Targhee employee housing

Construction is underway on 16 Grand Targhee employee housing units near the Fifth Street shuttle stop in Driggs. The units have 96 bedrooms total, each with its own bathroom and closet.

Last month, Grand Targhee Ski Resort put out the word about some major projects in the works on and off the mountain, with the cost totaling over $20 million in investment.

Aside from the installation of the new Blackfoot lift in 2017, the resort has seen little in the way of large-scale capital improvements or big base upgrades. That changed this winter as construction began on the large equipment maintenance facility on Forest Service land.

The old facility roof collapsed under snow in 2019, forcing base and mountain operations to make do in temporary spaces. The new 13,000-square-foot structure is home to state-of-the-art systems and equipment, said resort marketing director Jennie White. The resort also purchased two new grooming machines.

Meanwhile, on the corner of Johnson Avenue and Ruby Street in Driggs, construction is underway on 16 employee housing units. With 96 bedrooms total, the modular houses will accommodate a significant portion of the resort’s seasonal employees; the first eight rentals are scheduled to be ready by June of this year and the remaining eight will be finished by August.

“Those units will be amazing,” White said. “They’re looking really good.”

Grand Targhee is required to provide some amount of employee housing by the Teton County, Wyoming Land Development Regulations. That amount will increase as more of the base area is built out.

The long-awaited Peaked Lift, first approved by the Forest Service in 1994, is slated to be a reality by the winter of 2022-23. The six-chair lift will transport skiers 1,815 vertical feet to gladed terrain that is currently used for guided cat skiing (next winter will be the last opportunity to take a cat skiing trip on the west slopes of Peaked). When the snow melts this upcoming season, crews will build footings and foundations for the base and summit terminal and lay cable and communications lines to the area. White said the installation shouldn’t disrupt trail use on Peaked this summer. The lift towers are expected to go in next summer.

Despite COVID-19 precautions and limits on day tickets, Grand Targhee reported a banner year thanks to bustling season pass sales; total visits were up 17 percent over the resort’s record winter of 2017/18. Day ticket sales were down but season pass visits were up by 35 percent, according to numbers released by the resort.

“Due to the efforts of many dedicated employees and the support of our guests and partners during challenging times, Grand Targhee is fortunate to be able to announce these projects,” White wrote in a press release.

Some locals complained this year that the ski hill felt crowded, particularly with parking lots filling quickly on powder days and weekends. In response, the resort plans to increase parking capacity next winter by 32 percent by expanding Lot 3 (the Nordic lot) into where the old maintenance facility stood, and expanding and improving access to Lot 4. There will also be defined shuttle stops in the lower lots and improved traffic flow through all the main lots.

With the hill closed to guests, work can begin on the base area as well. Grand Targhee has approval from Teton County, Wyoming, to increase its lodging and residential amenities, but that process is starting slowly with a Teewinot Lodge renovation. All windows, mattresses and drapes will be replaced. Then next fall, each wing will see new furniture, bathrooms, carpeting and heating/AC units.

None of these projects are affected by the ongoing environmental impact study process as the resort seeks approval from the Forest Service for upgrades and expansions of its special use permit area on public land. An interdisciplinary team is now studying the various impacts of development in order to draft a series of alternatives, which are expected to come out in late summer 2021.