Skin Tracks Versus Lift Lines

Grand Targhee Resort seeks to expand into prime backcountry terrain

Photo: Howie Gerber

October 9, 2020

The public comment period is open until October 12, 2020. Comment today to help us push back against Targhee’s plans to expand into Teton Canyon.

Grand Targhee has long been Teton Valley’s community ski hill, known for it’s laid-back atmosphere and uncrowded slopes. Recently, however, the resort submitted an expansion proposal to the Forest Service that could turn Grand Targhee into a busy resort along the lines of Teton Village and Jackson Hole Mountain Resort. The proposed development has serious implications for backcountry skiing, wildlife, and Wilderness on the west side of the Tetons. We’re particularly concerned about the resort’s proposal to expand into Teton Canyon, a beloved backcountry ski zone.

Thanks to the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), the Forest Service has to develop and analyze a number of different alternatives to what Grand Targhee has proposed, including the option of not approving the project at all. Then, they will make a final decision that is informed by this analysis. The current proposal is just a starting point. Ideally, with public comments, community conversations, and thoughtful Forest Service decision-making, the final decision will preserve backcountry opportunities, protect wildlife, and meet Grand Targhee’s needs.

Earlier this month the Caribou Targhee National Forest initiated a comment period to collect input on Grand Targhee’s proposal. The alternatives that the Forest Service develops will be influenced by what they hear from the public during this scoping period. You can learn about the proposal at grandtargheeresorteis.org, or you can check out the official Forest Service project page.

In addition to proposing many new developments within the existing resort boundary, Grand Targhee has proposed expanding into two new areas – South Bowl in Teton Canyon, and Mono Trees, which is southwest of the base area. South Bowl is bordered on two sides by the Jedediah Smith Wilderness and is highly valued by backcountry skiers who appreciate the solitude (and fresh turns!) it provides in contrast to some of the busier places in the Teton area. If South Bowl were to be incorporated into the resort, backcountry skiers would not only lose access to this terrain, it would become much more difficult to tour into the adjacent Wilderness. There’s also a mineral lick in Teton Canyon that provides critical nutrients for the imperield Teton bighorn sheep herd and we worry that expanding the ski resort into Teton Canyon will discourage sheep from visiting this site.

The purpose of this scoping period is for the public to tell the Forest Service what issues they need to address as they develop and analyze different alternatives for this project. You have until October 12 to tell the Forest Service what issues you want them to consider in the draft Environmental Impact Statement.

The Forest Service has requested comments via their online form. When you comment, we encourage you to tell the Forest Service that South Bowl is no place for a ski resort and that they need to consider how expanding into Teton Canyon or Mono Trees will impact backcountry skiing and wildlife, as well as the possible impacts that the proposed developments could have on skier experiences in the Jedediah Smith Wilderness.