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Split ski admin serves 2 forests

December 3, 2018

After a year without a go-between for its three ski resorts, the Bridger-Teton National Forest has a ski area administrator back on staff.

And so does the Caribou-Targhee National Forest.

Sean McGinness, who started last week, is the new employee being split between the national forests. The extended hiring process wasn’t ideal, but it’s finally completed, said Bridger-Teton Resources Staff Officer Pam Bode, who will supervise McGinness.

“We have had a very slow process in filling vacant positions because of funding,” Bode said, “and some concern about the number of federal employees.”

McGinness succeeds retired Bridger-Teton employee Ray Spencer, though in an adapted role. The job is a big one, as McGinness will serve as the forests’ chief liaison to the Bridger-Teton’s Jackson Hole Mountain Resort, Snow King Mountain Resort and White Pine Ski Resort; and also the Caribou-Targhee’s Kelly Canyon Ski Resort, Pebble Creek Ski Area and Grand Targhee Resort. On top of that, he’ll manage the Bridger-Teton Avalanche Center and supervise its staff.

McGinness told the Jackson Hole Daily he’s excited about the challenges and perks of the new role.

“I get to manage a world-class avalanche forecasting center that’s staffed with what I believe are the best in the business,” McGinness said. “And I’m going to administer these six ski area permits, all while living in Jackson, Wyoming.

“By my standards, I’ve been offered a dream job, and I feel fortunate for the opportunity.”

With U.S. Forest Service budgets perpetually strapped, it’s not unprecedented for the agency to appoint a ski area administrator with such a wide scope of duties. Similar arrangements have been made at some Colorado national forests before the Bridger-Teton and Caribou-Targhee gave it a shot here.

A 22-year Forest Service veteran, McGinness has a background in wildland firefighting, recreation and wilderness management, as well as, most recently, ski area administration. Near Lake Tahoe, California, he worked with the Kirkwood, Heavenly, Homewood and Diamond Peak ski resorts.

A professional pastime from his days in Tahoe was operating a howitzer gun for avalanche mitigation, a duty he’ll give up in the office-based job in Jackson Hole.

“Interestingly enough,” McGinness said, “months before I got here, Jackson Hole Mountain Resort relinquished their howitzer, and it went to the Utah Department of Transportation before I picked it up as a spare for Kirkwood.”

An initial goal for McGinness in the new gig is to standardize the permit administration across both forests. He also intends to mentor some snow rangers, so the Forest Service can have better on-the-ground presence at the six ski resorts on its property in northwest Wyoming and eastern Idaho.

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