teton pass

A webcam image of Teton Pass looking west during midday on Tuesday shows a few parking slots open. Come Saturday, parking is generally completely socked in with vehicles waiting for openings.

In an effort to cut down on the typical parking mess and hitchhiking skiers that clog the top of Teton Pass most weekends during the winter, a free shuttle will be working the highway this Saturday.

The shuttle was organized by the Teton Backcountry Alliance with the help of Rendezvous River Sports in Jackson, Wyo., and will haul skiers and boarders to the top of the pass from both the east and west sides. The effort is being done on a trial basis in hopes of demonstrating the economic viability of the service.

“We know that a single day of free shuttles is not the solution,” said Gary Kofinas, Alliance steering committee chairman in a press release. “We are excited to use this event as a catalyst for a shuttle systems solution in the future.”

The Teton Backcountry Alliance was formed to find solutions to challenges facing winter backcountry use. The Alliance conducted a survey this past spring to identify concerns and solutions for Teton Pass. The survey looked at closures, educating users, jammed parking and avalanches. About 68 percent of the respondents said shuttles were part of the crowding solution.

The Alliance plans to use Rendezvous River Sports vans usually driven for summer rafting shuttle trips. Kofinas and Aaron Pruzan, Rendezvous River Sports owner, will be among the drivers. The service will start at 9 a.m. and go until 3 p.m. They plan an up-and-over routine starting at the Old Pass Road trailhead, with a stop at Phillips Bench, the top of Teton Pass and the Coal Creek trailhead. The shuttle will then reverse the drive back stopping at the same locations. The shuttle will leave at the top of the hour from the Old Pass Road trailhead.

“The use on Teton Pass grows every single year and as people use this area and brag about their endeavors and their awesome lines, more and more people are encouraged to come and get in on the fun,” said Peggie dePasquale a spokesman for the Alliance last spring. “It is really getting to a tipping point where the area is not able to deal with the amount of people who are coming through and utilizing it and putting a lot of commuters at risk as they ski these lines over the road.”

The Alliance plans two more free shuttle days, one in February and one in March. The hope is a shuttle service will step in and offer a service throughout the winter.