A Fond Farewell
By Ethan Stone, 10 days ago
After 40 years of servicing some of North Americaâ€™s best lift-accessed terrain, the Jackson Hole aerial tram will be retired September 2006. Although expert assessments have cleared the tram for safe operation for several more years, the owners and mountain management have decided to end service permaturely in accordance with their â€œzero riskâ€? policy.
â€œThis decision has been extremely difficult and quite honestly a very sad one,â€? said Jackson owner Jay Kemmerer. â€œForty years is a long service for any type of machinery, and it is time this â€˜old ladyâ€™ retires. We know this may impact our business, business to Jackson Hole and the State, but we are committed to the best long term solution for all of our constituencies.â€?
Although much of the tramâ€™s terrain is also accessible via other lifts, the loss of the tram lapâ€”a 4,000 ft. European-style descentâ€”will be a disheartening blow to Jackson locals, who prided themselves on squeezing in as many as possible on pow days. The tram experienceâ€”the hardcores starting the line at 5:00am, the tension and excitement of a packed ride upâ€”will be sorely missed, as will the tramâ€™s longtime icon as a symbol for Jackson Hole and the State of Wyoming. â€œItâ€™s hard to imagine Jackson without the tram,â€? said Freeskier editor Tom Winter.
Resort officials are examining the feasibility of a replacement, but with millions of dollars in spending already funding other on-mountain projects, that option is â€œa costly proposition,â€? according to JHMR president Jerry Blann. The mountain is hoping for financial support from the state and the public to help finance a replacement, whether that be a new tram or new gondola/lift access.
Completed in 1966, the tram rises 4,139 vertical feet to an altitude of 10,450 ft. â€œThe tram is nearing the end of her natural life,â€? Blann said. â€œSheâ€™s a child of the 60â€™s thatâ€™s been going 100% summer and winter and has earned a graceful retirement.â€?
We at the Freeskier offices would like to thank the tram for all the memories and console the boys over at Teton Gravity Research: This too shall pass. Put down the bottle and keep editng.