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Sleeping Giant awakens for the season

Perry Brown shreds through fresh powder on his snowboard at Sleeping Giant Ski Area Wednesday. The slopes opened late this year, but now have more than an 18-inch base. Perry Brown shreds through fresh powder on his snowboard at Sleeping Giant Ski Area Wednesday. The slopes opened late this year, but now have more than an 18-inch base. Tribune photo by Mark Davis

As powdery snow fell on the groomed slopes at Sleeping Giant Ski Area, the parking lot began to fill. It was a late Christmas gift for the nonprofit.

“Everybody else’s bad weather is our good weather,” said Jon Reveal, general manager of the popular winter sports facility.

Winter’s late arrival hurt the bottom line of Sleeping Giant, Reveal said. The doors typically open in time for Christmas break and remain open daily until classes resume, providing the facility with much needed early-season revenue. But there wasn’t enough snow to warrant an opening until the day after Christmas.

Fortunately, they had an 18-inch base by Wednesday, with more falling by the hour. Additionally, relatively balmy conditions compared to subzero temperatures in the Powell area, provided basin residents with superb skiing conditions.

Reveal has been the general manager for the past six years, coming to the Shoshone National Forest property after it reopened as a 501(C)(3) in 2009 after lying dormant for four years. The nonprofit designation helped save the company, offering skiing and excellent access to the area’s premier nordic trails as well as lessons for bargain prices. An adult lift ticket is $38 a day and a three-day ticket along with lessons and ski rentals is $120 — less than a day of skiing with rentals at many lodges.

With more than 50 years experience in the skiing industry, Reveal came out of retirement to take the job.

“I wasn’t very good at retirement,” Reveal said. “I like to work.”

Popular with employees, including 13 volunteers on the ski patrol, Reveal has initiated and grown programs that have helped turn around Sleeping Giant. Programs include eight weekly ‘Shred Like a Girl’ meetings for women wanting to learn and enjoy skiing during the school year; and free season passes to Cody, Powell and Meeteetse fifth graders.

Some changes made by Reveal have been more subtle, but were important to creating a positive vibe at the facility. On day one, Reveal removed signs limiting customers’ actions, including bringing coolers for tailgate meals. While management would love for the customers to eat at the grill in the cozy lodge, signs spelling out restrictions weren’t welcoming.

“I’m at my best when making folks happy,” Reveal said.

Downhill skiing isn’t the only winter sport celebrated at Sleeping Giant. They also rent snow shoes and nordic skis for use on manicured trails which lead through the forest just west of Yellowstone National Park. And for those just wanting to hike, fish or enjoy views of area wildlife, the Sleeping Giant grill is a great place to stop for nourishment or a beverage (wine and beer are on the menu). Some come to enjoy the drive and the spectacle, never intending to strap on skis.

“It’s a treasure,” said Sleeping Giant board of directors member Rene Huge. “[Jon] has done a lot of good for the hill.”

Huge is a snowboarding enthusiast and has been involved with the ski area since before it reopened in 2009. She is also active in the ‘Shred Like a Girl’ program.

“It’s been a long haul, but all the energy and support has been overwhelmingly positive,” she said.

The Powell Parks and Recreation Department, working in conjunction with the ski area, has a weekly bus on Saturday to deliver and pick up skiers for the trip price of $3 (ski lifts passes, rentals and all other expenses not included). The bus arrives at the Powell Mr. D’s parking lot at 7:30 a.m. and returns at approximately 5:30 p.m.  Passengers must be in fifth grade to ride without adult supervision.