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Big Sky & Yellowstone Club Buy Moonlight Basin

post #1 of 51
Thread Starter 

The parent companies for Big Sky and the Yellowstone Club announced they are purchasing the Moonlight Basin development and ski area. No details have come out yet on how they are going to divide the real estate but it has been announced that Big Sky will run the ski operations making for a ski area over 5,700 acres.

post #2 of 51

Interesting!  Guess that's related to the earlier purchase of Spanish Peaks by the owner of Yellowstone together with Boyne, owner of Big Sky.

post #3 of 51

Here's the article from Bozeman Daily

 

CrossHarbor and Boyne Partner to Purchase Moonlight

 

Photo cred: Martin Bell

 

 (Snip from article)

The two companies partnered earlier in the summer to purchase neighboring Big Sky area resort Spanish Peaks out of bankruptcy for $26.1 million. Future development across the three southern Gallatin County resorts will be coordinated and aimed to promote economic stability and growth and follow a path of stewardship and environmental sensitivity, according to the statement from the two companies.

“This investment is another important step forward for Big Sky and underscores the strength of our new partnership with Boyne Resorts,” CrossHarbor managing partner Sam Byrne stated in the release. “The investment also reflects the broader potential we see for the region and sets the foundation for long-term growth.”

 
 
post #4 of 51
Thread Starter 

There are numerous chairlifts in Spanish Peaks but they are mainly there for funneling people to Big Sky. Most of the terrain in Spanish Peaks is at a lower elevation, south facing and lined with houses making it ill suited for expanding the Big Sky Ski Area.The combination of Moonlight and Big Sky will be great for those of us locals that usually purchase Big Sky tickets but poorly received by locals that frequented Moonlight for its lower prices and longer lasting powder stashes. 


Edited by Rio - 8/15/13 at 9:33am
post #5 of 51

My sense from articles about the Spanish Peaks purchase was that the golf course was of interest for the other three seasons.  The ideal scenario for the bottom line of any resort is to be a true 4-season destination.

 

For Massanutten, there was money and interest to make improvements to the ski hill only after the rest of the resort expanded and started being filled to capacity during the summer.  The ski hill is 40 years old, but the rest of the resort is more like 15-20 years old.  Becoming a 4-season resort took a while to accomplish.

post #6 of 51
Quote:
Moonlight for its lower prices and longer lasting powder stashes.

Moonlight was non-viable as a stand alone ski area IMHO.  There's a reason it was so deserted. In March we spent some apres ski time in Moonlight Lodge with Eric Morrison, Moonlight's marketing director. The combined ticket we were using is marketed as "The Biggest Skiing in America" due to combined acreage exceeding Vail's. The reality is that few visitors actually bought the combined ticket for $103 and with Big Sky being the larger area including the Lone Peak tram, Moonlight gets shortchanged in skier visits. As it is now 2 lifts and a substantial amount of terrain are common to both areas. The topography is far more intertwined than Alta/Snowbird for example. Eric agreed with me that eventually various financial issues would get sorted out and the incentive would be compelling for someone to step in and merge the areas.  Usually my predictions don't come true this quickly.

 

For visitors the area is far more attractive IMHO on a combined basis.

1) With a combined ticket you can mix time on Moonlight's north facing terrain with Big Sky's sunnier exposures to optimize snow surfaces.

2) Challenger/Headwaters combined make a nice advanced terrain sector.

3) The North Snowfields run is now more convenient to ski based upon the conditions observed on Lone Peak.  In March I was up there with someone on a Big Sky ticket who wanted to go with me.  They wouldn't sell him an upgrade on the spot.  He would have had to ski to the bottom, buy it there and get back up top well over an hour later.

post #7 of 51
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Tony Crocker View Post

Moonlight was non-viable as a stand alone ski area IMHO.  There's a reason it was so deserted. 

I work with numerous people that loved Moonlight and had passes there. They loved the cheaper passes and the lack of crowds (as if Big Sky has crowds.) Personally, I avoided it because it requires an extensive knowledge of the mountain to find where the powder is stashed without trashing your skis or getting yourself into trouble. If there was a larger population living near by it could be viable but with less than 80,000 people living within 2 hours of it and having to compete with Bridger & Big Sky it didn't stand a chance.

post #8 of 51

As a traveler, I like the idea of Moonlight being together with Big Sky.  Assuming the price of a lift ticket remains competitive with other major destinations.  Big Sky tickets weren't exactly cheap.

 

For a 1-week ski vacation at Big Sky, having the option of skiing over to Moonlight for a half day would be nice for a family who stays in the village and doesn't rent a car.  I bet the ski clubs who go to Big Sky will like the merger.

 

Having to commit to taking the shuttle bus over in the morning and staying all day for the Gathering was fine given the discounted lift ticket that nolo pre-arranged.  Especially since I knew how to ski back to Big Sky.  But the year before no one in the group I was with wanted to bother.  Not when we had a group rate for skiing at Big Sky.

post #9 of 51

I was very impressed with Big Sky and Moonlight (as well as Bridger Bowl) and the lack of crowds and and huge size should go down well with out of town ski-weekers.

 

I was surprised by what seemed to me to be a lack of ski-in-out accommodation at Big Sky. Maybe the acquisition of Spanish Peaks will address that although you gotta wonder how much new real estate development gets done in the current economic climate.

 

Would it make sense for the Yellowstone Club to open its doors and be part of an even bigger multi-resort lift ticket?

post #10 of 51
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by DanoT View Post

I was surprised by what seemed to me to be a lack of ski-in-out accommodation at Big Sky. Maybe the acquisition of Spanish Peaks will address that although you gotta wonder how much new real estate development gets done in the current economic climate.

 

Would it make sense for the Yellowstone Club to open its doors and be part of an even bigger multi-resort lift ticket?

There still are large swaths of ski-in, ski-out lots in both Spanish Peaks and Moonlight that haven't been developed. The combination will be a boon to Big Sky. As for Yellowstone, I'm not sure how much of their involvement is to keep real estate in its neighborhood from devaluating and how much is to acquire land to expand both in new lots and the ski area. 10 years ago there was a court battle between Moonlight & the Yellowstone Club where Moonlight won the rights to the summit of Lone Mountain, which Yellowstone coveted so they could significantly expand their total vertical feet.....it will be interesting to see if the Yellowstone Club resurrects its plan to build its own lift to the top of Lone Mountain. Whatever their intentions are I highly doubt they will ever open their doors to the public.

post #11 of 51
Quote:
Originally Posted by Rio View Post

There still are large swaths of ski-in, ski-out lots in both Spanish Peaks and Moonlight that haven't been developed. The combination will be a boon to Big Sky. As for Yellowstone, I'm not sure how much of their involvement is to keep real estate in its neighborhood from devaluating and how much is to acquire land to expand both in new lots and the ski area. 10 years ago there was a court battle between Moonlight & the Yellowstone Club where Moonlight won the rights to the summit of Lone Mountain, which Yellowstone coveted so they could significantly expand their total vertical feet.....it will be interesting to see if the Yellowstone Club resurrects its plan to build its own lift to the top of Lone Mountain. Whatever their intentions are I highly doubt they will ever open their doors to the public.

Access works both ways. If I was a Yellowstone member I would want to also ski Big Sky and Moonlight. OTOH if I was a Billionaire maybe I would be too busy and having too much fun making money and buying trophy homes and not be so interested in skiing.

post #12 of 51
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by DanoT View Post

Access works both ways. If I was a Yellowstone member I would want to also ski Big Sky and Moonlight. OTOH if I was a Billionaire maybe I would be too busy and having too much fun making money and buying trophy homes and not be so interested in skiing.

Yellowstone is sprawled out and much of where it touches Big Sky is southwest facing (the absolute worst direction it could be facing for both sun and winds) at a low elevation. It is a pain to get to Big Sky & back on skis. I have ridden chairs at Big Sky with quite a few Yellowstone owners who hold passes to Big Sky. They drive over to the resort. They ski Big Sky for its better terrain but also to have someone to ski with. They all have ski buddies that live elsewhere in the Big Sky area.

post #13 of 51
Quote:
Originally Posted by DanoT View Post

Access works both ways. If I was a Yellowstone member I would want to also ski Big Sky and Moonlight. OTOH if I was a Billionaire maybe I would be too busy and having too much fun making money and buying trophy homes and not be so interested in skiing.

Presumably anyone who can afford to own a place in the Yellowstone Club and likes to ski is probably not too worried about the cost of a Big Sky season pass.  Adding Moonlight is the same bonus as it will be for others.

post #14 of 51
Quote:
Originally Posted by marznc View Post

Presumably anyone who can afford to own a place in the Yellowstone Club and likes to ski is probably not too worried about the cost of a Big Sky season pass.  Adding Moonlight is the same bonus as it will be for others.

I'm am continually amazed at how cheap rich people can be.

post #15 of 51
Quote:
Originally Posted by Skiingblind View Post

I'm am continually amazed at how cheap rich people can be.


A billionaire daughter and me were using the shareholder pass for her aged demented mother in a dementia ward. The mother doesn't say much these days, and doesn't have a phone.  The RFID realised there were 2 of us on the hill at the same time, and turned the pass 'off'. Turns out a woman telephoned the lift company claiming to be the mom and asked for the pass to be used by her daughter. Wow, save a $100  but would you risk Charges that mean no visa will be given to yyou when your own private jet lands?. .wink.gif 

post #16 of 51

I recall this subject discussion with Little Bear while at the BSky gathering, actually three separate conversations on lift rides as we lapped some lines she was guiding.  I'll look forward to her comments within this thread...hopefully...when we see her here again.

post #17 of 51
Quote:
Originally Posted by marznc View Post

My sense from articles about the Spanish Peaks purchase was that the golf course was of interest for the other three seasons.  The ideal scenario for the bottom line of any resort is to be a true 4-season destination.

 

For Massanutten, there was money and interest to make improvements to the ski hill only after the rest of the resort expanded and started being filled to capacity during the summer.  The ski hill is 40 years old, but the rest of the resort is more like 15-20 years old.  Becoming a 4-season resort took a while to accomplish.

Forget three season golf on the mountain at Big Sky. There are courses at the Yellowstone Club, Spanish Peak and Moonlight on the mountain and in the Meadow. I'm not sure about Moonlight but I know they have problems opening Yellowstone and Spanish Peak before memorial day and typically there is very little traffic here after labor day. You can probably stretch it to four months but May and October are both out for golf at Big Sky.

post #18 of 51
Quote:
Originally Posted by steveturner View Post

Forget three season golf on the mountain at Big Sky. There are courses at the Yellowstone Club, Spanish Peak and Moonlight on the mountain and in the Meadow. I'm not sure about Moonlight but I know they have problems opening Yellowstone and Spanish Peak before memorial day and typically there is very little traffic here after labor day. You can probably stretch it to four months but May and October are both out for golf at Big Sky.

Given that vacation season for families with kids in school is pretty much June to early Sept, having more golf options under the same management could still help the bottom line.  Or at least that's what Boyne and CrossHarbor hope.

 

Even in Virginia, the Carolinas, and Florida where it's never too cold to play golf, April-May and Sept-Nov are pretty quiet at vacation resorts.

post #19 of 51
Quote:
Originally Posted by Rio View Post

 I have ridden chairs at Big Sky with quite a few Yellowstone owners who hold passes to Big Sky. They drive over to the resort. They ski Big Sky for its better terrain but also to have someone to ski with. They all have ski buddies that live elsewhere in the Big Sky area.

 

I find it terribly ironic that somebody would spend the kind of millions that the Yellowstone club membership costs (membership fee and then building/buying your house) and after all that to go skiing with the plebs because they are lonely...

 

Can Yellowstone club members not sponsor guests?

 

I don't really have much else to contribute here other than I shared a chair at Wolf last year with some visiting Montana skiers who expressed that they liked Moonlight a lot better than Big Sky because it was less of a resort. I would guess that they may not be too pleased with this news.

post #20 of 51
Quote:
Originally Posted by anachronism View Post

 

I find it terribly ironic that somebody would spend the kind of millions that the Yellowstone club membership costs (membership fee and then building/buying your house) and after all that to go skiing with the plebs because they are lonely...

 

Can Yellowstone club members not sponsor guests?

 

I don't really have much else to contribute here other than I shared a chair at Wolf last year with some visiting Montana skiers who expressed that they liked Moonlight a lot better than Big Sky because it was less of a resort. I would guess that they may not be too pleased with this news.

I talked to someone from Yellowstone Club once, who said that he had the membership because he'd had concern about a kidnapping threat of one of his kids.  He skied with his family for several years but when they'd grown and interests changed, he lost his ski buddies.  

 

Its not much of a stretch that someone like this would want to explore other (close) mountains and find people to ski with. 

post #21 of 51
Quote:
Originally Posted by anachronism View Post

 

I find it terribly ironic that somebody would spend the kind of millions that the Yellowstone club membership costs (membership fee and then building/buying your house) and after all that to go skiing with the plebs because they are lonely...

 

This is so

 

sad.

post #22 of 51
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by anachronism View Post

Can Yellowstone club members not sponsor guests?

 

They can, but I don't know what the rules are on how many and how often. I do know a handful of people that have been guests (all of which are either Big Sky skiers or Bridger skiers) and they all have a 'been there, done that' attitude towards the Yellowstone Club's ski area. Someone in the Yellowstone Club would be hard pressed to get someone to come ski with them everyday with Big Sky next door.

post #23 of 51
Quote:
Originally Posted by Rio View Post

They can, but I don't know what the rules are on how many and how often. I do know a handful of people that have been guests (all of which are either Big Sky skiers or Bridger skiers) and they all have a 'been there, done that' attitude towards the Yellowstone Club's ski area. Someone in the Yellowstone Club would be hard pressed to get someone to come ski with them everyday with Big Sky next door.

I had to chuckle at Yellowstone's "No Trespassing" signs and snooty attitude when as anyone can see the best skiing is at Big Sky/Moonlight. No trespassing needed.

post #24 of 51
Quote:
Originally Posted by anachronism View Post

 

I find it terribly ironic that somebody would spend the kind of millions that the Yellowstone club membership costs (membership fee and then building/buying your house) and after all that to go skiing with the plebs because they are lonely...

 

.

 

Poster child for 1st World Problem thread :-)
post #25 of 51

Horse Hockey, the Y/C has some very fine skiing.

 

What you experienced is Localtudebiggrin.gif
 

post #26 of 51
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by bunion View Post

Horse Hockey, the Y/C has some very fine skiing.

 

What you experienced is Localtudebiggrin.gif
 

Being someone that has skied Big Sky & Moonlight extensively, would you choice to ski Yellowstone Club everyday?

post #27 of 51
Quote:
Originally Posted by Tony Crocker View Post

Moonlight was non-viable as a stand alone ski area IMHO.  

 

It was viable with 2 real estate sales a year.  That's it.  Two mountain homes like we already have on the mountain or two custom lots, etc.  We have no lack of real estate and it was a sustainable development model that worked well for about 14 years.  Where it got into trouble was when development went on steroids in 2005 and there were other financial shenanigans going on, not the least of which was the meltdown of the real estate market in this country.  That led to lawsuits, bankruptcy, "foreclosure", etc. 

 

It hasn't been the easiest of times recently, but the backend business model came close to sorting itself out.  When I started in 2006 the joke we used was that we "were a real estate development company with a ski resort as an amenity".  That wasn't far from the truth - the skiing was not run at a profit and there was little concern to make that a profitable business as long as it was driving real estate sales.  By the end of last season that was definitely no longer the attitude - the idea was that "ski" had to stand on its own.  If we had an owner willing to invest the capital for real estate development, the model would have completely succeeded as it currently stands.  

 

I wouldn't say the last 5 years have been a complete waste, although they could be summed up as being an immense distraction from otherwise developing what could have likely all worked.  We did learn how to run areas of the business in black; we did take the time to streamline some internal processes and staffing.  

 

I'm not going to speculate on Big Sky and the operational model going forward.  That's all being worked on and truthfully I don't think anyone has any answers.  If you understand the resorts and operations, you can probably come to the same conclusions anyone at Moonlight or Big Sky would.  A lot of times I hesitate to get too wrapped up in skier visit numbers because I don't think they tell a very complete story, but I'm definitely going to search out an NSAA report next year because I think it's going to tell a very interesting story.

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Rio View Post

Being someone that has skied Big Sky & Moonlight extensively, would you choice to ski Yellowstone Club everyday?

 

Yup, there's terrain at YC that I wouldn't get tired of.  Pretty cool stuff that doesn't have tracks on it.

 

With regards to the question about YC opening up terrain -I agree that won't happen.  

post #28 of 51
Quote:
it will be interesting to see if the Yellowstone Club resurrects its plan to build its own lift to the top of Lone Mountain.

????? Yellowstone Club is south of Big Sky, nearly all of its terrain clearly visible when you're skiing Marx, Lenin or Liberty Bowl in that direction.   The south side of Lone Peak is 95+% of Big Sky's ski terrain up there.  There's no viable topography for "private" terrain to connect the top of Lone Peak to the Yellowstone Club.

Quote:
Yellowstone is sprawled out and much of where it touches Big Sky is southwest facing (the absolute worst direction it could be facing for both sun and winds) at a low elevation. It is a pain to get to Big Sky & back on skis.

I skied Yellowstone Club for a day (brief TR but no pics http://www.firsttracksonline.com/boards/viewtopic.php?t=4249) at a journalist meeting in 2001.  The 2 main intermediate terrain pods face north and east.  The short (max 800 vertical) steeps on Pioneer Ridge face northeast.  From some Big Sky trail maps it appears the ski connection is via Southern Comfort.  Overall Yellowstone Club is far less sun exposed than Big Sky, though not as shaded as Moonlight.

 

I thought the intermediate terrain quality was better than Big Sky's, more continuous fall line with fewer flat sections.  Pioneer Ridge was somewhat smaller than Challenger but with better snow.   But there's no question that for experts Lone Peak is the star attraction of the 3 (now 2) areas.

 

Quote:
Someone in the Yellowstone Club would be hard pressed to get someone to come ski with them everyday with Big Sky next door.

Do I get to choose the powder days for Yellowstone?yahoo.gif

post #29 of 51
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Tony Crocker View Post

????? Yellowstone Club is south of Big Sky, nearly all of its terrain clearly visible when you're skiing Marx, Lenin or Liberty Bowl in that direction.   The south side of Lone Peak is 95+% of Big Sky's ski terrain up there.  There's no viable topography for "private" terrain to connect the top of Lone Peak to the Yellowstone Club.

The plan was to go up the west face. (Big Sky has the south and east face, Moonlight had the north.) When the plan was in place Blixseth was running the Yellowstone Club. Moonlight had already put in an application to obtain rights to the summit at the local forest service district. That district approved Moonlight's request. Blixseth put his application in at a district located to the west on a later date. That district approved his application. He then sued claiming he had rights to the summit. The main draw for the Yellowstone Club was to be able to increase their vertical feet for prestige. The west face's terrain looks pretty cool and the snow would probably hold as well (which means poorly in the spring) as the south side.

 

One thing I keep forgetting to mention in this discussion is the road to Ennis. Ennis is located to the west of the Big Sky community in the Madison River Valley, which is still relatively lightly developed compared to the Gallatin Valley and Paradise Valley. Moonlight was savvy enough to get rights to an old road through the mountains that connected the Big Sky area to the Madison Valley. This cut the drive time from 2 hours to 30 minutes. It will be interesting to see who ends up with control of that road.

post #30 of 51

Uh Roger, there is no "West Face" of Lone Mountain that can have lifts on it. Lee Metcalfe Wilderness is on the western aspect.

 

I think maybe you are referring to Stutzmans/Liberty Bowl which faces south. And keep in mind that Y/C and Big Sky are now partnered, access and lift terminals can go nearly anywhere.

 

The members will have to stand in line with the rest of the unwashed masses.
 

 

And the Jack Creek road? MLB doesn't "have rights", they owned that road. Now Cross Harbor owns that road.

 

However where the road descends into the final 4 miles of Jack Creek it is extremely narrow, confined by canyon walls and a creek and there are a lot of property owners who would lose big if the road was brought to county 2 lane standards let alone state highway standards.

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