During the spring of 2019, the Teton Backcountry Alliance (TBCA) developed and administered a survey to Teton Pass (TP) winter recreationists. The survey was prompted by public concerns related to the safety of highway drivers and skiers on TP and the overall quality of the winter recreational experience in the area. The goal of the survey was to document what winter recreationists’ view as the nature of current winter use issues and the preferred and most effective solutions.
1,021 people completed the survey, 88% of which were from the immediate Teton area, and 827 of the respondents reported several concerns with three major concerns:
- Avalanches – both natural and triggered
- User behavior – such as irresponsible behavior, lack of experience and lack of concern for others, recreationists’ sense of entitlement
- Highway Safety – due to possible avalanches causing harm to drivers or closing the pass to traffic
Other concerns were fear of restrictions on users and imposed closures to skiing areas on Teton Pass, problems finding parking and a sense of chaos around the parking situation on top of TP, congestion from too many users; dogs and dog poop; concern from drivers who but pedestrians in dangers; commuter access; out-of-town tourists; guiding; the number of commuters. “Safety” as an overarching concern was also mentioned by some.
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A list of possible short and long-term solutions was generated from discussions at TBCA public meetings, and with one-on-one discussions with members of the community:
- Closures: Most respondents reported that they found a need for restrictions on human presence on Glory Bowl and Twin Slides during periods of avalanched mitigation by WYDOT and during periods of CONSIDERABLE, HIGH, and EXTREME avalanche conditions as defined by the BTNF Avalanche Forecast Center. However, most users report it was not necessary to close these areas to recreational use for the entire winter season. There were mixed perspectives on closing areas above highway road cut.
- People on the Road: There were mixed responses on whether pedestrian traffic should be allowed in the roadbed although the very necessary and somewhat necessary responses were greater than those saying it was not necessary. Most respondents, however, also said hitchhiking should occur only in plowed pull out areas and not areas such as the bottom of Glory Bowl.
- Laws and penalties: There was high agreement that there is a need for laws and strict penalties for those who violate closures or who cause damages.
- Education and Presence: Respondents agreed (very necessary 48%; somewhat necessary 39%) there is a need to expand the Teton Pass Ambassador program to have more ambassadors to communicate directly with winter recreationists. There was overall agreement that better signage on TP stating what is expected of users was very necessary (67%) as well as more on-line information about uses, hazards, laws, and etiquette for users on Teton Pass (48%).
- Parking: Most agreed with the solution that no more than five cars at one time wait for parking on the top of TP and if one arrives to find five cars waiting (36% very necessary; 35% somewhat necessary), they would leave the area to avoid congestion. While 25% reported a parking permit was not necessary on TP, the Shovel Slide overflow lot, Coal Creek, and Philips Bench lots, most reported that it was very necessary (37%) or somewhat necessary (27%). 72% also stated that the will be willing to pay a fee to park if the proceeds went to support the Teton Pass Ambassador Program or facilities on the Pass.
For way more info, responses, and solutions check out the report here. All in all, the survey was a fact-finding endeavor that will be part of what guides long-term change on the pass.