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Friday, September 23, 2011
Wyoming's Snow King ski area for sale

By Brigid Mander
ESPN.com

The top lift shack at Snow King.

One of the latest in the line of ski resorts facing financial woes, the saga of Snow King, Jackson Hole's iconic town ski hill, has picked up speed, as the owner of the resort announced earlier this month that the entire ski hill, conference center, and hotel are up for sale again.

"Years ago I thought a certain level of losses were manageable in the overall sense," said Snow King owner Manuel Lopez. "The hotel, conference center and condominiums are very profitable, but the mountain losses in the winter have been increasing. We were looking at selling the resort in parts but decided that would be very complex unless any divisions were carefully designed and orchestrated."

Last year, when Lopez announced that the recreational division was headed for the market, the town government and a group of residents tried to negotiate a deal where the ski hill would operate under a newly formed non-profit, Friends of Snow King. However, negotiations broke down over the summer as the involved parties could not agree on terms and conditions for this central asset of the town.

Snow King currently operates under a Zoned Resort District for which the master development plan allows for over 567,000 square feet of additional buildings and 1,188 additional guests, said Lopez. Rising steeply over the center of Jackson, 465-acre Snow King overlooks the Tetons, the Gros Ventres, and is adjacent to millions of acres of National Forest and trails. The land has water rights and the town's cell tower on its summit as well.

Currently the largest private employer in the town of Jackson, this acreage is also large percentage of the scarce and coveted land development rights in town. "We would love to have a buyer that would keep the whole resort together, be a good steward for this unique asset and bring it to an even greater level," said Lopez. "We have many interested parties that are looking at submitting proposals," he added.

Founded in 1939, Snow King was one of the first lift-served ski areas in the United States and the first in Jackson Hole.

Also founded in 1939 but less fortunate in location is Wyoming's White Pine Ski Area, about 80 miles southeast of Jackson in the Wind River Range. White Pine has announced that Oct. 1 will be the ski area's last day of operations.

While a popular local ski hill, without additional tourist traffic, the skiing population of Pinedale and Sublette County does not generate sufficient income to enable the ski hill to continue operations. "This past season's financial data reinforces that the Sublette County market alone cannot financially support the current private sector winter skiing operations," Bonnie Chambers, of Citizens to Save White Pine told the Wyoming Business Report. "The decision to not open for the upcoming season was purely a heavy-hearted business decision."