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It Takes a Village: How Jackson Hole Re-opened After a Historic Storm

Last Tuesday, a wicked wind storm snapped 17 steel power poles on Highway 390, knocking out power for all of Teton Village and forcing the resort to close for five days. To add insult to injury, it was smack dab in the middle of an epic winter storm that was promising all-time powder conditions. Without power and under a massive amount of snow, Teton Village felt post-apocalyptic as residents and visitors were completely evacuated and relocated from hotels and condos.

With considerable to extreme avalanche danger and road closures statewide, Jackson residents were forced to find fun in their backyards.

And when Jackson (finally) re-opened Monday morning, we made sure we made it to the resort in time for the first tram.

"Sunrise @jacksonhole awaiting first tram." - Alx Petrogiani, @lifecosmic via Instagram

When we rolled into the parking lot at 6:15 a.m., the sun was just barely starting to peek out from behind the mountains. With the exception of one other couple, we were the first ones to get in line, having come prepared for the long wait with a camp stove, lots of bacon and a few morning beers. By 7:30, a line of about two-trams-worth of people (200) was buzzing with excitement as skiers and riders, deprived of Jackson-pow for almost a whole week shared stories of their weekends out of their beloved mountains.

Breakfast of champions for Garrett Bass: beer and muffins. Photo by Julie Kukral

Some people took up snowshoeing, others built terrain parks in their backyards, and lots made some extra pocket cash shoveling roofs. For Jackson residents, a weekend off afforded time to get caught up on errands that should have been done weeks ago or finally make the trek over to Targhee. The general theme, though, was day drinking and yard skiing.

After waiting just shy of 3 hours in line, we finally pulled up on top of Rendezvous Bowl with AC/DC blasting. Inside the tram was vibe central. The snow was a bit crusty to say the least – not quite the 38 inches of pow people had imagined – but hey, it’s hard to beat a bluebird day in February, especially when you haven’t seen the sun in a month.

The mad dash to get strapped/clicked in at the top of Rendezvous Bowl. Not a cloud in the sky! Photo by Julie Kukral

By the time 3 o’clock rolled around, the deck at Nick Wilson’s was stacked of people enjoying springtime-come-early aprés beers. It was no Jackson Hole powder day, but people were stoked nonetheless. 

The glorious bluebird day stood in stark contrast to the snowpocalypse that started the week before. With 17 power poles down, there was a lot of work to be done to keep everyone safe and get the mountain back up and running. We talked to Anna Cole from JHMR marketing who let us in on the what’s been happening behind the scenes this past week.

Jackson Hole Down, courtesy of Lance Koudele

When the storm hit Tuesday night, TGR contributor Addie Drinkwater was in the village at the time. She was standing at the entrance of Teton Thai when she heard a loud bang at the same moment the restaurant lost power. When she ran outside to see what caused the blackout, she saw a shuttle bus that had just barely avoided a power pole that had fallen across the road. Things got pretty chaotic in the village from there on out.

The bus system stopped, the roads quickly closed, and people staying overnight in the village were forced to evacuate that night or the next day if their hotel had generators. The fire and police department reacted quickly, doing a terrific job to get folks out of harm’s way during the high winds and heavy snow.

Unburying Casper Lift, courtesy of

Select JHMR employees met early Wednesday morning in the mountain ops building, the one building with a backup generator, to formulate a game plan. That's when they found out from Lower Valley Energy that the Village would likely be out of power for 5 to 7 days. Having seen the extent of the damage driving in, JHMR was prepared for the news and appreciative of having an accurate timeline that they could then relay to Jackson residents and guests.

From then on, Teton Village went into emergency management system mode — meaning all resources were funneled through Fire Chief Kevin Salva, the emergency incident commander, and all communications were handled by Anna Cole. A closure of this kind was the first in the resort's history. The last time the resort closed for multiple days was in the '80s, and that was only two days because of unsafe snow conditions.

Anna described the first two days as controlled chaos. A lot of employees showed up Wednesday morning trying to understand the extent of the damage and see how they could help. JHMR's first priorities were understanding what was going on, saving food and preparing buildings for when the power could be turned back on. Only essential employees were called in from the parking department, ski patrol, and lift and vehicle operations to help keep the roads as clear as possible. The grooming fleet was also deployed to the road to assist Lower Valley Energy's efforts to put up temporary power lines that will have to be replaced this summer.

Meanwhile, it was snowing like crazy. Jackson Hole Ski Patrol was doing avalanche reduction work daily. Thankfully, lifts were able to be opened right at 9 a.m. Monday morning, even after over 30 inches of snow had fallen since lifts closed last Tuesday. Unfortunately, high temperatures and high winds over the closure didn't quite preserve the snowpack as many would have liked.

Hospitality groups in the area were also slammed as they tried to find alternative lodging for their guests. Jackson Hole Resort Lodging, which manages a lot of condos in the Village, made 187 calls on the first day. JHMR is still working on all the collecting data, but right now they are estimating that the power outage will have cost the Village upwards of 5 million dollars in lost revenue.

Anna also told us crazy stories about 90 miles per hour winds, JHMR employees sleeping in their offices all week and Lower Valley Energy crews working around the clock to get power back up and running as soon as possible.

While a week without pow or power is hard on everyone affected, there was overwhelmingly positive support from Jackson residents and visitors alike while JHMR, Lower Valley Energy, Teton Fire Department and Jackson Hole Ski Patrol worked tirelessly to get us all back into the mountains yesterday.

We owe you all a huge thank you, and damn, it feels great to be back.

Addie Drinkwater and Julie Kukral contributed to this story.

About The Author

stash member Teton Gravity Research

It all began with a dream and a little cash scraped together from fishing in Alaska... Since 1995, we've been an action sports media company committed to fueling progression through our ground-breaking films (37 and counting) and online content.

It’s going to be incredibly exciting for customers to be able to come to the mountain and have something new to ski. -