It is stunning news when a ski resort is getting out of the skiing business, especially in a winter-centric state like Wyoming.
The announcement Sleeping Giant Ski Area plans to cease skiing operations for the 2020-21 season is depressing longtime Cody area residents who fondly recall learning how to ski on those hills on the outskirts of Yellowstone National Park.
The biggest problem Sleeping Giant has faced in recent years is that while patrons were skiing downhill, break-even efforts were going uphill.
Amy Woods, manager of the Yellowstone Recreation Foundation, was the one assigned to break the news to the public in a press release last Tuesday.
In part it read with “tremendous sadness and sorrow” the board of directors voted to suspend winter operations for skiing and snowboarding because the non-profit is running a $200,000-a-year deficit.
It can’t all be the fault of global climate change.
While this declaration announces the board thinks Sleeping Giant is untenable with current finances, except for the summer-use zipline, it is always possible a deep pockets figure will appear on the scene with a desire to preserve the skiing.
Meanwhile, the zipline, introduced to take advantage of skiing downtime and bring in extra cash, has been a success, but not so much so by itself to offset the cost of coping with winter participation that is not paying the bills.
Really, a crisis has been brewing for years, even if the public didn’t quite realize it had gone beyond a bending point to a bursting point.
A review of headlines in recent years shows the type of bad luck experienced by and experimental programs tried by Sleeping Giant to stay afloat.
In 2015, the ski area closed early for the season because of lack of snow. In 2019, the operation said it was moving ahead without a general manager.
To lure people to the slopes, Sleeping Giant offered fifth-graders free passes for the entire season and family scholarship programs. For a time, bus trips from Cody resumed, making it easier for young people to make the near-50-mile-long ride.
A major fundraiser was hosted in April of 2019 and that brought in about $56,000. A nice haul, but not enough.
Sleeping Giant also kept its pricing low, much lower than many ski resorts elsewhere in the country, hoping more people would be attracted by bargain skiing in a picturesque setting.
Those were all good ideas, but even taken together over the years, they did not kindle a consistent enough spark in attendance to bring in enough money.
As word spread about the shuttering plan for next winter, people took to social media to lament the situation, as if they had lost a relative. “VERY SAD,” was one comment. “Bummer,” was another. “Oh, man ... many memories at that place,” someone else commented.
In what was written as a farewell address, Woods and the board, emphatically thanked the community for its backing.
All along, it seemed the community cared about preserving a local institution. Usually, more people want to play than pay, but in this case maybe it was the other way around.