SHERIDAN — There are few things Andrew Gast loves more than hitting the slopes. And through his efforts, the executive director of the Antelope Butte Foundation is helping others in Sheridan to take their turn shredding down the mountain.
Gast’s love affair with the slopes began at 10 years old when he went on a skiing trip with his Boy Scout troop. Since then he’s been hooked.
His family scheduled vacations around skiing trips to resorts across the county. Gast would also make weekly pilgrimages to a ski resorts near his hometown of Athens, Georgia (and, yes, there are ski hills in Georgia).
“Once my dad got into it, it became our family thing,” Gast said. “That’s one of the reasons why I went to college was so I could work in the ski industry.”
After college, Gast worked for the Boy Scouts in the Orlando, Florida, area as an executive director. He then moved to the Atlanta area to do camp and outdoor recreation management.
But as his two children got older, Gast and his wife decided they wanted to leave the Southeast and live in a place with better ski culture so he could raise his family on the slopes. After looking for jobs in the Intermountain West, Gast and his wife settled on Sheridan.
Gast worked for the Sheridan Senior Center while volunteering with the Antelope Butte Foundation. But when an opportunity presented itself to work for the foundation, he quickly applied. Gast became the full time “Ski-EO” and executive director in the summer of 2015.
“I just couldn’t turn it down,” Gast said about the job. “It was just a confluence of my education, my desire to work in the ski industry and my passion all rolled into one.”
He’s been hard at work since then.
In his first several months, Gast did everything — dealing with permitting, designing plans, building marketing campaigns, fundraising and running events.
“It wasn’t just about physically rebuilding the ski area but about finding out what we can do to make sure that this operates for a long time,” Gast said.
Since then, it’s not just a matter of if they are going to open the ski area, but when.
“It’s a challenge for sure,” Gast said. “Anytime you have a grassroots organization that makes that transition from being a cause that they are passionate about to leaning more toward a business … there are going to be a lot of growing pains as to figuring who is going to do what. But I think we are on the right path.”
While the goal is to get skiing back up and going, one of his favorite parts of his job are the summer events. Gast works hard to put on the Antelope Butte Summer Festival and the Bighorn Mountain Brewfest.
With the efforts of the foundation and Gast, the mountain recreation area is expected to open in 2017.
Josh Law, a member of the Antelope Butte board, said that Gast was almost born to do this job.
Law said that the executive director has a visible passion for skiing, snowboarding and biking to go along with his ability to run an organization.
“He’s juggling a lot of different things: fundraising, board dynamics, volunteers … “ Law said. “And he does a great job at it. He really is the ‘Ski-EO.’”
Gast said he’s enjoyed his ride as the organization’s CEO, and is looking forward to the day that the Antelope Butte Mountain Recreation Area turns from a dream to a reality.
“It’s going to be a scary transition, but we are excited to get past fundraising and just get down to business,” Gast said.