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February 03, 2009 3:44 am

Sleeping Giant: Playing it safe, but community support is crucial

Written by Tribune Staff

The Yellowstone Recreations Foundation, the non-profit group behind the revitalization of Sleeping Giant Ski Area, has taken a prudent approach in its quest to reopen the resort.

Last fall, the foundation made the tough choice to not open the ski area for the 2008-09 season after all. Organizers cited a lack of funds as the primary reason for the delay. Former spokesman Garrett Growney said the last thing the community needs is for the ski area to open deep in debt.

Proposed improvements to the resort are extensive, and expensive — triple the skiable terrain, a new chair lift, a Magic Carpet lift for beginning skiers and a deck and other significant upgrades to the lodge.

Since the decision to delay the opening, the foundation, with the backing of the Park County Commission, has been successful in obtaining a $500,000 grant from the Wyoming Business Council. It's a good step forward, but there's a catch: The grant is contingent on the foundation's ability to raise nearly $800,000 in matching funds by April 30.

That's a lofty goal, especially given the short timeline. The economic downturn hasn't made fundraising any easier.

The group's aim in reopening the area is to operate a family-oriented ski area, easily accessible to the people of the Big Horn Basin — period. As a nonprofit, they're not out to make money. But the benefits of the reopening truly are significant for individuals and families, as well as businesses in the Basin.

The case could even be made that the area is every bit as important — if not more so — than Sylvan Pass in terms of economic development and winter activity on the North Fork and in surrounding communities. In early January, the Park County Commissioners, recognizing the impact of the ski area, each personally contributed $100 to the effort.

Now, as the clock ticks toward April 30, it's time for other Big Horn Basin residents to show their support for this project.

The Yellowstone Recreations Foundation is consistent in its message that people should give what they can afford — whether it's $20 or $20,000 — to revitalize Sleeping Giant.

At last count, the foundation had raised about $200,000 — still a long way from $800,000 — but with strong community support, the goal is attainable. And the quality of life in the Basin will be better for it.