Following curiosity to help the Jackson community.
// Interview by Maggie Theodora
Ponteir Sackrey arrived in Jackson October 29, 1990. She made the drive west from Boston in Ruby Tuesday, a red four-door Hyundai named after her Aunt Ruby. Ruby Tuesday was so packed with stuff that Sackrey didn’t dare open anything but the driver’s door until reaching Jackson for fear of something falling out. She was 29 years old at the time and had recently graduated with a masters of business administration from Simmons College. As part of this degree, she interned at Wachusett Mountain in Massachusetts and helped the family-owned ski area with financial analysis. “Working there with the family was such a rewarding experience that I decided to fling everything away and move West and work at a ski resort,” she says. Lucky for Jackson Hole, no one took Sackrey’s calls except for Jim Sullivan, who was then the mountain manager at Snow King.
Sackrey later learned that her mother was heartbroken that she was moving so far away. “But she never told me that then,” she says. “She said, ‘Follow your dreams. We’ll miss you, but go and live a cool life. Be original.’” Sackrey didn’t have a plan, but she thought at the time that she’d stay in Jackson for a couple of years and then maybe move back to Massachusetts and try something different.
“I had two roommates, a contact with Barbara Knobe, whom I had connected with because she was a member of a group that is no longer in existence, Business Professional Women, and Jim Sullivan,” she says. “I knew no one else and had never been here. But, thanks to Barbara’s and Jim’s good graces, they helped me land.” As did the general attitude of the locals. Sackrey says one of the first things she noticed here was, “People look you in the eye when they say ‘Hi.’ It was a different way of relating. I liked the wide-open, friendly people.”
“The museum just received an incredible painting by Thomas Moran of Mt. Moran from the western side, Eternal Snows of Mount Moran, Teton Range. I have to go and look at it every day. It makes me want to become a climber.”
She found the friendliness didn’t stop with saying hello. That Christmas—her first away from her family—the Knobes invited her to spend the holiday with them. “That’s something else that is so special about Jackson that I love; so many of us are not from here and don’t have families close by so we invite friends over. My first Christmas here was one of abject shock at the cold—it was minus-57 degrees that day—but also of great gratitude for the Knobes, who invited me in so I didn’t feel unattached, lonely, or devastated to be away from my family.”
It wasn’t wholly intentional, but from Snow King, Sackrey went on to work for the two other ski resorts in the area, Grand Targhee (1991–1992) and Jackson Hole, then still Jackson Hole Ski Corp (1992–1996). At Targhee and Jackson Hole, she oversaw public relations initiatives including, at the latter, working with a team from Warren Miller Entertainment to film segments for a movie. While still back in Boston, Sackrey had written a letter to Warren Miller (the person, not the larger production company) after reading an editorial he had written in SnowCountry magazine. “He wrote about his family relocating from Huntington Beach, California, to Vail, Colorado, so I wrote to him that I was moving to snow country myself.” It wasn’t until four years later that Sackrey heard anything back. “One day at work at Jackson Hole on the Warren Miller movie, I got this letter, and it was from Warren Miller himself,” she says. “He asked how my move to snow country turned out.” This was the beginning of a correspondence between the two. (They did eventually meet in person, in Boulder, Colorado, at the premiere of the film Sackrey had worked on.) “It was one of those valuable lessons in life: you never know how something you do is going to turn out,” she says. “You might just have to wait four years.”
After she felt like she had done what she wanted to at the area ski resorts, she moved on to work at nonprofits. “The ski industry was so much fun, but the arts—performing and visual—are very much who I am,” says Sackrey, who started college studying music and dreamed of one day playing trombone for the Chicago Symphony. “I love to be outdoors and recreate, but that’s not who I am at heart. I enjoy the arts.” Over the next two decades, she worked at the National Museum of Wildlife Art (on two separate occasions), the Center for the Arts, the Jackson Hole Community Housing Trust, and the Grand Teton National Park Foundation. She took a brief break from nonprofits to be the public relations director of the Four Seasons Jackson Hole prior to its opening. “All of the jobs I’ve had here have been me following a thread of curiosity,” Sackrey says.
Since 2020, Sackrey has been the chief advancement officer at the National Museum of Wildlife Art. She was previously the museum’s marketing director for six years and its development and marketing director for eight years. “Coming back to the museum is like coming home. My kids learned to walk in these beloved halls,” she says. “I have been the lady of many hats and had many jobs in Jackson Hole. I have worked many places, and I consider it a great privilege to have been employed by them and to feel like my jobs allowed me to make a difference in this community I love so much.”
Tour de Wilson
“I love to road bike and ride my bike to work two or three days a week,” Sackrey says. “But when I want more miles, there’s a ride I call ‘Tour de Wilson.’ We have an amazing pathway system, and this is all on pathways. I leave town and get on the pathway section by Albertsons that takes you along Highway 22. I ride that to Emily Stevens Park, across the Snake River, and to Teton Village. In Teton Village, I’ll get a drink at Bodega and then ride back toward Wilson and take the Stilson pathway into Wilson. There at Pearl Street Bagels, I’ll sit by the river and have another drink. If I have time, I’ll ride down Fish Creek Road. That’s not a pathway, but there’s very little traffic. I like breaking longer rides up with coffee stops. Persephone Café on the West Bank, between Wilson and Teton Village, is another great place to stop.”
My favorite things to see at the National Museum of Wildlife Art
“I can never get enough of Georgia O’Keeffe’s painting Antelope.”
“The Members Lounge is my favorite space in the museum, and you don’t have to be a member to visit it,” Sackrey says. “It overlooks the elk refuge, and there’s a spotting scope in it. Sometimes I’ll just take my laptop in there and work, and anyone is welcome to do that.”
“The Museum has the largest collection of works by Carl Rungius in the U.S., and anything he painted is a pleasure to observe,” Sackrey says. “The colors he used and his understanding of how to put a painting together are masterful.” JH