Big Sky Is Booming: But What About Affordable Housing?
Big Sky Resort is the third largest ski resort in America and attracts 500,000 skiers annually. After announcing a deal with CrossHarbor Capital Partners to merge Moonlight Basin into Big Sky Resort in 2013, the resort now boasts an impressive 5,800 acres of public skiing, with an additional 2,200 acres available to Yellowstone Club members, yet still remains fairly undiscovered. Although a whopping one million cars drive past Big Sky every year, most of that traffic is Yellowstone National Park bound.
The Housing Issue
Between now and 2025, the resort plans on spending $150 million on improvements. The community of Big Sky currently has a population of 2,500 and in recent years has added numerous shops and restaurants, in addition to a movie theater and a full-service grocery store in 2014. The following year, Big Sky Medical Center started offering emergency services and inpatient care.
Although the community is steadily growing and the resort itself has expanded, there is one issue that still raises concern— most of Big Sky’s workforce commutes to work due to the lack of affordable housing available to employees. Recent data shows that Big Sky is short between 900 and 1,200 units, and that roughly 83% of the entire workforce leaves at the end of the day to begin their commute back to Bozeman and other surrounding areas. (image credit: explorebigsky.com)
Is There a Plan?
David Fowler is an architect who has been working on this issue since 2013. He states that the most important thing to do in order to begin solving this problem and creating more affordable housing is the establishment of an organization to begin accepting donations in order to offset land costs. There is a plan in the works that includes the construction of an 18-condo development on a 4.14-acre parcel known as Sweetgrass Hills in the Town Center, but critics argue that 18 condos don’t count for much when the housing shortage is as high as it is.
Additionally, Lone Mountain Land Company (LMLC) is developing two properties in the Town Center that will be targeted for Yellowstone Club, Moonlight and Spanish Peaks employees. One building will contain 16 units (completion estimated at approximately one year) and the other will hold 32 units. Both buildings will likely be rental properties.
While these plans may not begin to take place in the immediate future, the resort plans on moving forward with its $150 million improvements. Last year two new high-speed chairlifts were added to the mountain, one of which has heated seats and plexiglass bubbles to shield passengers from the elements. A number of new restaurants are expected to be opening soon as well. Overall, Stephen Kircher (president of Boyne Resorts’ operations, of which Big Sky Resort is a part) says that both of these projects are early steps in a 10-year plan to add a European experience to the resort. The addition of more real estate and improved services in the Town Center will help his vision become a reality, though it may be several years down the road before we see any significant changes to the area.