The backcountry gate has never been done at Targhee. The concept is like that at Jackson. In 2000 Jackson introduced its open-gate policy allowing riders to access the backcountry via gates located at various places on the mountain.
Targhee has had the Mary’s Nipple access, but that was not always open because it lies within the resort’s permit boundary, and avalanche control was done by the resort’s ski patrol. That’s the big difference people don’t often understand, said Kurt Kluegel, the Forest Service liaison with Targhee in the Teton Basin Ranger District.
“In the past, access to the backside of the resort was dependent on whether Mary’s Nipple was open – skiers and riders exited the resort boundary into the backcountry from an area beyond the resort boundary into the backcountry from an area beyond the Mary’s Nipple gate,” said Ski Patrol Director Joe Calder in a press release. “The new gate location provides consistent access to the backcountry, allowing experienced guests to exit our boundary at any time, independent of patrol operation on Mary’s Nipple.”
The Scotty’s Gate will be out of the way of avalanche control and open to riders at all times, regardless of whether the Mary’s access is open or not. Now the decision to stay in or out of bounds rests squarely on the shoulders of its customers.
An incident near the end of the ski season last year led to debate about whether the resort could control public access to a national forest. Two skiers ducked the resort boundary past Mary’s Nipple when a closure was in effect. Both had their passes pulled by the resort and were issued citations by the Teton County, Wyo. Sheriff’s Department. One of the skiers was slapped with a no trespass order at Targhee until the resort sees it fit to lift the ban.
Kluegel said he’s been pushing for the resort to install a gate for the past six years and that the Forest Service fully supports the gate. His job, he said, is to ensure that people have access to Forest Service land and this gate helps accomplish that.
The north end of the resort won’t have an access gate. Kluegel said resort officials felt like it wasn’t a safe backcountry skiing option. The access to the South Leigh drainage is also difficult to access if people get stuck out there. A man died last season after skiing past the northern resort boundary after becoming disoriented on the mountain.
To help sharpen backcountry skills, Targhee has added a new Beacon Park this year, thanks to a donation from Christian Santelices and efforts from GTR Ski Patrol. In the park, guests are able to practice finding buried avalanche transceivers at the base of the resort. GTR ski patrol will activate three different beacons each day for practice. Guests must wear their own beacons, and patrol-led clinics will be scheduled throughout the winter.
Grand Targhee will begin winter operations on Nov. 26.