Grand Targhee Resort is rebooting its Victor shuttle service, this time with the possibility of a much more robust schedule.
Grand Targhee started its shuttle program in 2010 and added a Victor stop in 2012, but ended southern service in 2016 because of low ridership numbers. Now the resort is planning a return to the south end.
The resort usually houses its seasonal employees in the Driggs area but because of a last minute change, the ski hill made an agreement with Teton Valley Resort in Victor to house up to 80 seasonal staff members. Greg Mottashed, the director of base operations, said that Grand Targhee provides the employee shuttle because not all of the workers have vehicles that can withstand winter driving conditions, and because it creates less traffic on Ski Hill Road and frees up guest parking space at the resort. Therefore, this season the resort will be providing limited service to Victor, with two early morning stops and two evening stops, starting Nov. 22, or whenever the ski hill opens; management has not yet determined if the opening will need to be postponed because of snow conditions.
That’s not all. The resort is weighing the benefits of providing hourly service to Victor, with stops at Teton Valley Resort, the Victor Depot, and the city park. The Grand Targhee shuttle is primarily funded through a federal grant, but that grant does not include funding for Victor service this season, meaning the resort will bear the full cost of fuel and vehicle maintenance for the added mileage. At last week’s Victor City Council meeting, Mottashed requested $9,000 from the city, an estimated half of the fuel costs for the Victor stops that are above and beyond the employee-specific service. If granted, the money would come from the city’s resort tax fund. Public transit is one allowed use for those taxes.
TRPTA, the regional bus service out of Idaho Falls, abruptly shut down earlier this year, which meant the end of a valley service that was used primarily by students and seniors traveling between Victor and Driggs. If Grand Targhee started offering a Victor shuttle every hour, Mottashed pointed out, people could travel north and south with more consistence and convenience. Also, he noted, lodging guests at Grand Targhee sometimes use the shuttle to dine and shop in Driggs, and that patronage could expand to Victor. The proposed schedule offers northbound service until almost 10 p.m. and southbound service until nearly midnight, meaning it could even provide safe transit for people who want to avoid driving home from the bar, for instance.
At the Nov. 13 meeting, Mayor Jeff Potter requested that Grand Targhee consider a shuttle stop at the Cobblestone Hotel in lieu of a stop at the city park on Main Street, because guests at the hotel would appreciate the service and Cobblestone has offered its parking lot for public use. Also, because much of the $9,000 from the city would come from lodging taxes, Potter said the shuttle should serve visitors as well as locals. (Taxes from the Grand Targhee employees living at Teton Valley Resort will also go to the resort fund.) Mottashed said the logistics of determining shuttle stops and staying within a tight schedule are challenging and might preclude a hotel stop.
The mayor and Councilwoman Molly Absolon were cautiously supportive but Councilman Dustin Green, concerned that the city might be subsidizing a private business, wanted to understand more about the ask, so Mottashed agreed to compile more information about ridership and present it to the council at its Nov. 25 meeting.
As further incentive to locals to ride the shuttle, this year bus rides will be free to season pass holders, even if they’re only riding between Driggs and Victor. A one-way ride on the bus costs $2, and employees ride for free.
“The more ridership, the better,” Mottashed said.
He added that the resort is working on other promotions to increase local ridership, but said the resort isn’t yet ready to start charging for parking. Parking issues have come to a head in recent years as visitor numbers at the resort have increased, especially during the holidays and on powder weekends. While parking attendees and snow removal crews work to ensure there’s room for everyone, sometimes they have to rely on a one-in-one-out system that backs up traffic on Ski Hill Road.
As usual, the shuttle will only operate until the resort closes in April. Mottashed explained that this season’s Victor service is an experiment and if it proves worthwhile, the resort will increase its grant requests in order to fund it in the future.