Packed lots could lead to changes next winter

March 21, 2019

The strategy to reduce traffic on the route to Teton Village has been a success over the past 20 years, a report finds. But this winter’s full buses and parking lots could force changes for next winter.

Teton Village is required to report every two years on how it’s managing and ideally minimizing traffic on the road between Jackson Hole Mountain Resort and town, per the resort’s 1998 master plan. That plan called for measures like employer-purchased bus passes for workers, expansions to the pathway system connecting town and the Village, free transit from Stilson, paid parking at the Village and an incentive to carpool.

According to the report, while skier visits have increased 67 percent since 1998, employees in the Village have increased 78 percent and lodging beds have increased 143 percent. In contrast, the weekday traffic volume has increased only 17 percent and weekend volume 16 percent. Without the traffic management plan, an analysis predicts that weekend traffic volumes would be at 12,300 to 13,500 vehicles per day rather than the current 8,700.

“We’re really proud of this success,” said Melissa Turley, director of the Teton Village Association, “to show that in the midst of increased development, increased skier days, we’ve been able to maintain those traffic counts.”

The Ikon Pass, which grants bargain access to several resorts including Jackson Hole, has been many skiers’ scapegoat for a season of unusually long lift lines and packed parking lots. But the resort also saw historic snowfall, which also drew crowds.

“It’s no big secret there’s been a bit of a paradigm shift this year in the number of people skiing at JHMR,” Teton County Commissioner Greg Epstein said at a meeting last week. “And a lot of it is the number of people actually driving to the ski area.”

In response, Turley said, discussions are underway to fix transportation problems for next season. Under consideration, she said, is upping the rates for daily parking as well as season passes, expanding parking at Stilson — which has filled several times this season — and requiring vehicles to carry four people to qualify for free parking at the Ranch Lot. The current carpool minimum is three.

In the past, Turley said, the Village has seen a direct correlation between increasing parking prices and decreasing parking demand, so the trend should continue if further changes are made.

Commissioner Mark Barron suggested the next steps for managing Village traffic are master planning Stilson, increasing the frequency and number of summer trips from town to Teton Village and increasing commuter trips on transit.