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September 1, 2014
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Will the King Continue to Reign?

After hitting a monetary mogul field, town icon balances on the block

Standing strong as a community icon, the snow-covered slopes of Snow King Mountain rise abruptly above the edge of Jackson.

Standing strong as a community icon, the snow-covered slopes of Snow King Mountain rise abruptly above the edge of Jackson.

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Some call it the best ski racing hill in America. Its slopes provide a backdrop to the town of Jackson. You can’t quantify its economic benefit.

Snow King has been the town babysitter, youth coach, Olympic training ground. Hundreds hike up it on summer days. On winter powder mornings you’ll see a dozen ski tracks down the mountain before the lifts begin to run.

With a storied ski history that dates back more than eighty years, the Town Hill would seem to be everlasting. Which is why 10,000 denizens of the alpine town at its foot stopped in their tracks last spring when the resort manager said he wouldn’t run the lifts this winter.

The math was simple to general manager and partner Manuel Lopez; in a troubled real estate market with the Snow King Resort hotel on the hook for loans financing hotel and condominium expansion, it was time for somebody else to lose money on the recreational amenities—the three-lift ski hill and ice rink.

Since his announcement, Lopez has negotiated a course with as many twists and turns as the Alpine Slide he installed on the side of the mountain. He surrendered operation of the ice rink to the town of Jackson, far in arrears in rent. He negotiated with the nonprofit Friends of Snow King for a takeover. At the eleventh hour of those talks, he left the group at the altar and the community in the dark, saying he would indeed run the ski area this winter.

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