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.