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Big Sky 2025- Expanding & Improving America's Third Largest Ski Resort

by Hart Real Estate Solutions

With a population of 2,500 (and counting), a medical center that offers emergency services and inpatient care, numerous shops and restaurants, and an accessible 5,800 acres of public skiing, both the community of Big Sky and the resort itself are turning heads as expansions to the area continue every year.

Already the third largest ski resort in America, and consistently seeing more skiers every winter season, the resort’s Big Sky 2025 plan is well underway. First announced in 2016, this plan will cost the resort upwards of $150 million in costs related to Mountain Village renovations, installations of new chairlifts and upgrades to existing ones, and preparing Andesite Mountain for night skiing.  

So far, Powder Seeker (a high-speed, six-seater lift with bubble covers and heated seats) has been installed, and the Challenger lift was replaced with a triple fixed-grip and a conveyor load, which shortened ride time by 25%. Next on the agenda is the installation of North America’s first eight-seat, high-speed chairlift. Named Ramcharger 8, the lift will feature extra-wide heated seats, bubble covers, and an LED screen at the bottom terminal with up-to-date guest information. While there are other eight-seater chairlifts worldwide (majority being in Europe, two in South Korea, and one in Australia), Ramcharger 8 will be the world’s most technologically advanced lift ever built, and will be open in time for skiers to enjoy during the 2018-19 ski season.

Next steps in the plan include:

  • Replacing the Shedhorn double chair with a high-speed quad
  • Transforming the upper level of the Mountain Mall (addition of indoor fireplaces, an elevator, a coffee bar, traditional apres ski bars, and new food options)
  • Expanded snowmaking coverage
  • Night skiing on Andesite Mountain
  • Gondola installation

Further down the road in the late stages of the plan, several additional lift upgrades, hotel renovations, and Montana Club developments are scheduled to take place.

Making preparations and expansions now is a proactive approach to the inevitable growth and increased volume of traffic that both the community of Big Sky and its resort are bound to see in coming years. Bozeman’s population is expected to nearly double in size in the next few decades, the Bozeman Yellowstone International Airport is currently preparing for increased airline traffic, and Gallatin County as a whole is expected to gain 55,000 new residents by 2045. It’s clear that although once considered a hidden treasure, Montana (and more specifically the Bozeman/Big Sky area) is garnering more attention over time as we see more tourists in the area, and more visitors deciding to Montana their permanent home. 

Big Sky Town Center: Expansion & Affordable Housing Update

by Hart Real Estate Solutions

In July, Big Sky developers and CrossHarbor Capital Partners (the investment firm involved in Big Sky’s development) announced the opening of a handful of new businesses, as well as the groundbreaking of the first chain hotel in the area. The Wilson Hotel, a Marriott Residence Inn, is being constructed to the east of the newly built Town Center and will feature 129 rooms, a full-service restaurant and a fitness center/pool area.

Fast forward a few months to today— Lone Mountain Land Company (LMLC) has announced construction on another new building in the Town Center—the Plaza Lofts development. It will house five new businesses, including a sushi restaurant, wine bar and a boutique shop, as well as 22 apartments with one-bedroom, two-bedroom and 4-bedroom floorplans. The completion date for this project is set at the start of the 2018 ski season, around the same time as the above-mentioned hotel.

Artist's Rendition of the Plaza Lofts development

Source: Bechtle Architects & Jim Collins

Is Affordable Housing Still an Issue?

Currently, the affordable units that are being planned for future construction are capped at $215,000 for a two-bedroom and $270,000 for a three-bedroom. Future owners will also be required to meet certain criteria, including a cap on income and proof that the unit will be their primary place of residence.

A Speedbump in the Road

In June, the group leading the effort to develop more affordable housing in the area (Big Sky Community Housing Trust) withdrew its application for $1 million in resort tax appropriations. Earlier this year in March, the Gallatin County Commission rejected the group’s plat proposal because certain variances made the project unsafe. Other affordable housing proposals that included raising the resort tax (currently at 3%) were also turned down at the Montana Legislature.

The group will be returning to the County Commission sometime this month for a revised plat hearing, and director Brian Guyer stresses to the Big Sky community that affordable housing is still a top priority, and the application withdrawal is just a speedbump in the road.

Despite overall frustrations and concerns regarding the affordable housing issue, directors and developers alike are excited about the continual growth in Big Sky. With more visitors coming to the area with every passing year, the need to continually build and expand the community to accommodate both newcomers and current residents is at the forefront of city leaders’ minds. 

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