As managers of the Sleeping Giant Ski Area prepare for Saturday’s season-opening kick-off, they want Powell residents to know they’re welcome.
“You guys are considered Sleeping Giant’s family,” Germaine Mitchell told a group of Powell community members last week. Mitchell is the executive director for the Yellowstone Recreations Foundation — the not-for-profit organization that runs the ski area.
Mitchell spoke at Northwest College on Nov. 7 as Sleeping Giant officials shared plans for the upcoming season and explained that as a non-profit, they need community support to survive.
That the ski area is functioning today — it reopened in 2009 after a multi-year shutdown — is a result of an effort spearheaded by Jim Nielson of Cody.
In line with Nielson’s vision, Sleeping Giant offers discounted rates for lower-income middle schoolers and free skiing for all Big Horn Basin fifth-graders and for some families who can’t afford season passes.
It also aims to be affordable in general, but it all comes at a cost: Sleeping Giant has operated at a loss every year since its reopening.
It’s why one of Mitchell’s main duties is raising funds and why Sleeping Giant is always looking for volunteers to help them out.
“It’s not just an opportunity for you to contribute to the community, but also to contribute to your own happiness,” said Sheila Enriquez, the Yellowstone Recreations Foundation’s volunteer coordinator.
“At the end of the day, we just truly have a great time,” Enriquez said.
Sleeping Giant General Manager Jon Reveal wants a similar experience for the paying customers. He believes that’s a part of making Sleeping Giant sustainable.
“They come to us, they leave us with some money, they come home with a desire to return,” Reveal said. “If we can do that, we can have a future.”
The operating deficits don’t have Sleeping Giant shrinking its offerings: For the first time, visitors will be able to take rented snow tubes to a designated area or rent cross-country skis or snowshoes. It’s possible that snowcat tours may be offered if the Shoshone National Forest allows it.
Reveal also hopes to extend the ski slope’s Friday-Sunday schedule by adding Thursdays to the mix.
Next year, construction will begin on a zip line that will allow high-flying summer recreation at the ski area — potentially tapping into the stream of tourists visiting nearby Yellowstone National Park. Reveal hopes for a day where downhill mountain biking during the warmer months might also be offered.
He envisions Sleeping Giant becoming a winter destination and a driver of the area’s winter economy.
Mitchell, of the Yellowstone Recreations Foundation, said the organization wants to partner with local businesses and promote the Big Horn Basin’s “hidden treasures” to the world as “not just a place that you visit in the summertime; we have opportunities in the winter.”
Mitchell also encouraged residents to share their thoughts with the organization.
“The more input we get, the better and stronger community we can build for you guys, your kids, your grandkids and your great-grandkids,” she said.