Antelope Butte Foundation reports progress

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With support and cooperation from surrounding communities and the Bighorn National Forest, Antelope Butte Foundation (ABF) is moving closer to its goal of reopening the ski area, located in the Big Horn Mountains between Dayton and Greybull.

ABF held an inaugural event in November, in conjunction with Sheridan College’s Outdoor Adventure Club. The event, called “Butte-ify the Bighorns,” raised more than $33,000.

“Strong community support is helping move Antelope Butte Foundation closer to its ultimate goal of reopening the ski area,” said ABF President Mark Weitz.

On Jan. 24, ABF presented a proposal to the Forest Service to gain access to the Antelope Butte facilities this summer in order to stop degradation due to a water leak, and to begin making improvements with “an army of volunteer support,” said Weitz.

“We want to take advantage of volunteer efforts, while also focusing on fundraising, working on multiple fronts toward our goal. ABF’s proposal was well received by the Forest Service.”

“ABF presented a professional proposal to move forward on their efforts to ultimately open the Antelope Butte Ski Area,” Bighorn National Forest Supervisor Bill Bass said. “While I could not approve all of their proposal, progress and agreement was reached to develop a reasonable process and timeframe.”

The next step in the process is to complete an appraisal, which will include both a salvage and operational value.

“After the appraisal, we hope to enter into a purchase-sale agreement with the Forest Service for the improvements,” said ABF Board Member Carrie Sisson. “Once we enter into a formal agreement, we will be able to gain access to the lodge, better evaluate options, and start work toward making improvements.”

Weitz said he has heard from countless people who want to help get the ski area re-opened.

“We hear the community loud and clear,” Weitz said, “Contractors, electricians, engineers, professionals, individuals, groups — saying ‘how can we help?’  If ABF can gain access and start making improvements, it will allow people to contribute and keep the project’s momentum strong.”

According to Bass, ABF must focus on acquiring the real property with the intent to eventually qualify to be ski area permit holders. This will require ABF to assume some financial outlay and risk.

“This grassroots effort has demonstrated a very professional business approach,” Bass said. “But ultimately, the ski area must be either re-opened or removed from National Forest Service Lands. Future discussions will be aimed at establishing reasonable timelines considering Forest Plan Direction and the Public interest/Trust.”

In order to garner broader support and expertise, ABF has partnered with the Mountain Riders Alliance, an organization dedicated to making a positive change in the ski industry by supporting the health and sustainability of smaller, community ski areas. MRA also has projects in Alaska and Maine.

“We have been collaborating with MRA to become involved in a new and growing national effort — focusing on the importance and vitality of community ski areas,” Weitz said.

Jamie Schectman, co-founder of the Mountain Riders Alliance, said the two groups hope Antelope Butte will “become the poster child for how communities can work together to reopen, restore and rejuvenate their Mountain Playgrounds.”

“In the short term, we are sharing best practices, facilitating industry introductions, assisting with messaging, and collaborating with ABF’s legal team and the USFS to ensure ABF’s mission is achieved,” Schectman said.

In the longer term, Antelope Butte may become part of a network of MRA “Mountain Playgrounds” — a portfolio of community focused ski areas that together can benefit from economies of scale by reducing expenses, increasing efficiencies and helping to ensure sustainability.

To learn more and/or contribute to ABF, please visit www.antelopebuttefoundation.org and www.facebook.com/AntelopeButteFoundation.

About Antelope Butte Foundation:

Antelope Butte Foundation’s mission is to provide affordable, accessible skiing, mountain recreation, and related training and education for all, especially youth and beginners. The current board of directors is made up of nine professionals from the northern Wyoming communities of Sheridan, Basin, and Greybull who are dedicated to reopening the ski area for future generations.