After public pushback, Grand Targhee pulls cat skiing from its expansion plan
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DRIGGS — Grand Targhee Resort officials have formally asked the Caribou – Targhee National Forest to eliminate the proposed snowcat skiing from the South Bowl expansion proposal.
This move comes on the heels of public pushback to the idea of expanding snowcat skiing off of Peaked Mountain and extending it down into the Teton Canyon area prior to the potential construction of new lifts.
In a letter submitted by Grand Targhee resort owner and general manager Geordie Gillett on Wednesday, he asked that the forest service consider the South Bowl remain gated through the resort and that the area be used for guided backcountry tours. The gate would act like the current gate at Mary’s Nipple on the ski hill where the resort has control of avalanche mitigation but skiers exit the gate at their own risk if unattended by a guide.
Snowcat skiing uses a snowcat that can typically hold up to 20 skiers to ride up an ungroomed, remote area of a resort to access backcountry-like conditions. Currently, snowcat skiing is available to guests of the resort via Peaked Mountain.
“The public scoping process was valuable information,” Gillett said to EastIdahoNews.com on Wednesday evening. “The one constant theme I heard — and one that I didn’t thoroughly understand at the time — was the people who were concerned about the South Bowl.”
Gillett said he heard the public’s message loud and clear.
“We came up with something that could address those concerns and we’d like to add to the permitting area the ability for us to control that area for avalanches,” he said.
Gillett also acknowledged that the prospect of the public losing the South Bowl access in the end was not a responsible move by Targhee. “Once this (expansion process) started, it hit home that people could lose access,” he said of South Bowl. “It was not a responsible thing to do and this was the right time and place to take this off the table. This came from me, from us.”
Teton Basin District Ranger Jay Pence said the forest service will consider the new request from Grand Targhee through their formal process. Pence said because of the incredible public feedback and scope of the project has forced the forest service to push the timeline leading up to approval with a public comment period slated for August and a possible final decision for March 2022. This is a six to eight month change in the original timeline.
Grand Targhee has been working with the development group S.E. Company and have the nod from the Forest Service to create a variety of expansions to the resort, but the largest and most significant includes the expansion of ski terrain into Teton Canyon from Peaked Mountain and the South Bowl.
The expansion calls for adding 1,200 acres to the already 2,500 acres currently in use under a special Forest Service permit. Then roll in two mountain top restaurants and five new lifts (not including the already approved, yet to be built, Peaked quad lift). For perspective, the South Bowl expansion into the canyon boasts three additional lifts that can manage up to 1,800 skiers an hour, according to the master plan.
Wednesday’s adjustment to the South Bowl would eventually eliminate snowcat skiing from the Alta, Wyoming based Resort completely.