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Why A Cody Investment Banker Bought Sleeping Giant Ski Area

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By Wendy Corr, Cowboy State Daily

There are 12 ski resorts in Wyoming — Sleeping Giant, near the east entrance to Yellowstone National Park, is the oldest, established in 1936. 

It has had its ups — and downs —  but this past year it was in danger of closing its doors once again, due to low numbers of skiers and snowboarders. In fact, the nonprofit that had been operating the ski area announced in January that it had been running at a deficit of $200,000 each year.

Enter Nick Piazza — a Cody native and successful investment banker who is now running his consulting business in the Ukraine from his home in Cody. He said he couldn’t watch his beloved ski hill fold… so he bought it.

“You know, we’re ready to take a lot of the risk and responsibility in terms of kind of keeping the mountain open,” he said. “But it’s going to be a partnership with Park County, I think. For us to be successful we’re going to need people to come ski.”

Like Piazza, new ski area General Manager Mike Gimmeson also learned to ski as a child at Sleeping Giant. He said the area plans to keep prices the most affordable in the entire United States, offer free skiing to school groups and provide ski lift privileges to those holding season passes from other ski areas in the regions.

“We’ve partnered with some local ski areas, like Antelope Butte (in the Bighorn Mountains), Red Lodge (Montana), and vice versa, so they can come here,” he said. “And what’s really cool is you can go to Hogadon in Casper, and get three free days.”

Gimmeson added that with the new ownership comes new ideas that the team is excited to unveil.

“We’re planning on having kiosks at our ticket desk, and I think one in the yurt, so that people when they purchase their tickets they can just walk up and get it, like when you go to the airport. And night skiing! We’re going to have night skiing.”

Included in the new plans is the opening of a yurt to provide extra customer seating. The yurt’s purchase was made possible because of a Daniels Grant that was procured through the Yellowstone Recreations Foundation, the non-profit that has operated Sleeping Giant since 2007. Gimmeson said the extra building will help with social distancing and add to the appeal of the ski area.

“Along with the yurt we’re going to have other outdoor seating areas, we’re thinking about just strategic areas where people can hang out,” he said “We’ll have fire pits, and just kind of get people outside.”

Piazza said his goal is not to make money off of the purchase — rather, he sees this as an opportunity to boost the local winter economy.

“Long term, if we’re going to be successful, we have to bring more winter activity back to the East Gate (of Yellowstone),” he said.

Gimmeson added snowmaking operations will begin next week, with a goal of opening Sleeping Giant to the public on Dec. 4.

“People love that mountain,” Piazza says. “And I hope that we’re providing a platform for people to help support it.”

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Wyoming State Park Traffic Explodes in 2020; Up By 1.8 Million

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If you thought the coronavirus would force everything to grind to a halt, think again.

While the pandemic has had some devastating affects on the economy — one survey estimated that one out of every 5 small businesses have closed or will close — some sectors, like tourism, actually saw a boost.

Yes, people adjusted their routines to try to flatten the curve but that didn’t mean they didn’t go out. 

Take visitation to Wyoming state parks, for example.

So far this year, Wyoming’s State Parks have recorded 4.9 million visitors, an increase of 1.8 million over last year’s record — 34%.

Leading the way were visits to Boysen State Park in Fremont county.  Visitation numbers were 241% over the five-year-average.

Curt Gowdy State Park saw an increase of 231% over the five-year average with highs of 581% in March and 474% in April.

Seminoe State Park in Carbon county recorded a jump of 132% over the five-year average and Sinks Canyon Park in Fremont County recorded a 115% boost over the same time period.

Some visitors to this site will surely grumble and say Wyoming doesn’t need an influx of “greenies” to the State of Wyoming, but the tide is unlikely to stem.

In fact, state officials are predicting much, much, much more.

“Currently outdoor recreation accounts for 4.4% and $1.65 billion to the state’s (gross domestic product). We see no reason we can’t double these numbers in the coming years,” Darin Westby, Wyoming Department of State Parks and Cultural Resource Director, said.

Chris Floyd, from the Wyoming Outdoor Recreation Office, echoed those thoughts but said Wyoming “needs to do it right and we can do it through proper planning.”

“The key is to get them here, spread them throughout Wyoming, help them spend their dollars, insure they’re being good stewards of the land, and then let them go home,” he said.

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Northwest Wyoming Tourism Season A Mixed Bag

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By Wendy Corr, Cowboy State Daily

Cody is one of four gateway communities leading into Yellowstone National Park. 

As such, tourism is one of the top industries in Park County – and this summer was a mixed bag for the businesses that depend on visitors.

Claudia Wade, the executive director of the Park County Travel Council, pointed out that public health regulations imposed to limit the spread of coronavirus heavily impacted many businesses that rely on tourism.

“I think a lot of the restrictions that we had in Wyoming from the governor impacted our restaurants,” Wade reported. “And it impacted how our attractions operate, in the number of people they let through.” 

Dan Miller has headlined a cowboy music show in Cody for the last 16 years – and he said this year was devastating.

“I’d say we lost in the neighborhood of 90 tour buses that we didn’t get to have this year,” Miller noted. “And I don’t care who you are, you can’t take that kind of a hit and not say it doesn’t affect your bottom line.” 

Wade said outdoor recreation opportunities were hugely popular.

That popularity translated to record late-season visitation numbers for Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks, which both saw records set for September visitation. Campgrounds in the region also saw high visitation numbers once the facilities opened.

But restaurants and hotels got off to a very slow start this summer.

Fran and Ken Swope own and operate the Carter Mountain Motel, which Fran and her mother built in the late 1960s. Fran said this summer was unlike anything she’s ever experienced.

“We had a lot of cancellations for May, June and part of July,” she recalled. “For August, we were just a little above last year. For September, we’re gonna be just about the same because September got busy.”

Many restaurants, on the other hand, went from zero to 60 from the time they were told they could reopen in mid-May. 

Nathan Kardos, owner of the Trailhead Restaurant, said he and his fellow restaurateurs were remarkably busy, despite the regulations that forced them to space out their tables, or move them outdoors.  

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Grand Teton National Park Smashes All-Time Visitation Record For September

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Grand Teton National Park hosted an estimated 603,789 recreation visits in September 2020, a 17% increase compared to September 2019. 

Park statistics show that September 2020 saw the highest number of recreation visits on record for the month of September.

The list below shows the September trend for recreation visits over the last several years:
2020—603,789
2019—517,265
2018—558,788
2017—482,661
2016—492,451

In general, hiking use in the park increased approximately 54%, camping in concession-operated campgrounds increased 24% and backcountry camping increased 79% in September 2020 compared to September 2019. 

Visitors to Grand Teton National Park are reminded to plan ahead and recreate responsibly. The park highly encourages visitors to follow guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and local and state authorities, by maintaining social distancing guidelines and wearing a face covering when in buildings and high-visitation areas outside. 

Visitor services at Grand Teton National Park and the John D. Rockefeller, Jr. Memorial Parkway are limited this time of year, as most facilities close each winter. Closing dates for seasonally operated facilities can be found at www.nps.gov/grte/planyourvisit/hours.htm. The Craig Thomas Discovery and Visitor Center will remain open through October 31. Signal Mountain Campground is currently the only seasonally operated campground still open in the park. The last night available to camp there will be Saturday, October 17.

Please visit www.nps.gov/grte and the park’s Facebook and Twitter accounts for more information. Download the official NPS Grand Teton app for detailed park maps, audio tours, in-depth facility information and more.

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Explore Carbon County: Fishing

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If you’re looking for picturesque mountain views and incredible fishing Carbon County Wyoming is your destination.

Places to fish in Carbon County include the North Platte River, Encampment River, The Little Snake River, alpine lakes, Seminoe Reservoir, Saratoga Lake and more.

Rainbow, Brown and Cutthroat trout are numerous in our pristine rivers.

Walleye can be found in Seminoe Lake and lower elevation lakes and make great for great eating.

Carbon County has numerous fishing guides with the experience to ensure a successful fishing expedition.

If you are planning on fishing via power boat Hog Park Reservoir (25 miles south of Encampment in the Sierra Madre Range), Seminoe Reservoir (a short drive north of Rawlins, Hanna and Medicine Bow), Saratoga Lake (5 miles north of Saratoga) or the High Savery Reservoir located just off County Road 401 between Rawlins (Hwy 71 south from Rawlins turns into County Road 401) and Savery are all great fishing destinations with plenty of room to explore.

Click here for a list of great fishing locations in Carbon County!

Explore Carbon County: Where to Stay

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Carbon County has resorts, guest ranches, B & B’s, hotels, cabins, cottages, vacation rentals, lodges, RV camping and more! 

Whatever your style we can help you find your perfect lodging type.

Click here to find your lodging match.

Explore Carbon County: Snowmobiling

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Explore over 500 miles of groomed and ungroomed trails with terrain to please users with skill levels ranging from novice to the expert.

See below to find tips on the best places to experience snowmobiling in Carbon County, Wyoming.

Carbon County Wyoming has some of the best snowmobiling offerings anywhere.

Explore over 500 miles of groomed and ungroomed trails with terrain to please users with skill levels ranging from the novice to the expert. 

Snowmobiling occurs in primarily three recreational areas, each offering excellent trails and conditions.

Click here to see information on snowmobiling areas, snowmobile guides, rentals, and trails.

Hiking in Carbon County Wyoming

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Some of the best places in Carbon County can be accessed by hiking on one of the hundreds of miles of hiking trails in the county.

The Medicine Bow National Forest is a prime location for hiking.

There are also 5 wilderness areas in the Carbon County region. Wild mountain flowers dot trails along the Great Continental Divide and the Snowy Range.

Grab your gear and head out on one of our hiking trails for some exciting western adventure.

Hiking is one of the best ways to spot wildlife. [CLICK HERE TO SEE A GREAT LIST OF TRAILS]

Visit mountain lakes, crystal clear streams and secret fishing holes.

Wyoming’s terrain can be rough and the weather can change fast so make sure that while you enjoy our sweeping natural landscape you come prepared with plenty of water, warm clothes, a compass and a topographic map.

Hiking & trails in the Medicine Bow Forest: Visit Website
Area wilderness areas: Visit Website
Links to more trail information: 
Visit Website
Links to Seminoe State Park Hiking Information: 
Visit Website

Explore Carbon County’s Scenic Byways, Back Country Roads, and Hidden Treasures

in Carbon County/News/Tourism
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Drive through the mountains and prairies of Carbon County, Wyoming to observe our bountiful wildlife and breath taking scenery.

Wyoming is home to some of the best kept secrets in the natural world.

Whether you’re exploring the great Continental Divide, high mountain deserts or vast prairie lands, Wyoming’s scenery will not disappoint.

Keep your eyes open and you may  catch a glimpse of Wyoming’s native wildlife species including foxes, coyotes, deer, antelope, moose, elk, bald eagles, badger and more.

Please be aware that in the winter many of our scenic roads close due to high snowfall.

It is estimated that the rugged peaks of the Snowy Range rose 50 to 70 million years ago.

It is also said that the mountain peaks may have once been much higher.

Geologists suggest that approximately 15,000 feet of rock has eroded away since the mountain range’s creation.

Click here to see a list of great scenic drives in Carbon County Wyoming.

Explore Carbon County: Resources For Your Trip

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Carbon County Maps

The Carbon County Visitors Council is pleased to present area visitors with a series of interactive maps to help you get the most out of your visit.

Explore popular hiking and biking trails, campsites, fishing spots, boating areas and more.

We have 2 summer recreation maps. One for the northern portion of Carbon County and one for the southern portion. Choose an area to view our interactive maps.

There is a wealth of recreation opportunities in Carbon County, Wyoming. These maps will help you find a new adventure as well as provide navigation to the areas that interest you!

Click here to see a list of great maps in Carbon County.

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