Printed on: April 01, 2013

Jackson's Snow King resort undergoes major remodel

RICHARD ANDERSON
Jackson Hole News & Guide

JACKSON, Wyo. (AP) - Stepping off the elevator on the fifth floor of the east wing of Snow King Resort, a damp mustiness creeps up on you.

While leading a tour of the lodge recently, Jim Goslin, its director of sales and marketing for the past six years, said that in some parts of the hotel the carpets, wall treatments and ceiling tiles haven't been touched since the place was built in 1976.

The $16 million the resort's new owner, JMI Realty, is sinking into a wall-to-wall remodel is, therefore, kind of overdue.

"It was always the intention to purchase and renovate the hotel and to bring it back to its glory days," said Craig Waterman, for the past eight months the hotel's general manager under JMI and the group that is running the property, Benchmark Hospitality International.

While some new owners might have scrapped part or all of Snow King and started over, JMI decided not to.

"It's an iconic part of town," Waterman said. "This hotel for a lot of reasons is the town hotel for business, tourists, conferences."

Countless residents have stayed there or worked there, have some personal connection to Snow King, he said.

"There's a lot of value in it as it is," Waterman tells the Jackson Hole News & Guide (http://bit.ly/XjYedX). "The building is spectacular, the structure is fantastic - it has great bones, as we say."

Besides, under today's building codes, height regulations and the like, no one would be able to build a hotel in downtown Jackson anything like Snow King.

Originally designed by New York architects Al DeVido and John McFadyen and former Jackson Hole architect Bob Corbett - who also designed the Grand Teton Music Festival's Walk Festival Hall at about the same time - the 204-room hotel has seen some piecemeal renovation over the years. In 2000, for example, the front desk and lobby got makeovers.

This time around, though, every room will be gutted and renovated, Goslin said, and virtually every other space in the hotel - from the Timberline meeting rooms and the Atrium Restaurant to the arcade and elevators - will receive at least a face-lift.

The process started last year with a new roof on the east wing of the lodge and four or five coats of new stain on the exterior.

Work moved indoors late last year, and by mid-March the western wing of Snow King was a full-on construction zone. That wing holds 102 rooms, and all of them were in the process of getting new carpets, new furniture, new drapes. Each bathroom was redone as well, in most cases with a wall being moved to make more room for the vanity and sink.

Come April 8, the entire building will close - any guests still staying at Snow King will be put up in the resort's Love Ridge condos - and the rooms of the east wing will get similar treatment.

At the same time, work will begin on all offices and common areas. Some of the old office space will be rebuilt as a real business center instead of a just a few computers scattered in various places around the lobby area, Goslin said. Also included are a new bathroom, changing rooms and fitness center right off the pool area, where Hoback Sports has been running a ski rental and repair operation during the winter.

In early June, the target to complete the project, the hotel will reopen with Hoback Sports offering year-round rentals of bikes, skis and other gear out of the 2,000-square-foot space that since 1976 has been the Shady Lady Saloon. Goslin said rolling barn-type doors will open directly from the shop to the ski slopes or bike trails.

"We're remodeling the space so it's specifically for them," Goslin said. "It will be a real sporting goods store instead of a meeting room" that is converted to a ski shop each winter.

Snow King won't be out of a bar, however. It will be integrated into one of the larger projects of the remodel: the complete reconfiguration of the second-floor Atrium Restaurant.

Right now, the Atrium has one bank of glass doors and windows that look southeast over the pool area. The remodel will remove an entire wall that separates the dining room from a west-facing room often used as a meeting space. A new bar will  separate the main dining room from a lounge area, though the high ceiling will remain open. And the southern wall of the restaurant will be replaced with windows and glass doors that will access a wrap-around deck.

"We just think the windows that are going to be surrounding it will create a dramatic view of the town, the ski hill, the national forest," said Goslin. "We envision it to be kind of the heart to the resort, the restaurant will be that core."

A San Francisco restaurant firm has been hired to reinvent the menu "to make something the town doesn't have," Goslin said.

The Grand Ballroom will get new carpets, chandeliers, tables and other treatments, and the kitchen will be slightly reconfigured.

"A big part of what we want to do is make it more Western, more Wyoming," said Waterman. "I think what you'll find will be a good blend of Western culture and feel."

The hotel's furnishings have been "generic," Waterman said.

"You could find this in any hotel in any city," he said, gesturing to the chairs and couches in the lobby.

The physical space of the lobby won't change, but leather and weathered barn wood, Western art and images of Wyoming's Rocky Mountain landscapes and a "Tip of the Hat" Western hospitality will mark the new brand throughout the hotel, Waterman said.

Goslin said that between the renovation, work at Snow King Sports and Events Center, and Snow King Mountain Recreation's plans for ziplines, mountain bike trails and other attractions, the southern edge Jackson could begin attracting more tourists.

"Nobody had enough money to do everything," he said, "but broken into pieces, we're all able to grow, and that's very positive for the town."