The Statue of Liberty disappearing from New York Harbor. Santa Claus shaving his beard. After 40 years of faithful service, Jackson Hole's tram will shut down next September. And given an estimated $20 million replacement cost, the resort doesn't have any plans for a new one.
Having debuted in 1966 to great fanfare, the old girl is starting to show her age. "It's operating fine. However, down the road it will reach a point of compromised operation," says Jackson's spokeswoman Anna Olson. "We wanted to get ahead of the situation."
What the resort is getting is an earful from locals and visitors alike. "There's disbelief," says 11-year resident Luke Helm. "It's hard to fathom the mountain without the tram." Olson says everyone likes the idea of a new tram, but "as a business, we cannot afford to put in a new one." While the resort is investigating local, state and federal funding options, "we cannot presume that we'll get money from outside, so we're looking at alternatives." One of those is replacing the tram with some configuration of a gondola and chairlifts to the 10,450-foot summit.
With a capacity of 52 passengers, the tram climbs 4,139 feet in 12 minutes-and is one of the quickest ways to access 4,000-plus vertical feet of prime North American skiing. However, with a new generation of plush high-speed quads and gondolas, many skiers now view a standup tram as a picturesque-but ultimately dated-means of transportation.