Interview with Jennie White, Director of Marketing - Grand Targhee

Why Targhee when Jackson is just down the road? I will tell you why.

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I love the Teton Valley in summer and winter. Great hiking in the summer, great powder skiing in the winter. The “other side” of the Tetons from Jackson Hole and Grand Teton National Park. I have been going here for many years now. I had a chance to sit down with Jennie White, director of marketing at Grand Targhee Resort on 1-28-21. Here is a summary of our conversation and some comments/opinions of mine after skiing Targhee and Jackson to wrap things up. I will write up the conversation as quotes but I didn’t record the conversation so I am paraphrasing.

Scott

Hi Jennie, thanks so much for chatting with me. So what is your story? How did you end up here running marketing for this magical place?

Jennie

Well, back in the day all my friends were getting jobs in Silicon Valley, working very hard so they could go on vacation to places like Grand Targhee. I decided to work at a great place like Targhee every day instead. I have been here over 10 years now. I love it.

Scott

How has business been in this crazy Covid year? I have heard and read some interviews with major resorts saying they are just trying to survive this season. Stay open and live to fight another day next season when Covid is not such a factor.

Jennie

We are about on par with last season. Business is good. Of course we are taking Covid precautions like everyone else and so far we had great mask compliance and no significant COVID outbreaks at the resort. Targhee is parking constrained so we really cannot become over crowded. There has only been one weekend this year where we needed to sell out and that was because of an event on the mountain.

Scott

Yes, I experienced that myself yesterday. The parking lot was full and yet the one base lift had a wait of maybe 10 minutes throughout the day. The other lifts had no lines. Literally ski right onto the chair. How does Jackson affect your business? They are such a big name and draw. Does Jackson hurt your business?

Jennie

It is very common for people who ski and stay at Jackson to come over the pass and ski with us for one day. A common reaction is something like, “Wow this is great, so laid back. Next time we will do the opposite. Stay and ski at Targhee and then go to Jackson one day.”

Scott

Tell me about the RV program here. (Parking RV’s in your parking lot.) Has it been a success? A good experience for the resort and the campers?

Jennie

We have been doing this for many years now. It is a small part of the business. During the winter perhaps the maximum we get at one time is 6 or so. During the summer we open up a few more camping spots and maybe get a dozen or so at the most.

Scott

That is what I’m doing now and writing about it, so of course I think there is a great upside to this. Slightly higher density of skiers per “vehicle” with RV’s. If you included (and charged more) for access to the pool, hot tub and shower/locker rooms this would be a big draw. Might be interesting to speak with the folks at Crystal Mountain in Washington. I will work up some numbers to get your feedback. Perhaps also talk with the folks at Crystal Mountain. They provide electricity and even sold “RV season passes” this year. Those spots sold out in seconds! (I wrote a post about this.)

Scott

Multi-resort passes (Epic, Ikon, Mountain Collective, Indy Pass..) have become such a big factor in the industry now. I see you joined Mountain Collective this season. Has this been a big factor in your business?

Jennie

It was an interesting process to join Mountain Collective. The other member resorts must approve new resorts and each resort must be invited. We presented to their committee and were accepted. It has been a good experience for us. Some feel this had been put too many skiers on the mountain but I can tell you that Mountain Collective tickets have never been more than 10% of the total for the day.

Scott

Well thanks so much for your time Jennie. I will send you some follow up information on RV’s. Love to get your opinion. Have a super day. I look forward to seeing you again.

Now for my opinions, thoughts and stories about skiing Jackson and Targhee.

I skied Jackson one day on this trip with my son, nephew and friend from home who happened to be out there. All really strong skiers. My friend had been there for 3 weeks and he stayed one more day to ski with us and act as our guide. (Although I am not a stranger to Jackson as I lived there one season back in the stone ages right out of high school. 1974/75. Yikes, I am almost a senior citizen!) Conditions were good so we got there early and parked in the Cody lot. Ski in ski out but $35 just to park. $175 per ticket. It was another powder day so the avalanche control blasts were still going off. I love those concussion echoes in your stomach as you make your way toward the first chair.

First reaction on skiing down to the tram building and ticket window is wow. The place is packed with people and so over the top developed. Of course it is nicely done but it oozes money. Fours Season Hotel and the like, multiple million dollar homes and condos. Very pretty, upscale and crowded. Coincidently, Time just came out with an article about skiing Jackson Hole in these Covid times. Well written and spot on in my opinion. If they are limiting ticket sales I can’t imagine the mob scene if any more people were sold tickets. At 9 am the tram line is an hour and the base chairs or Gondola is 30 minutes. We went up the “Apre’s Vous” lift and slowly worked our way to the left side of the mountain to the “Sublette” chair where most of the “real men & women” ski. That is where we spent the bulk of the day -15 minute lines all day. But I need to say that really great advanced skiing can be found almost anywhere at Jackson. When it gets crowed one needs to get away from the premier runs and go to chairs like Casper, Teton Quad or Apre’s Vous. Thunder Chair also has great terrain but the line is typically way too long. We went down to the bottom one time by skiing the far edge of the Hobacks. A legendary run at Jackson. It was nuts crowded. People everywhere and bumps! I was aghast, never seen that before at Jackson. Like rush hour traffic.

Just like 40+ years ago, the terrain is Epic but the crowds are a buzz kill. Somewhat dangerous in these Covid times and powder is chewed up in record time.

Skiing Targhee is a very different experience. They get a bit more snow (500 inch average versus 459) and the vibe is completely different. It is like going to the local resort owned by your brother in law. No charge for parking, no private homes, no private condos, no five star restaurants. Just resort owned condos and hotel rooms. Decent but not fancy. Cafeteria and one comfortable restaurant. Smallish pool, hot tub and locker room. See if you can figure out which picture is Jackson and which is Targhee.

Now about skiing Targhee…. When compared to Jackson, it is somewhat like skiing Casper, Teton Quad or Apre’s Vous lifts. Great runs to be sure, but maybe not like some of the jaw dropping stuff at Jackson. If you need to jump off cliffs, go down majestic bowls or film a ski movie with people doing crazy things then Jackson is your place. (But there are a few cliffs at Targhee if you really need to do that kind of thing. Also cat skiing at Targhee if you need untracked all day after the resort is skied out.) If you want powder that is plenty steep enough, lasts for days, no lift lines and pricing that doesn’t cause cardiac arrest then give Targhee a hard look. When you need a little night life or a nice restaurant the towns of Driggs and Victor are only 15-20 minutes away.

Consider staying at Targhee in a hotel, condo or RV. Drive to Jackson for a day mid week when the crowds are down.

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