time the resort opened in 1965 until it unlocked its backcountry-access gates in 1999-2000, this terrain was strictly off-limits. Those who poached it risked losing their pass or even getting arrested. Today, the area often shows up online and in social media as skiers proudly claim their shots (though films and magazines tend to leave out specifics). Though skier traffic has grown back there every year, the Teton Lift will likely only increase the flow due to much easier access. What used to be a 20- to 30-minute hike will be less than 10 minutes with the new lift, not to mention how tempting it will be for some to simply duck the rope right off the lift.

“It’ll let people right into Granite,” says Jason Tattersall, a skier who moved to the valley in the late ’80s and starred in many of the early Teton Gravity Research films. “There will be moguls in there now.”

Anna Cole, communications manager at the resort, says there are no plans to put a backcountry gate in this area for at least the first year, and that the resort is working with the national park and Teton County Search and Rescue to build an awareness campaign to clue people in on the potential dangers.

“Jackson Hole Mountain Resort neither discourages or encourages skiers and snowboarders to leave the ski area boundary,” says Cole.

The chair’s location is just north of the Casper quad, with its base station being on what is now the South Pass Traverse. It will deposit skiers along Sheridan Ridge, just north of the Crags—a steep, rocky zone that has historically been hike-to only. From the top of the chair to the base of Teton Village will be 3,000 vertical feet. The views are stunning. Direct fall line is a trail called “Kemmerer’s Run,” named after a Wyoming town and the resort’s owner, Jay Kemmerer. From the top of the run, the terrain is so steep and straight that you can see all the way down to the base area. The lift helps the resort expand on its intermediate terrain, but also positions it for another long-term goal: hosting a World Cup downhill.

Resort Senior Vice President Tim Mason said while it’s true that the resort hopes to pursue such an event, several difficult logistics exist to overcome first in order for it to become a reality. The course would likely need snowmaking from top to bottom and there’s a question if it would be long enough for F.I.S. approval. So any World Cup event would be a long ways out, he said.

Ultimately, Tattersall says the new lift is “no big deal.” The out-of-bounds is still vast, you need to know where you’re going, and enough skiers are already feasting on Jackson.

“It’s so crowded out there already its crazy,” he says. “Feed the monkey!”

More from Jackson Hole: Powder Week, ripping lady posses, the Gelande Quaff Championships, and nostalgia for old ski town dives.

Add a comment

  • http://www.asymbol.co Cam

    Worst Idea Ever!!! they just killed the crags. and moran woods.

    • Mickthedick

      Change is the only thing that’s a sure thing. Ski other terrain and wipe your years

    • Gefielte Fish

      Moran woods, yes. Hey its ok. The new lift will not be the end of the world. Slackcountry is for slackers.

  • Karl

    Doesn’t sound too smart to me.

  • Wolf

    way to destroy the mountain and endanger lost tourists in expert only areas.

  • Philly_Jeff

    Bad move. I liked hiking up The Crags

  • Matt

    Doing the same thing in Taos.. bummer

  • J

    It doesn’t even look like it’s really going to gain anything; you still have to hike. What could be awesome is a T-bar to the Cody Bowl area.

  • FrostedFlakes

    Great..some of my best days have been in this area…thanks for killing any future of it now…

  • Shredthegnarpow

    WOW! Look at all the transplants complaining. Raise your hand if you grew up in Jackson………………that’s what I thought.

    • Jamie

      Exactly, bunch of flatland wankers.

      • PowderBud

        For a town so firmly reliant on tourism, you sure have a narrow opinion. So you Prima Donna’s never go anywhere else to ski eh? You can’t or you’d be guilty of precisely what you criticize others for. Me and my crew may be based in CO, but we like checking out the incredible resorts in other states and countries. As far as I know, we haven’t encountered any Neanderthals like you fortunately. Even at Jackson, which is one of our fave’s, we have experienced only the friendlier locals. Maybe they just understand that a destination vacation town lives and dies by the tourists who visit and spend money. Yeah, I don’t like outsiders finding my secret stashes either, but I’m not an ass to them about it. Most of the time, we burn the peace pipe and ask them not to tell anybody else what they’ve found. Some are even cool enough that we show them some really secret lines! Ah, camaraderie. Way more better than arguing.

        • Jamie

          Drink the coolaid did you.

          • PowderBud

            Yeah, I’m afraid I did. Is there any antidote?

          • Jamie

            Yes, move to the tropics.

          • PowderBud

            Yeah, I’ll get right on that. Just cause you said.

    • Alpiner

      Wow! When you “grew up” in Jackson, was that your parents’ choice or yours? That’s what I thought.

  • gameover

    JHMR Patrol is going to have their hands full rescuing gapers from Granite

  • Ted Falkowski

    Change is tough on people who do not embrace it. You show you are aging ungracefully when you gripe without providing a positive alternative. I’ve now labelled you cranky, like the old guy taking his time in front of you on the first lift of the morning. Get over it. Lifties won’t hike very far and if they are not prepared for the back country there is natural selection at work. Be happy, don’t worry.

  • Ian

    A high speed quad? So run #1 of the day—brodotilled. Run #2+—lift runs pretty much empty till it snows.

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