SO about a month and a half ago at this point I wanted to really start reaching out to Wyoming based companies and entities and stumbled upon the Instagram of Shirley Basin Ski Area on Instagram @skishirleybasin and checked out their website of www.shirleybasinskiarea.com . I was of course instantly hooked for several reasons. First and foremost there was a photo of the owner’s puppy in their apparel which one of these days I have to get, super adorable and anyone who uses puppies in their marketing I am a complete sucker for. But also Shirley Basin is a great place for us to enjoy our great outdoors lifestyle. Lots of BLM lands for us to practice and sight in our rifles for hunting season, Prior Flats campground on the southern end of the basin and with my work both past and present, I thoroughly appreciate the history of the basin itself with both endeavors of uranium and oil & gas development.
From walking the draws, hills and slopes of the terrain, I was enamored and couldn’t agree more with the founder of Shirley Basin Ski Area, Gordy Arbuckle and the entirety of the Arbuckle Family that while this is certainly not going to be the place of world class / elite training Olympians, this location is potentially perfect for beginners and families on a budget. That being said, budget does often mean some imperfections upon visiting the basin myself sitting along side of the road right now as we are distracted with additional adventures. Some of the constraints for example are the terrain limitations, lift system and the location as far as ease of access but that is compensated for with the laid back all are welcome atmosphere. I married into a family of near expert skiers with even a member who volunteers and does ski patrol…I however when I fall cannot stand up again on my own. This ski area is perfect for novices, intermediates and experts looking to up their game on the terrain park utilizing the natural features and what is available to them.
I am so privileged to have had the opportunity ask Gordy some questions about the establishment of Shirley Basin Ski Area and I’ll insert his answers below and interject some of our personal experience visiting the Basin!
Tell me about the people behind Shirley Basin; Family, background, where from originally, memories that inspired this new area:
Shirley Basin Ski Area is family owned and operated by the Arbuckle family. Everyone involved in the business end of the ski area grew up in Wyoming, not too far from Shirley Basin.
One memory that I have as a child was my father, Sparky Arbuckle, suiting all of us kids up for skiing, piling our skis into the car, and then driving out into the Basin. We drove out on some road until we couldn’t go any further and my dad stopped the car and said, “We’re here.” And then he laughed evilly. Because there wasn’t any “here” – it was just Shirley Basin. There wasn’t a ski area out there back then, of course. It was a mean trick, and we were all so disappointed. But that might have the first time I thought to myself, “Well, why ISN’T there a ski area out here?” It seemed like the perfect place for one to 10-year-old me.
How did the Idea of a ski area in Shirley Basin start?
With that fateful drive into Shirley Basin as a child. More generally, Shirley Basin is an area that most of have almost died driving through at least once during the winter. But really I’ve always thought: it’s so much more than an empty, hazardous wasteland! It could be the location of a winter sport paradise! And here we are.
Kate Here! I really can attest that most people solely pass through the Basin trying likely to get from the Casper Area to I-80 / Laramie to tailgate the UW athletic events that are going on, but there is really so much. You have rolling flats to steep mountains forming the edge of the basin. We will visit the basin roughly every other month to sight in our rifles on biodegradable targets or head down and over to the miracle mile. There are so many outlets and so much public land to discover, but we know our favorite locations and tend to stick to though. With this new entity we certainly have found a new place to visit!
What steps did you take to get the ski area started?
We found some land in Shirley Basin that we felt had real potential for a world class ski area. As luck would have it, it was BLM land and we were able to acquire a grazing lease on it. Which is why you might see a cow or two walking around on our runs occasionally. We keep a couple dozen head out there, just for appearances. With that lease in place, the rest was easy. The land is so naturally skiable and gets such great snow coverage that most of the time the sagebrush is only a minor nuisance.
Did you have to establish any utilities yourself?
We might be the world’s first off-the-grid ski area! We still don’t have running water (though we’re working on it), but our power is generated onsite with a coal-powered steam plant. It provides heat and headaches for everyone in our lodge.
Kate Here again! I’m actually going to help consult them on options due to my familiarity with water wells and the research we have done on electricity like our posts for Water: and electricity to try and help them with a sustainable option as well
I saw on your website you have rentals can you expand on that? What do you have available?
We have a full ski shop with the season’s latest skis and snowboards. Since our rentals tend to take a beating on our, shall we say, “natural” snow conditions, we swap them out every year and have a rentals sale at the end of the season. We also rent innertubes if you’d like to hit some of the unmaintained slopes adjacent to the parking lot with those.
Tell me about some of your runs, lift system etc. Favorites? Favorite name?
We’ve got 15 runs in operation now, serviced by a double lift and a poma lift. Some of them are even situated at such an angle that you can really get some speed going down them! My personal favorite is Jim Bob’s. It’s a really great run, a real workout for your gluts. It’s named after Jim Bob, an old timer, a homesteader in the Shirley Basin area. He’s actually buried somewhere up there on the run. At least we think he is. The tombstone went missing so no one is really sure.
Kate’s opinions: I love the name Mostly Flat Part that caters to the cross country skiers that might not want to work as hard as it is mostly flat but is definitely sloped, but First Rodeo also has my heart as it makes me feel a step up from the fall on my butt all the time beginner that I am
What sets you apart from Hogadon?
Hogadon is a fantastic, professional ski area and you should definitely go there. We’re more of a third world ski area, a ski area with a grassroots approach. We pride ourselves in being a ski area that anyone can roll up to with little more than a desire to ski and some Carhart bibs, and have a great time. With more and more people moving to Wyoming, there’s room for more than one ski area in our area for sure. Newcomers from Colorado and California have a lot of expectations about what a ski area should be and I think Shirley Basin can easily exceed those folks’ expectations.
Kate Input for non-locals: Hogadon Basin is a great little ski area that is actually run by the city of Casper. From the Prickly Peak, it’s probably about a 40 minute drive. I would really encourage you to also check out their website here: http://hogadon.net to learn about everything they offer in their lodge, classes, rentals, contests etc.
Who / what skill level is your target demographic?
Our focus is primarily on beginners and intermediate skiers and snowboarders. While we do have expert terrain that requires high levels of skill and avalanche preparedness training, the majority of our runs are accessible to those looking for less deadly thrills. Our ski school is geared toward getting kids on the slopes for the first time and we love to see buses arrive full of excited faces!
What goals do you have for the future?
We have lots of goals, particularly the expansion of our summer activities. Currently we’re working on several mountain bike trails and we hope to install a shooting range at the top of the ski area this summer. If all goes well, you’ll be able to hop on our lift and do a little target practice at the top, and then mountain bike down. Fun for the entire family!
Our plan for the ski area itself is expansion, expansion, expansion. We’re a little limited by what we can service with our single lift and poma at the moment, but we’re looking into installing a 4-person high-speed quad that will be able to deliver skiers to much, much more amazing terrain. We’d like to offer night skiing – I think there’s a real market there – be we’d need to upgrade our power plant first.
Where are you located?
We are located 42 miles south of Casper, Wyoming on 487. We’re not far off the highway – you can actually see the lodge and lift from the road if you know when to look – and we have (temporary) signage at the turn-off to Shirley Basin Ski Area Road. We’re looking into a larger sign, maybe with some flashing lights and/or neon, to make it easier for visitors to find us.
Do you have any end of season / upcoming events?
We have the always popular Jump the Fence! Event coming up the first week in April. We’ll have food specials during that at the Hot Dog Barn, music performances from a few local artists, a laser light show and fireworks, and of course, the Jump the Fence! Event itself, in which our local skiers and snowboarders attempt to jump over the snow fence located on our Horseshoe run. It’s usually quite a spectacular day if the weather holds.
We’ve also got our rental sale coming up at the end of the season (TBA).
Anything that I missed that you think people would want to know about?
We have really amazing food at the Hot Dog Barn. If you’ve never had a Hot Dog Barn Hot Dogburger, you’re missing out!
Thank you so much Gordy and the whole Arbuckle family for your time and dedication to this cause. Please do both of us a favor and share this post so everyone can learn about the second best ski area in the Casper Area. Visit their website at www.shirleybasinskiarea.com and specifically their shop https://www.shirleybasinskiarea.com/shop
Bye All Y’all!