Yes, the area around the Sleeping Giant Ski Area is good grizzly bear habitat, and yes, it’s a popular place for the bears.
But Shoshone National Forest managers say that doesn’t mean the slope is off-limits for a summer zip line course.
Forest managers said at a May 8 meeting in Cody that they believe they can mitigate the impacts of putting a new summertime attraction in bear country.
Some of the possible steps Shoshone officials outlined included closing a picnic area to offset the new development, crafting a June through September operating season that begins after and ends before grizzlies’ most active seasons, and barring riders from bringing food or drinks on the line.
Speaking at a Park County Commission meeting last week, Shoshone Supervisor Joe Alexander said a lot of people mistakenly believe the grizzly bear conservation strategy is designed to restrict human activity in the ecosystem.
“That’s just not the design of it,” Alexander said. “It’s designed knowing that humans are part of the ecosystem, and that helps direct us and give us ideas of how we can mitigate and do things — keep human activity in the ecosystem, but to also protect the bear.
“We believe that we can do both here,” he said.
The zip line is just one part of a master development plan for Sleeping Giant put forward by officials with its parent organization, the Yellowstone Recreations Foundation. Other plans include building a eight-bed, dormitory-style caretaker’s residence for ski hill workers and putting in a snow tubing area.
However, it’s the zip line — and its potential conflict with bears in their active summer season — that’s drawn the most interest and discussion from the public and the Forest Service. Like those used at other ski hills during summer seasons, the line would allow customers to cruise down the mountain side suspended from a series of cables.