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Inside the Fight to Reopen Wyoming's Antelope Butte Ski Area

On the northern edge of Wyoming near the Montana border, a ski resort that has sat shuttered since 2004 might see its lifts spinning once again in the near future. The Antelope Butte Foundation, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, has been working since 2011 to revive Antelope Butte Ski Area, which essentially was abandoned by the family that operated the resort, letting the assets revert to the U.S. Forest Service. After years of work, the foundation recently announced the hiring of two key positions to close out the final logistical and fundraising pushes to make the new Antelope Ski and Recreation Area a reality.

Jamie Schectman, who is the CEO and co-founder of Mountain Rider's Alliance, is the new executive director of the Antelope Butte Foundation, while Andrew Gast will serve as the group's development director. Mountain Rider's Alliance previously partnered with the Antelope Butte Foundation on a survey of community ski areas.

The most pressing task for Schectman is signing a deal with the Forest Service this spring to buy back the ski area's lifts and other improvements. Those assets recently were valued at $275,000, Schectman said, with a yet-to-be-determined deposit due at signing and the balance due within a year. Gast is currently focusing on larger donors for the foundation, according to Schectman, but a more democratic funding push could come this summer. With the work that needs to be done on the ski area, the timeline is set for a 2016-17 season re-opening.

While the crux of the foundation's goal is to revive a failed ski area, the Antelope Butte Ski and Recreation Area will have advantages its predecessor did not. The first is the tax exempt status the Antelope Butte Foundation enjoys, which is relatively rare for a ski area operator. The next is the 2011 law that sought to make it easier to expand summer recreation opportunities on federally owned land. Schectman pointed out that Antelope Butte — which is about 59 miles west of Sheridan, Wyo. — is almost halfway between Yellowstone National Park and Mount Rushmore National Memorial. According to Schectman, 330,000 visitors road trip between the two destinations each summer, making Antelope Butte an ideal stopover.

With a base above 8,000 feet and north-facing slopes, Antelope Butte is already well positioned for snow sports. The new financial structure and a chance for year-round recreation could ensure the resort escapes the pitfalls of its predecessor and thrives in an increasingly challenging industry.

· Antelope Butte Foundation [Official site]
· Antelope Butte Foundation works to reopen ski area [KOTA]
· Fighting for the Little Guys [Powder]
· Forest Service Gives All-clear to Summer Ski-Area Attractions [The Denver Post]
· Mapping the 12 Best Community Ski Hills in the West [Curbed Ski]
· California Co-Op Could Buy Bear Valley Mountain [Curbed Ski]
· Maine's Mt. Abram Ski Area Goes Green to Turn White [Curbed Ski]
· Ski Industry Expert Says 31% of Today's Ski Areas Are Dying [Curbed Ski]