Real Estate

Jackson Hole Agents Brace For Impact As Key Road Collapses

A portion of Teton Pass connecting workers who live in Idaho with the tony tourist town of Jackson, Wyoming, collapsed over the weekend.

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Real estate agents and property managers are bracing for impact after part of a key mountain road linking the popular tourist area of Jackson Hole to the more affordable towns in Idaho where workers live collapsed over the weekend. 

State officials rushed to respond after an entire portion of U.S. Highway 22, known as Teton Pass, slid down the mountain on Saturday, blocking an important route taken by tourists and nearly two-thirds of the workforce that runs the town of Jackson. The closure prompted a response by top officials in the state, who vowed to rebuild the mountain pass route as quickly as possible. But it left the managers of vacation rentals facing higher rates of cancellation heading into one of the busiest times of the year.

“We had about 15 cancellations this weekend,” said Eddye Bean, owner of PMI Grand Tetons, a vacation rental property manager. “That is high. I’m expecting more. I don’t even know how to think about it right now.”

The town of Jackson, Wyoming, is about 33 miles from the town of Driggs, Idaho. Real estate in Jackson is among the most expensive in the U.S., which sends many of the employees who operate the hotels, resorts, bars and restaurants in Jackson over the Teton Mountains to towns in Idaho like Driggs and Victor. There, home prices and rent are less than half price.

Employees living in Idaho and commuting to Jackson now face drive times that are more than double as they navigate winding mountain and canyon roads for a commute that is now 93 miles each way.

“It is quite devastating,” said Bomber Bryan, an associate broker with Keller Williams Jackson Hole. “It’s going to be amazing to see.”

Teton Pass is a popular route for visitors who fly into Jackson, visit Grand Teton National Park, and then head to Yellowstone National Park or beyond.

Driggs, Idaho, which backs up to the west side of the Teton Range, has a total population of about 1,600, similar to the nearby town of Victor, Idaho.

In addition to being an attractive place for people who live in Jackson, the Idaho side of the Teton Mountains is a popular tourist destination.

Tayson Rockefeller, broker with Teton Valley Realty who also helps manage vacation rentals in the area, compared what he expected to happen with the drop in visitors after COVID-19.

“I don’t know if we’re going to see mass cancellations, but we’re going to see them,” Rockefeller said. 

As far as the for-sale market, Rockefeller said the appeal of living in the Grand Tetons would keep buyers coming.

“Am I freaked out that people are not going to buy a dream home in the Tetons?” he asked. “No.”

According to an interview with the news outlet WyoFile, Teton County Commission Chairman Luther Propst said the issue highlighted the acute need for more housing that’s affordable for the employees who keep the region running.

“This demonstrates the risk of having so many of our local workforce commute over a geologically unstable pass,” Propst told the outlet. “This certainly provides a very clear example of why we need a better balance between the number of jobs and the number of houses needed by people who do those jobs.”

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