Founded in 1938, the Jackson Hole Ski & Snowboard Club (JHSC) is Jackson, WY’s oldest nonprofit, annually serving over 500 student-athletes in alpine and Nordic ski racing, freeski and snowboard competition, and backcountry education.
The Club began with the creation in 1938 of an alpine ski program to serve several Jackson families, most of whom lived right at the base of Snow King Mountain. The Club’s establishment and the mountain’s early development are intricately intertwined; fielding ideas for a mode of uphill transportation, the Club selected Neil Rafferty’s cable-tow design. Affectionately known as the “father of Snow King,” Rafferty (JHSC Hall of Fame Class of 2018) was also an integral part of Snow King’s first chairlift, as a planner, builder, and its first passenger in 1947. Constantly pursuing new possibilities for the expansion of skiing in Jackson Hole, Neil operated portable rope tows on Teton and Togwotee Passes in the 1950s and 60s and built a cabin near Jackson Peak for cross-country skiers (which JHSC now improves and maintains), broadening ski experiences in the Gros Ventre and Teton Ranges. Rafferty’s undying love for skiing produced Wyoming’s first ski area—and one of the first dozen ski areas in the United States—as well as its first Club. He always made all skiers feel welcome on Snow King, but his favorite saying was “It’s for the kids.”
JHSC fostered a sense of identity and community among Jackson skiers, including the early generations of the Ashley, Budge, Karns, and Robertson families. In the first decades, neighborhood potlucks and family gatherings were frequent and much-loved events at Snow King after JHSC training and races, a tradition recalled fondly by later generations of these families at the Club’s 2018 Hall of Fame induction banquet, which honored many of the Club’s earliest participants, coaches, and innovators; they developed an alpine program that gradually expanded over the next 50 years, growing significantly in the 1980s and 1990s under the leadership and coaching of Scott Bowdler and Tom Johnston (both HOF ’22). These two put the Club on a national scene, with Scott leading the development of the new JHSC headquarters in the Snow King Center, including a race room and timing area that significantly upgraded Intermountain Division races. Scott and Tom were instrumental in running the race requirements and on-hill course development for the US National Alpine Championships in Jackson in 2000, which propelled Jackson Hole into the national spotlight. Since 1998, Tom has served as the Alpine Technical Advisor for the US Ski Team, and he has been involved in the Olympic Games in numerous capacities, including Chief of Course for women’s speed events in 2002 and Alpine Ski Technical Advisor in 2014, 2018, and 2022. Scott and Tom produced a generation of skiers who would be successful in the alpine, freeskiing, and filmmaking realms, including Max and Hadley Hammer, and Olympians Resi Stiegler (HOF ’14) and Breezy Johnson.
In the 1940s and 50s, several JHSC participants not only took downhill laps at Snow King with Rafferty and coach Bill Ashley but also ventured into ski jumping and cross-country skiing; by the early 1960s, there was enough demand that John Curtis—who was born in the same year as the Club and took his first laps down Snow King with Rafferty in 1942 at the young age of four!—approached Betty Woolsey (HOF ‘14) about the possibility of using Trail Creek Ranch to start a Nordic Program for the Club.
Ms. Woolsey, who landed a spot on the first ever US Women’s Ski team in 1935 after an early alpinist career in Europe, was the top US woman in Downhill at the 1936 Olympics. During WWII, when the US team trained in Sun Valley, ID, and at Mt. Hood, OR, Woolsey made a side trip to Jackson Hole, traveling over Teton Pass where she saw for the first time the land at the base of Teton Pass, which she would purchase in 1943. She later established Trail Creek Ranch, which began accepting guests in 1948. When Curtis approached her in 1964 about grooming some trails and skiing with about a half dozen kids at Trail Creek, Betty’s permission began a relationship that lasted for the next fifty years, enabling the Jackson Hole Ski Club Nordic Program to grow to become one of the foremost Nordic programs in the West. The Betty Woolsey Olympian Endowment was established at JHSC in 1992 to honor her incredible athletic career and contributions to the Club: annual disbursements fund JHSC Merit-based Scholarships. Today, JHSC maintains Trail Creek Nordic Training Facility, a premier center for community use and for training and races for skiers who compete from the local to international scales.
The JHSC Nordic Program has fostered another tight-knit community of several generations of racing families—the Bennetts, the Ashleys, the Hagens, and the Karns, among others—many of whom coached for and had kids participating in the Club for several decades, some lasting into the present. JHSC Nordic has produced several Olympians and national team coaches: in 1970, Johnny Curtis (HOF ‘14) was named the coach of the first US Women’s Olympic Cross Country team, and trained talented athletes including Jackson’s own Trudy Owen. Bill’s son Peter Ashley (HOF ‘18) found his niche in cross country, competing in five Junior National Championships from 1965-69, then skiing for four years at the University of Colorado, including on two of their NCAA Championship teams. Peter returned to Jackson in 1974 and began his coaching career with JHSC, running numerous high-school events, including the Junior National Championships in 1978. That same year, he became the first National Junior Coach for the US Ski Team. Olympians Martin Hagen, Erich Wilbrecht, and Pete Karns (all HOF ‘14) continue to be involved with the Club. A member of the US Biathlon Team from 1968-72, Pete was the US Biathlon National Champion in 1970 and 1972; at the 1972 Winter Olympics in Sapporo, he placed 14th in the 20K Biathlon, which was the best American finish ever until the 2006 Olympics. He also raced on the 1972 Olympic Biathlon Relay team, which achieved 6th place, the best US finish ever. Pete went on to coach the US Biathlon Team and has helped in various capacities on the US Olympic Committee.
By the early 1990s, there was significant demand for the creation of a new program to serve the growing number of freeski and snowboard athletes in the valley. In 1993, then JHSC Executive Director Andy Chambers (HOF ’18) reached out to John Griber, a pioneering valley snowboarder, who had recorded many first snowboard descents in the Tetons, to pitch the idea. John (HOF ‘22) jumped in and developed what is today a nearly three-decades strong Freeride Program that has produced some of the biggest names in the snowboard world today, including Jackson natives Travis Rice and Rob Kingwill (HOF ’14 and ’18). The Freeride Program trains freeskiers and snowboarders for big mountain (IFSA), park (USASA), and halfpipe competition. In its thirty-year history, the Freeride Program has seen extensive collaboration and camaraderie with the Alpine Program, with valley skiers and Club supporters such as Rick Hunt (HOF ’22) making first descents in the Tetons with Griber and other big-mountain skiers, snowboarders, and filmmakers.
In the first quarter of the 21st century, JHSC has seen significant growth as the valley population increases, with enrollment jumping from roughly 300 participants in 2008 to nearly 550 today, including 45 participants in two thriving Masters programs in Alpine and Nordic racing. To highlight the Club’s rich history and foundations more intentionally, the Club established the Jackson Hole Ski & Snowboard Hall of Fame, and the JHSC Ski Museum, in 2014, in conjunction with the Club’s 75th anniversary: the Hall of Fame quadrennially honors a select group of Competitors, Pioneers, Innovators, and Inspirational individuals whose contributions to the Club continue to shape our present. Many of them have been mentioned above, but you can see the complete rosters of the Classes of 2014, 2018, and 2022 here.
In 2017, JHSC achieved Bronze podium certification with US Ski & Snowboard, quickly moving to Silver certification in 2018 for recognition of the Club’s rapid advancements in the areas of organizational, financial, cultural, and governance standards. In 2019, the Club established its 4th sport offering and is proud to be one of the select few clubs in the United States to have a Backcountry Program. Developed in large part by the founding and current Program Director, AMGA and EXUM guide Blake Votilla, the Backcountry Program has 35 athletes enrolled on two teams, quadrupling its initial enrollment in only its 4th season. The program partners with Exum Guides & the American Avalanche Institute to educate student-athletes in best practices in the backcountry and avalanche safety. They tour on Snow King Mountain during the week and in Grand Teton National Park on the weekends, with an annual hut trip into the Montana backcountry each January. The Program took its first international trip, to Chamonix, in 2022.
As some things change, some things remain the same: evidencing the demand for competitive youth snow sports opportunities in Jackson Hole, JHSC programs continue to fill to capacity, and it is our mission to offer within each of our four programs—Alpine, Backcountry, Freeride, and Nordic—a wide range of options to meet every child’s desired level of commitment for training and competition. At the highest levels, student-athletes are excelling on the national and international scene, as well as achieving placements at some of the top colleges and universities in the country. The past few seasons’ highlights include
- 500 total student-athletes, grades K-12
- 78 student-athletes awarded scholarships
- 33 student-athletes sent to National Championships
- 3rd-place ranking in the Club standings at US Nordic Junior Nationals in 2023
- 20 collegiate placements 2021-23
- Harvard - Colby - Bates - Middlebury - Colorado College - University of Utah - University of Colorado Boulder - Montana State University - St Lawrence - Plymouth State University - Colorado State University - University of VT - University of Denver
- Nordic Athlete Lena Poduska placed 7th at the U18 Nordic Nations Cup as a U16
- Recent alumnus Oliver Parazette raced in the FIS Junior World Ski Championships
- 33 days of JHSC-hosted Junior races/competitions in 22-23 season
- 12 days of Community races/events
For everyone involved with the Club, from our board and leadership staff to each of our 80+ coaches, our mission remains the same, and is at the core of what we do: to inspire and develop student-athletes through innovative and accessible ski and snowboard programs that provide opportunities to pursue personal excellence in snowsports and life. For a competitive sports Club, we define our successes not only based on race and competition results but also on the character and skills development we instill in our athletes, all grounded in our five core values: Fun, Commitment, Teamwork, Sportsmanship, and Competition. We have alumni numbering in the tens of thousands, some of whom have resided in this community for 3-4 generations and some of whom span the globe, as part of the broader ski and snowboard communities. We see both current participants and alumni of the Club applying what they learn from their time with JHSC to other aspects of their lives, and to careers in competitive sports, sports media, avalanche education and snow science, and guiding and educational careers. Perhaps even more importantly, we regularly hear testimony from alumni about how life skills such as time management, the development of personal routines, and team building, and the experiences of their time in JHSC programs, continue to shape how they live their years beyond the Club.
We’re Building Champions in Sport and Life, since 1938!
To learn more, or to share your JHSC history with our current staff, please email email@example.com.