It took a trip to Alaska to convince Dave Barnard, a former money manager based in Houston, to buy property in Wyoming. Back in the early 1990s, Barnard attended a business conference in Jackson Hole and invited his son to tag along. The next year, during a family cruise in Alaska, when Barnard marveled at the wilderness scenery floating by, his son quipped, "It's not as pretty as Jackson Hole."
That conviction launched a search for land, first in nearby Bozeman, Mont., where a savvy investor might understandably look for a better deal-but Barnard couldn't get the beauty of the Tetons out of his mind. In 1994, he finally purchased a six-acre lot owned by actress Connie Stevens in Indian Springs Ranch, an upscale development west of town with sweeping views of Wyoming's famous mountain range. "Waking up each morning and seeing the Tetons is enough to say 'Thank you, Lord, for this day,'" Barnard says.
What Barnard did find in Bozeman was an architectural firm whose work he admired. Jerry and Steve Locati, the two brothers behind Locati Architects, are known for their distinctive alpine-lodge style, what Steve Locati calls "ski architecture." The firm has designed 30-plus residential projects at the Yellowstone Club, a private ski area near Big Sky, Mont.
Though many ski homes in Jackson are constructed almost entirely of logs, the Locatis decided to incorporate other building materials into the Barnard home, using just enough logs to impart a lodge feel. "The diameter of each log shrinks over time," explains Locati. "So if you have a wall with 20 logs, there will be substantial settling and wall displacement," which can lead to drafty cracks and additional maintenance, he says.
When it came to the Barnards' site, nestled in a grove of aspen trees on a butte beneath the Tetons, the Locatis' challenge was to capitalize on views while blending the structure into the landscape. While most of the rooms in the 10,000-square-foot house have views of the Grand Teton, the architects cleared only the trees in the building's footprint. To help make the landscape look untouched after construction, tons of boulders, some as big as cars and weighing as much as 58,000 pounds, were half buried in the yard. "It looks like those rocks have been there hundreds of years," Locati says.
The interiors of the six-bedroom, three-level residence, which Barnard named "Summer Wind," also feel ageless. Everything looks slightly distressed-from the 570 tons of Chief Joseph stone-a multihued rock from Kalispell, Mont.-that form the walls and fireplaces, to the uneven, wide-planked hardwood floors. Locati went so far as to request that dings be selectively applied to the custom cabinets, which were then stained with an antiquing glaze that accentuates the handmade reliefs. Hand-forged metal provides the home with rugged accents, notably in the handrails of the main stairway, pendant lights in the entry hall and an enormous pot rack in the kitchen.
It's in the light-filled kitchen, designed to resemble that of a traditional farmhouse, that the family tends to congregate, but there are plenty of rooms in which to relax and entertain. The home's lowest level boasts a gym, a Western-themed lounge with a leather-wrapped bar and walls, and a screening room. The main floor of one wing is reserved for the master suite, while another wing features a cozy two-bedroom apartment, which Barnard lived in while the house was under construction and is now occupied by his daughter when she visits with her two children. In the mudroom, each family member is allotted storage space; wire-mesh flooring and front panels in the eight-foot-tall wooden lockers ventilate wet ski clothes and hiking boots.
Barnard, 56, and his wife, Cindy, 45, spend every summer in Jackson, as do their five dogs. Fractional ownership of a jet solves the transportation problem, allowing the Barnards and their four-legged brood to travel back and forth from Houston. Barnard's three grown children and two grandchildren also visit throughout the season.
While the kids enjoy horseback riding and whitewater rafting on the nearby Snake River, and Cindy often goes for long hikes in Grand Teton National Park, Barnard has adopted a daily ritual since retiring two years ago. He eats breakfast at The Virginian, a casual hangout that caters to local ranchers and farmers, then rides his bike to the brand-new 3 Creek Ranch, a private golf course designed by Rees Jones (Tiger Woods is a member). When Barnard and Cindy exercise together, they head out the door for a run along the development's private road, a three-mile course he calls the "hill of death."
At night, the Barnards either hit town for dinner-their favorite restaurants are Snake River Grill and The Blue Lion-or entertain at home, gathering friends and family in the 18-foot-high great room, made cozy with numerous couches and easy chairs, Oriental rugs, and striking Native American artwork. "Two of us are just as comfortable here with a glass of wine as 30 people are for a cocktail party," Barnard says.
The days are long in Wyoming, and the sun can set as late as 10 p.m. on a midsummer night. From his "windows to heaven" in the living room, Barnard can catch the last glimpse of the Grand before the sky finally goes black. That mountain will be the first thing he sees at dawn-making for another perfect Jackson day.