Tag archive

Sleeping Giant

Why A Cody Investment Banker Bought Sleeping Giant Ski Area

in News/Tourism
7099

***For All Things Wyoming, Sign-Up For Our Daily Newsletter***

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.”

***For All Things Wyoming, Sign-Up For Our Daily Newsletter***

Sleeping Giant Ski Area to Close After Season Ends

in News/Recreation/Tourism
Sleeping Giant
2970

By Wendy Corr, Cowboy State Daily

The mountains of western Wyoming and eastern Idaho, along with southern Montana and central Colorado, are meccas for people of all ages who love the thrill of sliding down the hillsides at high speeds.

Skiing can be expensive, however, and one non-profit organization is struggling with providing affordable access for families while keeping the books in the black.

Otto Goldbach is a member of the Yellowstone Recreations Foundation, the board responsible for the Sleeping Giant ski area near the east entrance to Yellowstone National Park. 

The board announced recently that Sleeping Giant would close for good after this spring’s ski season, but Goldbach and other board members are hoping that they can find a way to extend the hill’s life by a few years through more volunteer hours and fundraising.

Goldbach pointed out that the ski hill is more than just a winter recreation area.

“It’s a community center that happens to have some ski lifts on it,” he said.

The hill, which was first opened in 1930 as the Red Star Ski Area, had closed in 2004, but a community effort brought it to life again in 2009. 

“Some really generous donors came in and put in the new infrastructure, remodeled the lodge, put in a new lift,” Goldbach said.

Sleeping Giant is a relatively small ski hill – with just 900 vertical feet and 184 skiable acres, it lacks the “excitement” that draws more experienced skiers to Montana’s nearby Red Lodge, just an hour north of Cody, or just a bit farther away to Jackson or Big Sky, also in Montana. 

But the family-friendly lift ticket prices ($16 for children 6 to 12 and $42 for adults) and programs such as free skiing for fifth graders make it a draw for local residents.

While the foundation has a broad base of support in nearby Cody, it hasn’t been able to raise enough funds to balance the budget and the facility is running at a $200,000-per-year deficit. 

Goldbach said the board has tried to think out of the box for ways to keep Sleeping Giant open, including constructing a zip line that has low overhead with a higher rate of return.

However, that tactic hasn’t been enough.

“They tried to get the revenue off of the zip line to pay for the ski area,” Goldbach said, “but it hasn’t been performing like it was hoped.”

Sleeping Giant isn’t the only ski area that’s facing hard times. The snow sports industry nationwide is facing downturns tied to changes in the weather patterns. 

According to a report released in the journal Geophysical Research Letters, there’s been a 41 percent drop in snowfall amounts across the American West since the early 1980s. 

But Goldbach said the hurdles they face at Sleeping Giant are more than just fewer snow days.

“It’s a tough industry,” he lamented. “You’ve got bad years, you’ve got competition from other ski areas and other sports that are going on.”

Go to Top