CELEBRATING THE PAST, PRESENT & FUTURE OF TETON CLIMBING

Contact Us: (307) 690-1561

Proposal: create a 2,000-square-foot climbing boulder, adjacent to the Teton Boulder Park, that honors the contributions of the Jenny Lake Rangers to Teton climbing history.

Background: In 2011, The Teton Boulder Project — a public/private partnership between the town of Jackson, Teton County and the Teton climbing community — designed and built the Teton Boulder Park in Phil Baux Park at the base of Snow King as an interactive tribute to the history of Teton mountaineering. 

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Just as smokey conditions gave way to clear skies again in western Wyoming, on August 27th, 2020, fifteen volunteers showed up to contribute to the stewardship project at Rodeo Wall. The group involved climbers from groups such as Exum Mountain Guides, the Town Pump and even Jackson Hole News and Guide!

The primary focus of the Teton Climbers’ Coalition event was the maintenance of the crag’s belay area, where a new retaining wall was built. Additionally, volunteers widened the system trail’s upper section, and installed straw erosion control blankets over informal user-created trails to prevent further erosion and damage of habitat.

A huge thanks to the Community Foundation of Jackson Hole, Teton Mountaineering, Bridger Teton National Forest, The American Alpine Club and Access Fund for giving the TCC the opportunity to contribute to the community by maintaining this local crag! And to our volunteers for a great effort! We hope it was fun, and look forward to seeing you at future Adopt-A-Crag events!

We also hope to return to Rodeo Wall soon to conduct further trail clearing, as well as place a couple of signs regarding responsible climbing in the area, so stay tuned for a potential phase 2!

Check out the event’s coverage by the Jackson Hole News & Guide here.

 

Climbers know: Rodeo Wall needs some love. This August, join us in a project to make Rodeo Wall safer and better by cleaning the top of the cliff of loose rocks and rebuilding the climbing platforms at the base of the routes.

Rodeo Wall is a small limestone crag located some twenty minutes from downtown Jackson and two miles south of Hoback Junction. It is part of the Bridger-Teton National Forest, which comprises 3.4 million acres of some of the most spectacular public land in America. Like all public lands under the current administration, it’s also under assault: the Fiscal Year (FY) 2021 Forest Service budget for discretionary appropriations is $5.3 billion, a decrease of $155.6 million from the FY 2020 Enacted amount.

As the Friends of the Bridger-Teton National Forest website notes:

“The Bridger-Teton National Forest currently lacks the federal resources needed to meet the opportunities and challenges associated with growing recreation and visitor use in the Greater Yellowstone Area. Since 2009, the BTNF has lost nine full-time recreation positions and suffered a 63% decrease in their infrastructure and maintenance budget. This reality can affect our wildlife, our watersheds and our communities’ support for public lands.”

You can help.

On Thursday, August 27, The Teton Climbers’ Coalition will conduct an “adopt-a-crag” of the local climbing area. We encourage our climbing community to step forward and become an active steward of your public lands. Help us to preserve and protect one of our favorite local climbing area and show land managers that climbers are responsible stewards, which in turn promotes access.

Volunteers are needed to help with several projects, such as belay platform restoration and general trail maintenance. Please meet at the Rodeo Wall turn out at 3:00 PM to register and receive a project assignment. Due to limited parking, carpooling is suggested, but please wear a mask while carpooling, to avoid exposure to COVID-19. Bring a bottle of water, work appropriate clothes, closed toe shoes, gloves, sunblock, insect repellent and face mask (please wear any time you are within 6 feet of another human). Water station, refreshments and snacks will be provided. 

All volunteers must complete a Volunteer Application and Waiver. We encourage volunteers, if possible, to sign up online prior to the event. This will allow us to better plan. Please send your application to info@tetonclimbers.com. Last minute volunteers are also welcome!

The Teton Climbers’ Coalition is proud to partner with the Access Fund on the project. The Access Fund’s Adopt a Crag program is about giving back to the climbing areas we use on a regular basis. From the signs in the parking areas, to the established trail systems, to the rocks and boulders where we devote endless hours, climbers are frequent land users, and it is important that we make an effort to maintain and care for that land. Adopt a Crag encourages climbing communities to engage local land managers, landowners, park service employees and forest rangers in conversation about ways to preserve and protect their favorite climbing areas. It is this dedication to climbing areas that shows land managers that climbers are responsible stewards, which in turn promotes access.

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.”

 

—Spanish version developed to engage Latino Community—

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.”

To assist with the climbing gym’s development, The Teton Climbers’ Coalition, which has been designated as the climbing gym advisory council by Teton County Parks and Recreation, has developed a survey to help collect information that will inform the gym’s development.

Click here to take the survey in English.

Para tomar la encuesta en Español, haz clic aquí.

The survey includes demographical questions to identify the gym’s user base, as well as questions related to the types of climbing the community would like to see. 

Other questions are designed to help identify which times of the day and days of the week would see the most usage, which in turn could be used to develop operational plans for the gym.

One of the Teton Climbers’ Coalition’s objectives is to help change the cultural narrative of outdoor recreation in Jackson Hole to better serve the Latino population. Accordingly, a Spanish version of the survey is available, and efforts to engage the Latino population in completing it are underway.

Want to learn more about the climbing gym, or contribute your ideas to the TCC? Join us every Tuesday from 6-8 at the Teton Boulder Park for the (socially distant) “We’d Rather Be Higher” happy hours. Meet the TCC board, hear where we’re headed, and share your thoughts and ideas for ways to make the Teton climbing community great again!

We have conducted more than 70 hours of research on climbing facilities around the country, identifying best practices and attributes that will ensure the climbing gym meets our community’s needs. 

Our research identified that trying to fit the climbing gym into 5,750 square feet would create a negative user experience. This in turn would be a poor expenditure of taxpayer dollars.

  • The Enclosure Climbing Gym had 10,000 square feet of climbing space. When it closed in 2014, it had 700 members and had up to 50-100 people in the facility at any given time.
  • Canada’s premier mountaineering town, Canmore, has a population of 13,992. Its gym, Elevation Place, which opened in 2013 as part of the community’s rec center, offers 11,000 square feet of climbing surface. Because it’s in a community center, Elevation Place has thousands of members. 
    • “We should have made our gym bigger because there’s always a wait list,” said Brian Spear, the Climbing Coordinator for the Town of Canmore.  “It’s too busy for a positive experience, so we make them wait. People who work M-F 9-5 are always on the waitlist.”

Want to help? The single most important thing you can do is to reach out to your elected officials.

We’ve created a handy dandy cheat sheet of all the reasons why 5,750 square feet is too small. All you need to do is pick an item or two that resonate with you, drop them into an email and push send—or pick up the phone and give your favorite elected official a shout.

They’d love to hear from you, and the climbing community will forever be in your debt!

Teton County Commissioners

Natalia D. Macker: nmacker@tetoncountywy.gov; (307) 732-8406

Greg Epstein: gepstein@tetoncountywy.gov; (307) 732-8404

Mark Newcomb: mnewcomb@tetoncountywy.gov; (307) 732-8407

Luther Propst: lpropst@tetoncountywy.gov; (307) 732-8405

Mark Barron: mbarron@tetoncountywy.gov; (307) 732-8403

All Commissioners: commissioners@tetoncountywy.gov; (307) 733-8094

Town of Jackson Elected Officials

Pete Muldoon, Mayor: pmuldoon@jacksonwy.gov

Jonathan Schechter: jsforjh@gmail.com

Jim Stanford: jstanford@jacksonwy.gov

Hailey Morton Levinson: hmortonlevinson@townofjackson.com

Arne Jorgenson: ajorgensen@hawtinjorgensen.com

All TOJ Elected Officials: council@jacksonwy.gov.

Here’re all the glorious reasons the gym needs to be big enough to create a positive user experience:

  • Climbing’s popularity is exploding.
    • From 2012-2017, the growth of the indoor climbing wall industry was 39% greater than that of the gym, health, and fitness clubs industry over the same period.
    • In the last couple of years, the debut of films like The Dawn Wall and the Oscar-Award winning Free Solo has only accelerated that growth
    • Climbing will make its debut in the Tokyo Olympic Games in 2021. According to the industry research company IBIS, this “is anticipated to accelerate interest in climbing, driving demand for indoor climbing wall operators.”
  • Climbing is social, which is healthy.
    • A 2018 national survey by Cigna reported that loneliness levels have reached an all-time high, with nearly half of 20,000 U.S. adults reporting they sometimes or always feel alone. 
    • A meta-analysis, co-authored by Julianne Holt-Lunstad, PhD, reports “loneliness and social isolation are twice as harmful to physical and mental health as obesity.”
    • Climbing gyms address both obesity and social isolation better than traditional gyms. They’re outstripping the fitness market for a reason: they’re fun—and they’re fun because they’re social.
  • Climbing gyms are family friendly. 
    • Parents and kids can participate together, creating a bonding experience that can last a lifetime.
    • Children who begin climbing improve rapidly, often outclimbing their parents within a few years of starting
  • Climbing gyms, done right, create a safe, healthy venue for youth. 
    • If they are open after school, on the weekends and during times, such as summers, when schools are closed, they provide a trouble-free, positive alternative to other “entertainment” options.
    • A good gym will not only connect kids and parents. It will also connect kids to a healthy pursuit that will last the rest of their lives, to positive role models and to a lifestyle pathway that’s congruent with Jackson’s mountain legacy and traditions. 
  • Climbing engages the whole community
    • The climbing gym can serve as a catalyst to better connect with and understand our large immigrant Latino population. The boundaries of racial/cultural separation disappear once the rope is shared.
    • Our Latino community deserves to share in our outdoor adventures, our stories, and the transcendent power of the outdoors/ the creation of leaders and stewards.
  • Key to community engagement is space
    • Community space is one of the most important considerations for a gym. The best gyms design the climbing experience around the social experience. (“If you look at any gym in any moment, 75% of people are just hanging out. It’s social.)
    • Open designs yield the best community/social experience, as well as better route-setting access and better flow.
    • A well-designed gym that incorporates community space can use the space for events, film screenings, music, art, and other community gatherings
  • A good gym will generate revenue that can support other Parks and Recreation amenities
    • The Enclosure Climbing Gym generated $500,000-700,000/year in revenue
    • Canmore’s Elevation Place community climbing center generates $100,000 in shoe and harness rentals alone
  • Climbing gyms enhance safety for guides, rangers, Search and Rescue and regular climbers alike
    • A well-designed gym permits guides, climbing rangers and search and rescue team members with a place to practice rescue scenarios
    • Beginning climbers can learn the skills and techniques necessary for safe outings in the crags and mountains around town
  • Making gyms fun, family friendly and social requires a key ingredient: space. A 5,750 sq. ft. gym is too small. 

There are two options for making the gym the right size:

  • The first is to merge the climbing gym and the fitness studios into a single, 13,400 square-foot rectangular space. 
    • The fitness studios could go inside a large rectangular structure at the center of the building. The outside of the same structure would serve as the climbing walls. 
    • Bouldering walls could be placed around the outer perimeter of the space, with the indoor track for seniors placed above them. The mezzanine entrance could become a vibrant community space all its own. 
    • With proper allocation of square footage, the mezzanine could double as a unique space for community events such as film screenings, talks and performances, providing a ca. 150-person venue unlike any currently in our community.
  • Another option is the “gym swap:” reallocating the 7,650 square feet for the fitness facilities to the climbing gym, moving the non-essential climbing spaces, such as bathrooms, the hold room and the front desk, out of the climbing gym space proper, and retaining leading industry consultants to create the most dynamic, community-centric facility possible. 
    • 5,750 square feet is more than enough space to create a walking track for seniors and fitness-related programming at attainable price points for the entire community.

In the November 2019 election, Teton County voters approved $22,000,000, 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.”

To assist with the development of the climbing gym, The Teton Climbers’ Coalition (TCC) conducted more than 70 hours of research on climbing facilities around the country, identifying best practices and attributes that will help ensure the Rec Center climbing gym meets the community’s needs.

The research was complemented by extensive discussion among community members regarding attributes and priorities they would like to see included in the gym’s development.

A key observation from the research was that the proposed 5,750 square feet proposed for the gym will create a “negative user experience.”

The Enclosure Climbing Gym, a 10,000-square foot facility owned and operated by Andy Laakmann, closed in 2014. At the time of its close, the gym had 700 members, generated $500-700k/year in revenue and had 50-100 people in the facility at any given time. 

Given the increase in Teton County population and in climbing’s popularity, demand today is higher than it was ten years ago.

Smaller but similar to Jackson, Canada’s premier mountaineering town, Canmore, has a population of 13,992. Its gym, Elevation Place, which opened in 2013 as part of the community’s rec center, offers 11,000 square feet of climbing surface. Because it’s in a community center, Elevation Place has thousands of members. 

“We should have made our gym bigger because there’s always a wait list,” said Brian Spear, the Climbing Coordinator for the Town of Canmore.  

“It’s too busy for a positive experience, so we make them wait. People who work M-F 9-5 are always on the waitlist.”

Other takeaways from the TCC’s research were as follows:

  • Climbing gym consultants should be retained as early as possible to create positive user experience, optimize ROI, minimize cost overruns and delays and ensure the gym meets current and future community needs. 
  • A good climbing gym will generate revenue that can support other Parks and Recreation programs and amenities
    • The Enclosure Climbing Gym generated $500,000-700,000/year in revenue
    • Canmore’s Elevation Place community climbing center generates $100,000 in shoe and harness rentals alone
  • Because of the impact chalk can have on air quality throughout a rec center, HVAC that addresses chalk filtration and temperature destratification should be planned into the initial building design

The research also underscored the opportunity to provide a safe, healthy venue for local youth, change the cultural narrative for Jackson’s Latino population and enhance safety for guides, rangers, Search and Rescue and regular climbers alike.

The research was shared with Teton County Parks and Recreation in early March, and with Jackson and Teton County elected officials in April.

The Access Fund has published the following infographic to help climbers navigate the pandemic. Staying safe and staying healthy has never been so important. Thanks, AF!

Planning for future events is on hold until the restrictions related to the COVID-19 pandemic have been lifted.

Proposal: As part of the expansion to the Teton County Parks and Recreation Center, create a “Pioneers Boulder” that honors the pioneers of Teton mountaineering and continues the historical tribute begun by the Teton Boulder Project and the proposed Rangers Boulder addition.

Background: In November 2019, Teton County Voters approved Proposition #9, which allocated $22,000,000.00 for “designing, planning, engineering, construction, and equipping the renovation and expansion of the Teton County/Jackson Recreation Center.” The amenities included a line item for “1,000 SF Outdoor Climbing Boulders.”

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