Sleeping Giant Ski Area is in the process of changing hands to private ownership.
Nick Piazza, who grew up in Cody, is awaiting Forest Service approval to run the mountain. He will become the new owner of the ski area along with his wife Yulia Piazza. A Forest Service lease transfer is currently happening between the Yellowstone Recreations Foundation LLC and Piazzas.
Although the lease was submitted in early May, the Forest Service has still not approved the transfer. Piazza said he is confident this will be approved in the next few weeks.
He said he will be investing a “few hundred thousand dollars” in improvements to the mountain in an effort to make it a more feasible enterprise.
“This is my gift to the community,” he said.
Since reopening, the mountain has suffered a roughly $200,000 annual deficit.
Piazza said he will engage a roughly 20-25% increase in prices. After performing some research, he found that Sleeping Giant is the least expensive ski area in Wyoming, and even after the increase, expects it to still be one of the lowest.
“It will still be one of the cheapest, very likely one of the cheapest in America,” Piazza said.
He said he plans to invest in snowmaking in order to provide customers a consistent quality product. Also on the drawing board are investments in lighting to provide night skiing, and terrain park landscaping. Already started is work on a yurt at the base, that will provide additional seating for dining and lounging in a cozy setting.
Piazza said one of his forefront goals is to bring the Cody High School Alpine ski team back to Sleeping Giant for its training. The Broncs and Fillies currently train at Red Lodge Mountain in Montana.
No major changes are planned for the summer operations but Piazza said he would like to have more concerts and weddings at the mountain and a summer storefront in downtown Cody.
Even though the deal has not been officially finalized, Piazza has already hit the ground running. He plans to have former ski school director Mike Gimmeson running ground operations at the mountain, and he is already working full time in his new role.
“My ultimate vision is to enhance the tradition of Sleeping Giant being a great destination for families and snow sports enthusiasts of all ages,” Gimmeson said. “I want to provide noticeable improvements with guest services, snowmaking, trail maintenance, terrain features and learning areas.”
Trail clearing and other winter preparation activities will be starting in the coming weeks. The mountain will also be engaging COVID-19 distancing and sanitization efforts all season long.
The Yellowstone Recreations Foundation board will still have a role in the mountain, but will serve primarily a charitable purpose. Rob Overfield, board president, said it will broaden its focus to all winter sports like Nordic skiing and hockey as well.
Piazza was unsure of the details but wants to offer free or reduced skiing and snowboarding for youths.
He said he expects season passes to be available for purchase in about a week. Incentives like early mountain access will be given to passholders on weekends.
Last season Sleeping Giant only sold about 150 passes.
“I feel like we can do better than that with a community of about 30,000 people (in Park County),” he said.
The investment banker, who grew up in Cody, has a realistic expectation for the future of Cody’s ski hill, and said he simply would like to “break even” on the endeavor over the next five years.
“My hope is that this is going to be one that looks like a great turnaround story,” he said.