Catastrophic failure 🚧

On a bend at milepost 12.8, Teton Pass “catastrophically failed,” according to the Teton County branch of the transportation department. 📸 Wyoming Department of Transportation

For five years, I drove back and forth over Teton Pass every day. The 45- minutes between my house in Victor, Idaho, and the Jackson Hole Mountain Guides office in Jackson, Wyoming, became a routine. NPR and coffee in the mornings. My latest playlist in the evenings. The routine wasn’t meditative. Frankly, spending an hour and a half driving the 50 miles with 4,000 feet of climbing up a mountain pass every day sucked. But, like a good chunk of Jackson’s workers, the wage I made wasn’t enough to pay for the cost of living, so I commuted from the more affordable Teton Valley.

On Saturday, the Wyoming Department of Transportation put out a special announcement: catastrophic failure at milepost 12.8 on Teton Pass. What started as an 8-inch crack on Thursday, turned into a massive landslide, taking a hairpin turn with it. Teton Pass will be closed indefinitely. The 3,200 commuters who live in Teton Valley and work in Jackson will have to drive around the Snake River Range to the south, adding 60 miles and at least an hour each way.

The problem of ski town workforces being pushed out to more affordable satellite communities isn’t unique to Jackson. Aspen has Carbondale. Tahoe has Truckee. Breckenridge has Silverthorne. But what happens when the town is cut off from its workforce? And I don’t just mean the restaurant workers and resort employees. Jackson’s nurses, teachers, public safety and tradespeople are all now questioning if they should suck up the four-plus hours of daily driving or look for other jobs in their own communities. The next few weeks will be a bellwether for other resort towns that have kicked the can on workforce housing. How will Jackson take care of their commuters? Officials have made promises of short-term workforce housing and a temporary fix on Teton Pass. Still, locals are skeptical and with good reason. Over my decade in the Tetons, I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve watched affordable housing proposals get killed because a second homeowner doesn’t want to see an apartment building or the traffic wouldn’t be good for the neighborhood (looking at you, Rafter J).

The reality is that this isn’t just a catastrophic road failure. It’s a failure of a community. A patch on Teton Pass won’t fix Jackson’s problems, but perhaps this could be a trigger for meaningful change. —Betsy Manero

On my Coffee Table

No. 151 | The Isolation Issue

If you’re looking for some aspirational inspiration, the ends of the earth are a good place to start. That’s what No. 151 is all about. Each time I pick up the issue, though, it’s not just the extreme locations that strike me, it’s the people and their connections to these places, their curiosity to explore and desire to share it with others that really hits home. Plus, it’s just some great summer pleasure ski reading 🙃. —Greta

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Winter, wherever you are.

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There is something to be said for the interwoven exploration of history and land. Whether it’s from the perspective of fur traders and glade-cutting teleskiers on Quebec’s Gaspé Peninsula; via the curious lens of a photographer traversing Morocco’s Mgoun Massif; recognizing the impact of the 10th Mountain Division on U.S. backcountry skiing and mountaineering; or from a thoughtful writer’s investigation of what “home” means in Colorado’s mountains.

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These are the histories, the stories and the efforts that bridge past and present and shape a better future for our sport. Subscribe now to get the issue.

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