JHDaily Article: King coaster opens Sunday

By Ben Graham Jackson Hole Daily | Posted: Saturday, October 3, 2015 4:30 am

A new alpine coaster that is supposed to help financially sustain Snow King Mountain Resort opens Sunday. For $21, thrill-seekers will be able to zoom down the mountain through four corkscrew turns, reaching top speeds as high as 27 mph. “I’m pretty excited,” Snow King General Manager Ryan Stanley said. “I’ve been working on it in one way or another for three years now.” Stanley has taken several test runs down the ride, which is being called the “Cowboy Coaster.” He described it as “surprisingly smooth and quiet.” The coaster is part of a $15 million suite of projects that have been undertaken since Max Chapman took over as president of the group that runs the Town Hill last year. By next week construction also will be 99 percent complete on a ropes course dubbed “Treetop Adventure Park.”

A new base lodge and restaurant are supposed to be done by December. The Rafferty lift was replaced earlier this year. The alpine coaster was one of the more controversial projects approved for the ski hill. The Jackson Town Council agreed last November on an expedited approval process for the attraction that skirted public review and irked residents and community organizations. Some were upset that the public wasn’t able to give much input. Others objected to a carnival-style ride on the historic ski hill, which has been struggling to stay financially afloat in recent years. But the council decision led to an $8 million capital infusion by investors, owners of the ski area said.

The results are now visible from the valley floor. At its highest point, the coaster reaches 43 feet, according to a press release. Carts carrying two people each are hauled 400 vertical feet uphill on 1,660 linear feet of track. From their apex they race down 3,295 feet of track. The ride lasts about seven minutes, Stanley said. The coaster will operate daily through Oct. 18. It will then close for several weeks before its grand opening, planned for December. Then it will operate year-round, Snow King officials have said.

The price of a ticket is based on height. People 4-foot-6 and taller pay full price. A passenger has to be at least 3-foot-2 to ride. For those between that height and the full-price height, the cost is $8. Ski resort officials also have announced plans for phase 2 of the hill’s overhaul. Plans include a gondola, a summit-to-base zipline and a boundary expansion that would make the resort two-thirds larger.

More details on phase 2 are expected to be revealed soon.