Antelope Butte to open Dec. 18

By: 
Nathan Oster

While brown continues to be the primary color of the landscape at lower elevations, Antelope Butte Mountain Recreation Area in the Big Horn Mountains reportedly has a solid base of snow as it readies for the opening day of its 2020-21 ski season on Friday, Dec. 18.

“We are anticipating a great season,” said Nikki Ulug, development coordinator for the Antelope Butte Foundation. 

With the exception of Christmas Day, the ski area located 35 miles east of Greybull on U.S. Highway 14 will be open every day between Dec. 18 and Monday, Jan. 4.  After that, lifts will run Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays and Mondays through the beginning of April.

While it won’t be available this season, Antelope Butte is making progress in its effort to reopen the lodge. Among the many approaches that Antelope Butte has used to raise money is a trail-naming program.

Of the 28 ski trails at Antelope Butte, only six are still available for naming.  While most of them are named in honor of Sheridan area businesses and leaders, a few of them have direct links to Big Horn County.

Trial No. 27 is now “Papa’s Paradise” in honor of the late Andy Smith of Greybull. The story behind the naming reads as follows: “Andy Smith was an exceptional skier and a member of the Antelope Butte Ski Patrol for many years. Andy’s aunt and his dad (who both were also on ski patrol) taught him and his sister to ski at an early age on the old ski run and rope tow. Many times skiers would stop and watch Andy ski because he had such a flow and art to his skiing, unlike anyone else. 

“In his younger days he loved to jump and flip on his skis, especially off Big Bertha. He loved to ski fresh powder trails and this would often take him and his skiing buddies to the far side, and occasionally to slopes in Colorado and Montana. He loved to tell those skiing stories. Andy passionately taught his three children to ski. “Papa” Andy’s love for skiing is being carried on through his grandchildren. The family wants his legacy to live on. Enjoy the ride!"

Trail No. 18 is “Ashley’s Alley.”  Jeff and Karen Grant of Shell named it in honor of their first daughter, Ashley, who was killed in a freak accident on her third birthday.  The description of the trail reads that “Ashley loved to be in the mountains, at her grandparents’ mountain cabin, at Lake Adelaide and many other places in the Big Horn Mountains.”  Her parents wrote, “We hope when people ski or hike down Ashley’s Alley with their children they remember to give them a great big hug when they are done.”

Trail No. 28 is “No Wahala.” Nolan and Denise O’Neal named it, choosing a widely used phrase in Africa affirming there to be “no problem” ahead.  The O’Neals lived in Nigeria for 8 ½ years and, according to the story provided by Antelope Butte,”’No Wahala’ is a short connecting trail and is symbolic of how the paths in live we love come together … sometimes with ‘no problem.’”

 Ulug called the trail naming program “a win-win,” noting that it “gives people an opportunity to leave their mark on the mountain and name a trail that is going to live as long as Antelope Butte. It is also a great way for people to support our organization and mission. Funds raised through trail naming go directly to lodge construction. 

“When complete, the lodge will also allow us to better serve our community- expand our programming, conference space, educational activities, and community events for students, recreationalists, tourist groups, and the general public to enjoy.”

 

Other season notes

With COVID-19 still rearing its ugly head, it won’t exactly be a full-speed-ahead type of opener at Antelope Butte.

“We will be in the yurt again this year as well as a heated event tent,” said Ulug. “Capacity in both indoor spaces, as well as the rental shop will be limited to 25% occupancy.

“We are highly encouraging people to tailgate at their vehicles to prevent the spread of COVID. We are not planning on being in the lodge this winter.”

Progress has been made on the lodge, however — to the point where Ulug remarked, “We can see the light at the end of the tunnel.

“We had some delays due to state permits and requirements for occupancy,” she said. “We have, however, gotten all of these permits and a clear written document of what the State is requiring for public occupancy. 

“Based on these requirements along with the potential restrictions to indoor operations and material delays due to COVID, we have chosen to not push for operations in the lodge this season. Instead, we are looking to improve upon operations utilizing our existing facilities, while also focusing on completing the final phase of fundraising for this campaign.”

Ulug said ticket have been available for purchase in the rental shop in recent years, but will be sold in a kiosk his year “to better protect our guests and staff against potential COVID transmission.

“We are building a temporary enclosure around the portable restrooms that will allow us to keep them modestly heated and allow for handwashing stations that will not freeze. This will be an improvement from previous seasons while we wait for completion of the lodge. We are working on streamlining our rental process along with introducing a new punch pass that will allow users to spend less time in line and more time on the slopes!”

For more information about the upcoming season at Antelope Butte, visit www.antelopebuttefoundation.org/plan-your-visit.