Why re-open Antelope Butte?

When Antelope Butte operated from 1961 until 2004, it provided multiple generations with the opportunity to ski, learn, play, and create memories. Community ski areas provide citizens a natural opportunity to be active and healthy, especially during the winter months when other outdoor recreational activities are not as readily available. Besides providing local jobs, Antelope Butte will serve as an economic driver to attract tourists, as well as businesses whose employees seek active “Western” lifestyles.

Antelope Butte abruptly closed in the spring of 2004 due to a disruption in the family business. The Antelope Butte Foundation was formed by local citizens who believe strongly that the communities surrounding the Bighorns are much healthier and better for having Antelope Butte as a thriving ski area and year-round mountain recreation area.  The Antelope Butte Foundation was formed as a non-profit organization in order to be sustainable for generations to come. With a long term vision, strategic planning and advantageous non-profit status, Antelope Butte is poised to not only reopen, but thrive.

The last operations went out of business, why will Antelope Butte succeed?

The Antelope Butte Foundation has taken a strategic and methodical approach in developing this project, and is focusing on a long term vision to ensure the recreation area is successful. An advantageous 501(c)3 non-profit status has been awarded to the foundation, and will play an integral part of the success of Antelope Butte.  Under a nonprofit structure, any excess revenues are rolled back into the operations, for such things as programs and maintenance.

Antelope Butte will be successful by positioning itself as a year round recreational facility. Besides traditional winter operations, developing into a year round recreation facility will be a cornerstone to Antelope Butte’s success.

Located on a scenic byway between Yellowstone National Park and Mount Rushmore, an estimated 330,000 people drive by the entrance of Antelope Butte each summer. There is enormous opportunity to capitalize on this tourist traffic. Activities such as scenic chairlift rides to 9,400 feet, zip lining, frisbee disk golf, mountain biking, music festivals, not to mention providing food and beverage services to hungry, road weary passengers, will be offered.

Non-snow dependent activities will not only insulate against variable winters, but it will provide more year round employees leading to greater employee retention.

What is the current organizational structure of Antelope Butte Foundation?

The Antelope Butte Foundation operates as a seven person volunteer board, which has been meeting since 2011. The board is comprised of a diverse group of professionals on both sides of the Bighorns. They have made enormous progress, including obtaining a 501(c)3 non-profit status, securing an international legal firm as a pro bono project, completing an appraisal, purchasing the improvements, begin renovations, and complete a business plan; including an operations and programing plan.

Once Antelope Butte is reopened, the foundation board will oversee the management team.

What are the benefits of being a non-profit owned ski area? 

There are several advantages of being a non-profit owned ski area that will help ensure a long term, sustainable future. Having a 501(c)3 status allows for ready partnerships with public entities, schools, colleges, other non-profits, faith groups, etc. that support the Antelope Butte Foundation’s mission by offering tax-deductible donations. Many companies and individuals offer preferred rates, across a wide range of services, to non-profit entities. When there are annual profits, no income taxes or stockholder dividends are paid and instead the money is reinvested into the area. Once Antelope Butte is reopened, having a non-profit status will greatly enhance the future fundraising efforts that could be used towards endowments, programs and future enhancements.

What is the total project cost?

The current project cost, including all operating equipment, start-up funding, operating capital, and starting endowment is $4 million.  All estimates have been made by qualified and certified industry professionals. The Antelope Butte Foundation paid $275,000 to purchase the facilities at Antelope Butte, and begun restoration.

Once Antelope Butte is restored, it is expected to be a profitable, year round operation that will sustain itself. Of course, tax deductible donations will continue to be welcome for new programs, initiatives, endowments, etc.

Does Antelope Butte plan to have an endowment fund?

The Antelope Butte Foundation believes an endowment plan will further ensure the sustainability of Antelope Butte. However, the first priority in this campaign is to raise the funds to purchase and reopen Antelope Butte, an estimated $3.6 million. The second is to bolster the long-term operations of the ski and recreation area with programs that include an endowment fund.

What is the condition of the chair lifts and are they still usable?

The two chairlifts were originally made by Riblet. While Riblet is no longer in business, parts and service are fully supported by third party vendors. The chairlifts last operated in 2004. The main double chair was briefly fired up as part of the evaluation process. The chairlift portion of ABF’s appraisal was completed by Red Lodge Mountain General Manager Jeff Schmidt, who operate two Riblet chairs. The chairlifts will be fully refurbished, brought up to code, inspected, fully safe to operate. 

Will Antelope Butte be purchasing any other lifts?

The Antelope Butte Foundation has budgeted for a new “Magic Carpet” surface lift.  Much like a conveyor belt, the magic carpet greatly reduces the challenge of getting uphill for beginners, encourages learning and confidence of new and beginning skiers.  With the foundation’s mission focused on youth and beginners, this is a critical piece of winter operations.  It will be located just north and east of the smaller chairlift and lodge, providing a great visual entrée for advancing to chairlifts, and close enough to the lodge and slopes so that parents can enjoy  watching their children learn.

Additional terrain and lift expansion is possible, especially considering the Antelope Butte master plan that was originally approved in 1999.  Possible new chair lifts or surface lifts can serve terrain that is already developed as ski trails on the west-facing side of the mountain.

What is the condition of the lodge? What is the plan?

The Antelope Butte Foundation recognizes the lodge has historical significance and familiarity. The lodge has deteriorated significantly due to water leakage. Theold floor layout, especially the lower level, did not maximize space. Initially constructed in the 1960’s, the building is not efficient.

After significant consultation with experts, the foundation has concluded that the structure is safe and can be used. Currently mold remediation has been completed, the floor plan has been revised, and renovation is in full swing.

The main lodge serves as a hub of all activity and is a focal point to the reopening of Antelope Butte.

Are groomers expensive?

Effective snow surface management is critical to both the short and long term viability of Antelope Butte. The ski industry is much like farming, only the “crop” is delivered daily, instead of at the end of the growing season. Because grooming is so essential to a quality ski experience, the Antelope Butte Foundation has currently budgeted for two groomers. Lease to buy or purchasing used are options that will be evaluated, as well as third-party contractor options.

How will Antelope Butte affect Meadowlark Ski Lodge?

Antelope Butte and Meadowlark, located 2.5 hours apart in the Bighorn Mountains,  operated concurrently from 1988 through 2004.  During that period, both areas enjoyed their best attendance years, including 2002 when over 18,000 skier days were logged between the two ski areas.  Since Antelope Butte closed, some 10,000 skier-days per year have been lost from the Bighorns, either to ski areas elsewhere, or due to people not going skiing.

For the same reasons that McDonalds and Burger Kings, Home Depots and Lowes tend to locate near one another, similar businesses near one another help create a “critical mass” that attracts people. With two ski areas operating, and with extensive snowmobiling and cross country skiing, the Bighorns become ever more attractive and affordable as a destination to tourists from the Northern Plains, as well as other communities in the region such as Gillette, Powell, Billings, and Casper.

Will you have summer operations?

Yes, having year round recreational opportunities will insure against being dependent on natural snowfall. In 2011, Congress passed the Ski Area Recreational Enhancement Opportunity Act, which allows ski areas on USFS lands to offer recreation opportunities during the summer months.  Antelope Butte will initially develop summer operations projected to be economically viable, with minimal capital investment, that do not require and “shovels in the ground.”  These include lodge functions such as food and beverage service, weddings and conferences, outdoor music festivals, and educational and “camp” opportunities. Scenic chairlift rides, frisbee golf, slack lining, a portable rock climbing wall, and air bag jumps. Mountain biking, zip lining, and other more construction intensive activities will require more planning and approval and will be developed in future years.

To reflect this change from the past, the name of the operation is Antelope Butte Mountain Recreation Area.

How many jobs are expected to be created by the reopening of Antelope Butte?

During the winter season, there is expected to be between 20 and 30 employees. With the addition of summer operations, there could be as many as 10 or more year round employees. Also, a year round, operational Antelope Butte will have a direct impact to businesses in Sheridan, Ranchester, Dayton, Shell, and Greybull.

How will donors be recognized?

Donors will be recognized in many ways. The Antelope Butte Foundation has retained the services of Hogan Lovells, an international law firm, who is currently evaluating what is allowed to be displayed on the ski area property with donor recognition (e.g. lifts, chairs, runs). The foundation has determined that the lift and lodge can be named in a family or individual’s honor and chairlifts will allow for some form of display, with all signage in traditional USFS form. Inside the new lodge there is much more flexibility, including a prominently featured donor wall. Donors will also be featured on Antelope Butte’s website and Facebook sites, and published in local newspapers.

Why Should Someone Donate to “Open Antelope Butte”?

Antelope Butte has been a part of the fabric of the communities since the late 1950s. All donations are tax deductible and will help provide mountain activity options for our youth, students, and families. The reopening of Antelope Butte will increase the local economic activity, and will serve to make both Sheridan County and the Big Horn Basin more attractive to residents, prospective residents, and tourists.