In the November 2019 election, Teton County voters approved $22 million, via the SPET initiative’s Proposition #9, for “Teton County/Jackson Recreation Center Expansion and Renovation, Community Climbing Gym, King Street Extension, and Stormwater Treatment.”

In June, The Teton Climbers’ Coalition (TCC) created a survey to gather community input that could be used to inform the gym’s development.

The survey was published in both Spanish and English. More than 300 community members completed the survey, with more than 84% of respondents indicating that they voted for Proposition 9 specifically because of the climbing gym.

Survey responses, which have been shared with Teton County Parks and Recreation Department, may be found here.

One of the strongest responses elicited by the survey came in regards to the gym’s proposed 5,750 square feet of climbing area. (The Enclosure Climbing Gym, which closed in 2014, had 10,000 square feet of climbing area.)

More than 85% of respondents indicated that the 5,750 square feet would be inadequate for the needs of the community.

  • “Way too small,” wrote one. “Don’t even bother building a climbing gym if it’s only 5,000 [square feet],” wrote another.
  • “This gym has got to be big (at least Enclosure sized) to be a worthwhile climbing facility and not constantly crowded.”
  • “Make it big and amazing,” encouraged a third.

Responses comprised a broad range of county demographics. 60% of respondents indicated they were 35 years old or older; nearly the same percentage (57%) have lived in Jackson longer than 10 years. More than half of the respondents indicated they live in households with 3 or more inhabitants, while 44% have children 17 years old or younger in their homes.

A number of respondents referenced Jackson’s mountaineering legacy when commenting about the gym.

  • “Teton County is a world class mountain destination,” wrote one respondent. “It deserves a world class climbing gym.”
  • “In our unique community it is essential that we promote climbing to reflect our mountain culture,” wrote another.
  • A third noted, “A proper modern climbing gym is critical to the town of Jackson if it wants to continue its tradition as a central place for American climbing/mountaineering.”

Survey results indicated that the gym will be a family affair. In response to the question, “If you have children, will they use the gym?” 89% of respondents either answered “Yes” (63%) or “Maybe” (26%).

Separate areas for kids emerged as a priority, with more than 50% of respondents indicating they would like to see a kid- and beginner-specific climbing area that’s separated from the main climbing area, and more than 75% indicated that children’s birthday parties should be restricted to the separate area.

Responses provided a number of other key insights important to the gym’s management, such as:

  • More than 94% of respondents indicated they would use the gym one or more times per week
    • 31% of respondents would use the gym 1-2 times per week.
    • 41% would use it 2-3 times per week.
    • 15% would use it 3-4 times per week, while 8% would use it more than 4 days per week
  • The busiest usage would occur Thursdays after 5 p.m.
  • 89% indicated they wanted to see a mix of bouldering and roped climbing in the gym.

Almost 90% of respondents indicated that the gym should either be managed by specialized staff with specific climbing gym training (79%) or run by an independent climbing gym company (10%).

Other responses pointed to the importance of route setting: 93% of respondents indicated that high quality route setting was either important (22%) or very important (71%) to them.

As one respondent wrote, “Regardless of the size of the gym, having route setters come up monthly or every two months … should be factored into the budget. High-quality route setting is critical.”

“Good route setting = customer retention,” said another.

Additional insights that could help with the gym’s development are as follows:

  • “One thing that is important to me with climbing gyms is having female route setters, because it increases the diversity of climbs (especially for different body types) and females can get overlooked in climbing. Having regular women’s climbing events would be an incredible addition as well.”
  • “[Climbing is] an activity that can be enjoyed at a high level for all ages and genders. Another benefit is for young women; I have seen self esteem and confidence grow as they mature. It is also a sport for the child that doesn’t ‘fit’ the team sports model.”
  • “The gym could serve as a community gathering ground for film events, learning opportunities from local guiding outfitters, and an opportunity for local children to grow into the sport of climbing in a safe manner.”
  • “A community climbing league would be super cool too!”

Overall, though, one of the main themes that emerged from the survey was sheer enthusiasm. Comments such as, “I am very excited to go climbing there when it opens!”, “It’s about time!!!!”, and “lets goooooooooo” peppered the responses.

Wrote one respondent, “I’m so thankful that something is happening … because my husband and I have felt like there are not great and healthy ways to socialize during winter evenings without it in this town. We have really missed the gym!!”

“The community’s response to the survey has been amazing,” said Christian Beckwith, TCC Chair. “It underscores the county-wide desire for a great gym—and also highlights the emphasis the community places on getting the gym right.”