Jackson Hole Mountain Resort is proud to boast itself as an independent ski resort, but what does that mean, exactly?
In a world of fierce competition between Vail and Alterra, who each own massive portfolios of corporate mountains, Jackson Hole sits as alone as its rural Wyoming location in still being privately owned.
So, who owns Jackson Hole Mountain resort?
This article will find out everything there is to know Jackson Hole’s owners, how they bought the mountain, and all sorts of wild history along the way!
Who owns Jackson Hole Mountain Resort?
Jackson Hole Mountain Resort is owned by three siblings from the Kemmerer family – Jay Kemmerer, Betty Kemmerer, and Connie Kemmerer.
The Kemmerer family’s wealth dates back to their great-grandfather in the late 1800s. Originally from Pennsylvania, Mahlon S. Kemmerer made a fortune mining coal and iron in the eastern United States before diversifying his operations into Wyoming, when he helped found the Kemmerer Coal Company in 1897.
(In fact, the small town of Kemmerer, Wyoming, about 3 hours south of Jackson Hole, is named after Mahlon Kemmerer.)
Growing up, the three Kemmerer siblings lived just outside of New York City, but spent summers in Wyoming.
Today, Jay and his sister Connie live in Jackson, Wyoming. The resort’s third co-owner and sibling, Betty, lives in Sun Valley, Idaho.
According to the Jackson Hole ownership page, Jay Kemmerer is the most active of the family’s three owners. He is credited with purchasing Jackson Hole in 1992, and he currently serves as the resort’s Chairman.
What is Jay Kemmerer’s Net Worth?
While Jay Kemmerer doesn’t show up on any of those flashy Forbes Rich Lists, nor is his net worth publicly reported, it’s reasonable to assume his net worth is likely near $100 million dollars.
In the 1970s, Jay Kemmerer worked for Chemical Bank before joining his father at the family business, Kemmerer Coal Company. In 1981, he sold the family business to Gulf Oil for $330 million dollars.
After this big payday, the family tasked Jay Kemmerer with managing its assets. They appointed Jay as as President of the new Kemmerer Resources Corp, and he began looking for business opportunities.
In 1986, he purchased the Seven-Up Bottling Company and helped grow it to the third largest bottler of 7-Up in the United States.
By the 1990s, the Kemmerers were looking for a ranch to diversify into. Unable to find anything suitable, they started looking at mountains…
When did Jay Kemmerer buy Jackson Hole?
In 1992, Jay Kemmerer led the family’s purchase of Jackson Hole Mountain Resort.
The exact sales price wasn’t disclosed, but Forbes estimated the sale at $18 million dollars.
Who were the previous owners of Jackson Hole?
Prior to the purchase of Jackson Hole by the Kemmerer family, Jackson Hole was owned by its original founders, Paul McCollister and Alex Morley.
- Paul McCollister had a short but successful career in radio advertising in San Francisco, before retiring to Jackson, Wyoming in 1957, at age 42.
- Alex Morley was a Wyoming real estate developer.
The two met as neighbors in the 1960s and dreamed of building a ski area together. In 1963, they made that dream a reality by forming Jackson Hole Ski Corporation. With help from investment partners Gordon Graham and Dr. King Curtis, the group purchased land from the Crystal Springs Girls’ dude ranch at the base of today’s Aerial Tram. (For $1,355 an acre!)
After a few years, Paul McCollister bought out the rest of the group. For the next three decades, he continued to passionately operate Jackson Hole until eventually selling the resort to the Kemmerer family in 1992.
Wait, I heard Jackson Hole is owned by Vail?
Nope, that was a just rumor that began swirling around a few years ago.
A year or two after Vail bought Whistler Blackcomb for $1 billion, skiers started speculating which mountain would be scooped up next by Vail Resorts. As one of the only independently owned resorts left, Jackson Hole was a natural suspect.
The rumors came to a head in 2019, when Connie Kemmerer reportedly responded to the rumors directly, with an email to all Jackson Hole employees that simply read:
I want to assure you that the rumors that JHMR has been sold are untrue. We love being independent and plan on keeping it that way!”
Does Jackson Hole make the Kemmerer family crazy rich?
Maybe. Possibly. Probably not.
Or at least not yet.
This old article on Forbes discusses some of the harsh economics of running Jackson Hole Mountain Resort. While that article is from 2007, at the time the resort was only earning the Kemmerer family about $27,000 a year.
That’s not much! Especially when you consider reports citing that the family has sunk over $230 million into the mountain.
Other reports state that the family hasn’t taken a penny out of the mountain since their purchase, instead operating it as more of a passion project.
There were even rumors back in 2006, when the original Aerial Tram needed replacing, that the mountain wouldn’t be able to afford the $25 million price tag for a new one. (They eventually obtained private funding and unveiled the new tram in the 2008 season, although that meant two seasons with no tram at Jackson Hole! Blasphemy to think about!)
Of course, while Jackson Hole might not be making money hand over fist, as a business it’s still surely worth a pretty penny. With the bidding war currently happening between Alterra and Vail for buying up destination mountains, valuations for ski resorts are at an all time high. (Look no further than Exhibit A, Whistler’s $1 billion dollar sale to Vail.)
And Jackson Hole remains one of the most iconic ski resorts in the country – ranked in the Top 5 in North America, according to the latest SlopeLab.com rankings!
If the Kemmerers ever did decide to sell, they’d certainly walk away with a huge sum of money.
But given Jackson Hole’s unique character and wild history, here’s to hoping they don’t!