PETE LAWTON GREW up ski racing and training on Snow King Mountain. Fast-forward thirtyish years and Lawton is CEO of the Bank of Jackson Hole and skis the King during his lunch hour. “I always have skis in my car,” says Lawton, whose father, a high school principal, was one of the initial investors in Jackson Hole Mountain Resort. After pulling into the parking lot at the base of the Town Hill, he’ll put his ski jacket and pants over his work outfit, which is almost always a suit. “I’ll eat a sack lunch on the chairlift,” he says. Lawton, who was the quarterback that led the Jackson Broncs to a state championship in 1981, graduated from Jackson Hole High School in 1982, and went on the University of Wyoming. After ten years in Laramie, during which he started his career in banking, Lawton returned to Jackson. “There are incredible opportunities for outdoor recreation around the state, but what is different about Jackson is that you can ski at Snow King at lunch, or float the Snake River after a day at work,” he says. Even after a lifetime here, Lawton says he takes advantage of this easy access as often as possible, but admits, “I don’t ski as many days a season as I’d like to anymore.”
Q: What are some of your other favorite places in the state?
PL: The Sheridan area—the Bighorn [mountains] are incredible. And, closer to Jackson, the Wind River Range is the same thing. And then places like Sundance, or outside of Laramie. There are so many beautiful places in Wyoming.
Q: Jackson Hole is often described as being in Wyoming, but not being of Wyoming. As someone who knows much of the state, can you comment on that?
PL: There is a lot more wealth in Jackson, and that creates a different perception toward it. A lot of Wyoming communities are blue collar and not oriented toward tourists like Jackson. But, even with these differences, I think people are drawn to Jackson because of Wyoming values.
Q: How would you describe Wyoming
PL: It is about the land—open space and being outdoors.
Q: Favorite ski run?
PL: There is nothing like the Hobacks on a powder day. I traveled ski racing all over the country and Canada and have never seen anything comparable to a powder day in the Hobacks, except heli skiing in Canada.
Q: You have two sons, who are now in their late 20s, and, like you, grew up in Jackson. How were their childhoods here different from yours?
PL: I grew up ski racing and playing football. One [of my sons] grew up ski racing and the other playing hockey. They had the same tight community I experienced growing up, but more diversity, which was a positive thing.
Q: You’re active in the valley’s nonprofit community. With so many nonprofits doing important work, how did you pick the ones with which you’re involved?
PL: Back in the early ’90s, it was tied to my kids—the Ski Club (now the Jackson Hole Ski & Snowboard Club) and Little League baseball. Then I got involved with the [Grand Teton] Music Festival board. Then the [Jackson Hole] Community Counseling Center and the Community Foundation [of Jackson Hole]. My longest-standing [involvement] has been with the Jackson Hole Land Trust, which is a passion of mine; it’s about the open spaces that are so important to Wyoming. Maybe this is funny coming from a banker, but protecting open space is so important.
Q: Jackson Hole has always had casual dressing in offices, but you’re still a suit and tie guy. Can you even buy a suit and tie anywhere in the valley?
PL: I think it’s bankers and people working in the courts who still do suits and ties. Ties are an easy gift, so I get a lot of ties as gifts. Otherwise, I think it’s just TJMaxx. JH
—Interview by Piper Hall