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Sleeping Giant ski area

Sleeping Giant ski area, near Cody, and other small ski hills in Wyoming face a diverse array of financial challenges, prompting some operators to consider adopting a nonprofit corporate structure.

CHEYENNE, Wyo. - Thanks to plentiful snow, skiers and snowboarders enjoyed great conditions at Wyoming ski areas this past winter, resulting in more people hitting the slopes at some resorts.

"The snow levels allowed for a more quality skiing through the end of the year,"' said Kate Foster, spokeswoman for the Jackson Hole Chamber of Commerce, on Wednesday. "More visitors were able to have a really high quality experience.'"

Most ski resorts reported receiving snowfall well above normal before ending their seasons this month, and several resorts said that resulted in more people skiing.

Jackson Hole Mountain Resort and Grand Targhee Ski Resort in Teton County both received close to 600 inches - about 100 inches more than in an average season.

Grand Targhee extended its normal 25-week season by two weeks because of the snow.

"We ended up opening a week early and closing a week later than our original operation schedule," said Shannon Brooks Hamby, resort spokeswoman.

Foster said lodging statistics indicated visitation during the ski season to Jackson Hole - Wyoming's premier destination ski area - was about the same as the previous year, but area residents came out in greater numbers than normal.

Jackson Hole Mountain Resort reported 478,553 skier visits, the second most in its history. For the first time since it opened in 1966, the resort had all of its lifts and ski runs open on the first day of the season because of an unusually early and heavy snowfall.

Some of the smaller ski slopes in the state also reported better-than-normal business this season.

"We definitely had more business because we were open longer," Nathan Owen, pro shop manager at Pine Creek in Cokeville, said.

Pine Creek, a small, two-lift operation in southwest Wyoming, received about 50 inches more snow than a typical season.

And Snowy Range, a four-lift operation west of Laramie in southeast Wyoming, had about 100 inches more than normal and opened a new terrain park, Cody Marshall, vice president of marketing for the resort, said.

"We were packed every weekend," Marshall said. "We had people in from Colorado and Nebraska. Our parking lots were bursting at the seams most of the time."