The first thing you should know about the Teton County Yurt and Teepee Advisory Committee is that some people in Jackson Hole deplore its very existence.
"It's a question of personal freedom," says Colleen Cabot, 33, a thoughtful county resident who has followed the committee closely. "People think they should be free to choose a structure without a lot of hassle from some government board."
The structure Cabot chose as her home is a yurt -- a portable, igloo-shaped wood-and-canvas affair that was perfected on the Mongolian steppes in the days of Genghis Khan and has found its way to this splendidly scenic county of 11,000 people just south of Yellowstone National Park.
Cabot's one-room home is part of small community of yurts perched like petite white cupcakes on a green meadow beneath the majestic jagged peaks of the Teton range.
"I think all of us were attracted by the economics of the yurt," she said. Her home cost about $6,000 (including built-in furniture). Monthly utility bills run about $6, and the 20-foot-diameter yurts which rise 22 feet at their center can be kept toasty warm in the sub-zero winters here on about $20 worth of wood a month.
In a place where land is dear -- 98 percent of the county is owned by the federal government and half of the rest by a small clique of ranchers -- and housing expensive, these yurtian economies are important.
But Cabot and her neighbors here say the real attraction of their unusual homes is the kinship with nature that a yurt provides.
"There's only the minutest membrane between you and the outside," Cabot says in rapturous tones.
"I hear the wind rustling and the birds flying by. I hear the river rushing after a rain. And the light -- the light! It's just really exquisite through that white canvas wall."
"That's what just about everybody says after they've been in one," said Dick Simmons, 38, the bearded outdoorsman and philosopher who built the first yurt in Teton County six years ago and lives with his wife and two children in a yurt near Cabot's.
"We've always felt that if we could just get everybody to try it, just for one night even, there wouldn't be any questions about us."
But important forces in Teton County have raised questions about the yurt.
Vicky Binderup, a legal secretary who lives just a pebble's throw from the yurt meadow here, sent a formal query to the County Commission challenging the yurt's status under the zoning code.
The county attorney dutifully launched a study of the yurt and another traditional structure that some Teton Countians call home, the teepee. (Cabot says there is also one family living in a tree house, but the government can't find it.)
The attorney ruled last fall that neither yurts nor teepees complied with the zoning law. The county board banned yurt construction. And the planning commission established a yurt and teepee advisory committee to deal with existing unauthorized structures.
To many residents of this live-and-let-live region, where individual freedom is a proud and cherished possession, those actions reeked of the rankest Big Brotherism.
"There are people here who still haven't accepted the basic idea of a zoning law," said Leslie Peterson, one of three county commissioners. "We almost had armed combat when we passed that. So, of course, there was opposition when we said the law would have to apply to these delightful little yurts."
But others were pleased with the crackdown, because the yurt does not fit the image that some business people want to create for Jackson Hole.
Traditionally a ranching area, this lovely valley is turning into a glitzy, upper-bracket vacation resort along the lines of Aspen and Sun Valley.
The transformation can be seen neatly on the main street of Jackson, the county seat. Across the street from the town's famous arch of elk horns, and two doors down from the aging Million Dollar Cowboy Bar, a new store has opened -- a Ralph Lauren Polo Shop offering such wares as linen walking shorts priced at $249.95.
"You take some heavy real-estate operator putting up these zillion-dollar condominiums for rich tourists, and yeah, they're worried that a little yurt will come in next door and spoil the neighborhood," said Simmons, who has built most of the yurts in the county.
A more serious concern, according to commissioner Peterson, is that acceptance of the yurt might force the county to be equally open to another "alternative structure" -- the mobile home.
"I hang up on the fear that we're going to get all these mobile home parks," she said.
For all the furor, when the board sought volunteers for the Teton County Yurt and Teepee Advisory Committee, only five people responded. One was Binderup, the woman who first challenged the yurts. The other four, though, were present or former yurt or teepee dwellers.
As a result, as Binderup puts it, "the thrust of the committee has become that of an advocacy group." In fact, the committee's final report recommends that yurts and teepees be permitted in communities like the one on the green meadow here.
That proposal will be offered to the commissioners on Tuesday, and the yurt and teepee people are optimistic that it will be accepted.
"It would just feel awful to be in a place where the government decrees that you can't even live in a teepee," says Simmons, resting on the polished wood floor of his neat, cozy yurt.
"If that's all the freedom we have, we might as well live in some city in the East where everybody gets hammered into the same mold. Who needs that?"