Outrage over local comic highlights ski town tensions

A recent incident involving a Lift Lines comic and a parking loophole in Teton Village illustrates an underlying friction in ski towns throughout the Mountain West.
Ryan Stolp poses along his cartoon-covered skis at the top of Rendezvous Mountain at Jackson Hole Mountain Resort. (Dante Filpula Ankney/KHOL)

Ryan Stolp’s newspaper comic was due in 30 minutes, but he didn’t know what he’s going to draw. He consulted his half-baked list of ideas and then grabbed his iPad.

“I would love to tell you that I think these out more than I do,” Stolp stammered.

But he didn’t have time to. Stick figure here, sketch there, speech bubble, color and … done. He sent it off to the paper — just in time.

“And that’s how Jackson, at least, gets Lift Lines,” Stolp said.


“Lift Lines” is Stolp’s satirical comic that riffs on ski culture and the lifestyle in mountain towns like Jackson. It runs three times a week in the town’s daily paper as well as on Instagram to his 15,000 followers.

But this spring one of his illustrations drew community outrage — unlike any he’s done before.

“So, I knew there was this little secret,” Stolp said. “So I’m like, okay, I can fly kind of close to the sun, and I can make this joke.”

That secret was a loophole that allowed locals to avoid a $35 daily parking fee in a lot at the base of Jackson Hole Mountain Resort. Parked there offers a way to avoid an about hour-long bus ride to the resort from town, or about half an hour from the park and ride lot at Stilson. Dozens — if not hundreds — of locals had been using the hack, by quickly scanning their ticket.

“I kind of felt like I stepped on a landmine that I didn’t know was there.” – Ryan Stolp, Lift Lines Comics

Soon after the comic ran, the group that runs the parking lot, the Teton Village Association, cracked down. No more hack, no more free parking.

Locals were not amused, to say the least. Suddenly, Stolp was targeted by spam callers and Jehovah’s Witnesses — a setup he suspects was sparked by angry locals. And among the hundreds of angry Instagram comments, he was described as public enemy number one and warned that he would get punched in the face.

“It’s different when everyone that’s mad is like your neighbor and your community member and your friend or your friend of a friend,” Stolp said.

Thirty-five bucks might not seem like much. But the incident highlights a friction in ski towns across the Mountain West. Skiing and snowboarding continues to grow, bringing more people to resort towns. And that drives up prices on housing, meals, lift tickets — almost everything — and many residents are feeling the squeeze.

Skiers come from around the country to ski in jeans at Jackson Hole Mountain Resort last December — in part, to celebrate the good, old days, and get cheap lift tickets. (Hannah Habermann/Wyoming Public Radio)

Margaret Bowes is the executive director of the Colorado Association of Ski Towns. 

“Resort and tourism-based communities have very unique challenges such as high cost of living, affordable housing issues and transportation,” Bowes said.

She said parking fees and parking tickets aim to steer people to car pools and shuttles.

“I think skiing has just really changed,” Bowes said. “It’s exploded in recent years, and so gone are the days when you can drive up to your favorite resort at 9 a.m. on a Saturday and not encounter crowds.”

Still, the changes can rankle residents who long for the good old days.

“I think those of us that live in ski towns sometimes feel [that] we get fatigue,” Bowes said. “We get tourism fatigue and sometimes feel like our communities aren’t our own anymore. And so there gets to be a little bit of friction.”

Julien Lacourse, who has worked as a bartender in town, has felt that friction. 

He said he used the parking hack hundreds of times and saw nothing wrong with using something that was widely available — at least to those who knew. 

“I don’t think it’s possible to steal something when it’s allowed,” Lacourse said.

He said he recognizes somebody needs to manage parking but said that the Teton Village Association [TVA], well …

“They’re a necessary evil, which we can all stomp our feet about because … they’re nerds,” Lacourse said. “They’re just a thorn in our side because they have to be, man. You know, the village [the Jackson Hole Mountain Resort] is the rose. They’re the thorns. That’s just the way it is.”

Nerds because — well, he has gotten some tickets, pasted onto his driver’s side door so well that it lasts for days. 

Lacourse paid for stickers to be made that say “Defund the TVA” in bold black letters. 

Julien Lacourse pastes a “Defund the TVA” sticker on top of a ticket he received while working as a bartender in Teton Village. (Julien Lacourse)

He said it was mostly a joke, a reaction to getting a ticket. He added that outside of a few instances, he has never had too much trouble with getting to work, even without the loophole.

He considers Stolp a friend, but said he wishes the cartoonist had apologized. He said he thinks a lot of the blowback was deserved but also that many went too far.

“Any calls to violence are outlandish. Come on guys. That’s ridiculous,” Lacourse said.

Stolp attributes the blowback to folks who are frustrated about changes in town and are looking for a scapegoat. And in this instance, he was exactly that for people’s frustration.

“I think the thing that you have an obligation to do, no matter where you are in that community, is to be a role model and steward how that community should evolve, because all things change,” Stolp said.

Recently, he was back on the mountain during Gaper Day, feeling mostly good, but maybe a little wary, he said.

“Beautiful sunrise on Tetons this morning,” Stolp said.

After riding the tram to the top of Rendezvous Mountain, he clicked into his skis in front of Corbet’s Cabin. He took a minute to think about how things played out and the support he received from many.

“I think the community showed its true colors in the end and the true colors were good. That’s why I live here, that’s why I love living here,” he said. “There’s great people around every corner.”

And with that he shimmied over a ridge, and down into the bowl he goes.

Stolp said he received a few comments from JHMR workers while skiing at the resort, since the comic published, but for the most part he has felt supported by the community. (Dante Filpula Ankney/KHOL)

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