You’ve just spent the last two hours driving your car to the top of Teton Pass, skinning or hiking out the south ridge, scouting your line, and logging 2,500 vert of western Wyoming love dust. Now you’re at Highway 22, thumbing it back to your vehicle with the hordes of other backcountry users. But wait-why are they all piling into that cushy Suburban? Because they paid $495 for it, that’s why.
In case you haven’t heard, Teton Pass, 20 minutes from Jackson Hole Mountain Resort, and quite possibly the worst-kept secret in drive-up backcountry skidom-it sees 18,000 users a year-just got even easier to ski. Starting this winter, JHMR will run the first guided, bottom-to-top Teton Pass shuttle service from the resort. (Other outfits are allowed to guide, but not shuttle.) “We’re able to offer a whole lot of turns and not much work to get them,” says JHMR guide Thomas Turiano. “This is geared toward the ski-area skier.” Indeed it is: While other outfits may have permits to guide the Pass, JHMR is the only local player willing to cough up the roughly $50,000 for the environmental assessment necessary to obtain the shuttle-service permit, which allows for 50 skier days annually. “It feels like Wal-Mart is coming to town,” laments Diane Verna, co-owner of Rendezvous Ski Tours. “We’re the Mom and Pop store getting pushed out.” But Verna seems less concerned about competing with JHMR than about the Pass’s future clientele: “JHMR is taking the work out of earning turns.”
So, will 50 skier days really change the culture of the Pass? “It’s not that big of a deal,” says Pete Brannen, a local who skis it 40 days a year. “As long as it doesn’t open up to more commercial use.” Hmm. Fifty skier days a year at 495 bucks a pop? Don’t hold your breath, Pete.