Locals Outraged At Cartoonist For Exposing Free Parking Hack At Jackson Ski Resort

Hundreds of employees at Wyoming’s largest ski resort had finagled a way to park for free (regular rates $35 - $45 per day) until a popular Jackson cartoonist accidentally exposed the hack. Now the free ride is over and so too, perhaps, the love affair with the artist.

Jake Nichols

March 24, 202410 min read

Parking lots at Teton Village fill up fast even at $35-$45 dollars a day. Because Jackson Hole Mountain Resort workers are required to pay for parking, they've been exploiting a hack to park free — until a local cartoonist outed the hack.
Parking lots at Teton Village fill up fast even at $35-$45 dollars a day. Because Jackson Hole Mountain Resort workers are required to pay for parking, they've been exploiting a hack to park free — until a local cartoonist outed the hack. (Seejh.com)

A popular content creator in Jackson touched off a firestorm last week when he inadvertently “outed” a segment of the service industry by exposing a flaw in an automated parking lot gate at Jackson Hole Mountain Resort (JHMR).

Ryan Stolp produces “Lift Lines” regularly on his social channels on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. It’s a cartoon underscoring ski bum culture, often requiring readers to be “in on the joke.” His work is also published in a local newspaper, and when last Thursday’s installment dropped, the cartoonist found himself on the wrong end of the pitchfork.

Exposing a hack that allowed hundreds of resort employees to park for free at Teton Village (regular rates are $35-45 a day) was just the beginning. When authorities at JHMR found out they were being taken by just about everyone that worked for them, they closed the loophole.

The free ride was over.

Resort workers, in turn, looked for a pound of flesh in humorist Stolp who was both surprised and disappointed with the ensuing online vitriol.

“Snitches get stitches.”

“Stupid pr*ck just screwed a whole town over.”

“How dare you blow up my local trick!”

“Not cool dude.”

“Thanks for ruining a good thing for everyone.”

“Why would you even post this? Douche move.”

“You probably should leave town now.”

These are just a few of the printable comments left on the Lift Lines Instagram page. Stolp can usually count on a handful of positive comments with each published edition of his comic. He drops about three a week.

“I’m bummed to see how this turned out,” Stolp commented.

The controversial piece titled “Levels of Security for Your Skiing Secrets,” which published March 14, elicited 224 comments. The resulting online traffic, most of which ranged from indignation to shade-throwing hate, reached the ears of higher-ups at the resort.

The parking hack was fixed overnight, catching some employees completely unawares.

Controversial Lift Lines cartoon, "Levels of Security for Your Skiing Secrets," that shined light on a longtime parking hack Jackson Hole Mountain Resort workers were exploiting.
Controversial Lift Lines cartoon, "Levels of Security for Your Skiing Secrets," that shined light on a longtime parking hack Jackson Hole Mountain Resort workers were exploiting. (Ryan Stolp)

Park And Ride

Anyone who thinks: “First World problems; what’s the big deal?” has never had to find parking at Teton Village. It’s a perfect mix of impossible and unaffordable. And that’s by design.

“We are tasked with carrying forward the 1999 master plan for the resort,” said Melissa Turley. She is head of the Teton Village Association (TVA), the entity charged with much of the Teton Village’s stewardship.

Among other things, the 245-page plan calls for militant mitigation of vehicle traffic to the resort. It’s a touchy subject for anyone making a buck at the Village.

Wyoming Highways 22 and 390 (Teton Village Road) leading to JHMR are two of the most heavily trafficked in the state. Around 5 p.m. every day they are stop-and-go for miles.

Teton County has tried the carrot. Buses are free for resort employees, and many other locals come into season passes easily enough. There is a convenient park-and-ride area called Stilson Lot at the intersection of the two highways.

There is also the stick. Parking rates increased this season to $35 a day, $45 a day on weekends and peak dates. For lifties pulling down $100 a day, $45 for parking wipes out almost half the day’s take.

Still, many employees choose to drive. They may work odd hours that require them to be at the Village at a time when the START Bus would not ordinarily get them there. For others, it’s just quicker and easier. And more reliable.

START Bus service, especially last year, was sketchy due to staffing difficulties. In turn, the resort sometimes delays openings when its own employees are not onsite and ready to go.

Dude, Where’s My Car?

Creative parking of resort workers is nothing new. In fact, that is what Stolp says he was trying to convey when he wrote the comic that implied free parking tips and tricks were the most guarded of all ski bums, treasured over even their secret powder stashes.

From the behind-the-dumpster poach to the “59-minute shuffle” in the one-hour short-term lot, every ski patroller, bartender and sous chef has their parking privy under lock and key. By far, though, everyone’s favorite was the QR code scan hack that tricked management into thinking you had immediately left the lot upon arrival — maybe for a forgotten item.

And Stolp knew it, too.

“I did know about the hack. What I didn’t know was that it was a relied upon infrastructure for hundreds of the staff that keep the lifts spinning and the beers flowing. I understand how losing that convenience is a big loss,” Stolp said in retrospect.

The trick was known by TVA for weeks, possibly the entire season. It was thought by employees that higher-ups knew but were letting it slide. A kind of unwritten “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy.

Turley blamed the loophole on an entry grace period which would allow parkers to quickly change their minds and exit the lot for whatever reason within 15 minutes. If instead, a user were to also use the online app ParkWhiz to prepay within the grace period, they could choose that “exit for free” option without actually leaving until the end of the day.

Gaming the system, sticking it to the man — most employees considered the hack a simple perk for a job that does not compensate for parking. And most employees, apparently, were only too happy to exploit it.

“We were aware of it, but I did not think that many other people were aware of it,” Turley said. “I got a call that Thursday from someone at the resort asking if I had seen the cartoon and heard what was being said.

“I thought, ‘If it is such common knowledge at the resort that people were making the connection from the cartoon then it must be more widespread than we thought.’”

TVA was working on a fix that would still allow users to change their minds about parking without having to pay the full day rate. When news began spreading that the association was being had, they came up with an immediate patch the following day.

Overcrowding at JHMR has been an issue since the introduction of the IKON Pass in 2019.
Overcrowding at JHMR has been an issue since the introduction of the IKON Pass in 2019. (Jerry of the Day Instagram)

Unforeseen Reaction

A couple things Stolp said he would like to walk back if he could. The use of the word “hack” is one. The cartoon artist was simply trying to make a play on the popular “life hack” sentiment, but the word choice instead of, say, secrets or spots, made it too close for comfort for those using the hack.

“Maybe that was a sloppy joke writing on my part around a delicate subject,” he said. “But I was not trying to say: ‘Hey this Fight Club exists.’”

At face value, to the uninformed, the comic discloses very little. Only those in-the-know would have filled in the blanks and when they did, the chatter on socials only sealed their parking fate.

“As an outsider, this gave nothing away. The commentors did that,” wrote Jacqueline Karsten.

“The irony is that if this comic comments had not blown up the hack still might work,” commented Julie Wilson.

The secret seemed to be safe with in-crowd until they turned on one of their own.

“This was not about the Mountain in particular. It was about universal parking secrets anywhere. I drew NORAD, the military base bored deep into a mountain. It was the most secure place I could think of. It has a military checkpoint in front,” Stolp said. “There was a misinterpretation of my drawings that I didn’t count on.”

Uncalled For Clapback

Stolp says he knows he and all humorists walk the tightrope in today’s hot-button age. Everyone gets offended. Everyone is triggered. No one has a sense of humor.

How the author of Lift Lines has managed to survive for seven years is the real trick. Stolp says no one edits his work. He is pretty much his own filter. He added that he is surprised it was this particular piece that caused an uproar.

“I’ve done stuff on abortion and other touchy subjects, and I thought those would be the ones to raise trouble. I could have never foreseen the backlash on this one. I guess I flew a little too close to the sun,” Stolp said.

The content creator has still refused requests and threats to take the cartoon down. He said he will not retract anything or remove it.

“My name is on every joke I write. That means I stand by it,” Stolp said. “I won't apologize for making a joke I feel speaks to a universal observation about skiers.”

The hubbub will certainly die down eventually. Stolp will be forgiven by most of his 15,200 Instagram followers. But how soon will he be able to shake the feeling of being turned on, of having his hand bitten by his loyal subjects?

“What I'm most bummed about though is seeing my friends, acquaintances, neighbors and Jacksonites show a monstrous side. I've seen it in the comments before but, honestly, it’s mostly from trolls outside our community,” Stolp said. “In our modern world, lots of people get drowned in a deluge of hate.

“But it hits a little different when it’s people who make up your magical community, whom you see regularly and who have always been in on the mountain town joke until it’s not convenient.”

The Stilson Lot park-and-ride after a day of skiing in Jackson.
The Stilson Lot park-and-ride after a day of skiing in Jackson. (Cowboy State Daily Staff)

This Is Why Jackson Can’t Have Nice Things

Cooler heads have prevailed online. Stolp has released four more cartoons since March 14, three of them more-or-less dealing with or deflecting the fallout.

The early friendly fire toxicity in the comments section has been tamped down by those with better perspective. Stolp has more supporters than haters.

“Lift Lines has always done a good job of highlighting the absurdity of life in Jackson. This particular comic did an even better job of proving the absurdity of some of the folks that live here,” wrote Jordan Wilsted. “I’m disappointed by high housing costs, traffic, bridge construction, etc. But I’ve never been more disappointed in this town than I was when I saw people’s mean reaction to this benign comic.”

Stolp said he will continue Lift Lines, maybe a little more guarded than before until wounds heal.

He offered an explanation/apology recently on his Instagram page.

“I do empathize with what losing a parking lot does for the mountain staff that I care for, and I recognize the joke could have been more delicate,” Stolp wrote. Then, as if to prove he will always be a satirist no matter the cost, he concluded, “See you on the START Bus.”

Jake Nichols can be reached at: Jake@CowboyStateDaily.com

Jake Nichols can be reached at jake@cowboystatedaily.com.

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Jake Nichols

Features Reporter