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Big Mountain To Get Bigger

News
posted: 01/01/2000

Whitefish, MT, Feb. 22--There could be some big changes ahead for the Big Mountain Ski and Summer Resort. The low-key atmosphere of the independently owned ski area may be preparing to get a major overhaul. Resort officials are looking to upgrade the base village, which has seen relatively little development over the past fifty years.

The grand plan for Big Mountain entails developing the current base area from a parking lot into a pedestrian village. This involves adding more retail and restaurant facilities, employee housing, and a 100-room hotel and conference center.

"We recently gave the forest service our three year development plan," said Brian Schott, Big Mountain's public relations manager. "But most of the building has already been approved. Now it's largely a matter of scheduling the development at times least disruptive to the natural environment."

This development plan will create a more fluid and exciting village for visitors to gather, shop, and socialize. Thus, Big Mountain would attract more destination and group travelers. "But balanced growth is the key," said Schott. "We're not about to through up a million condos up here, and as an independent resort we can maintain a lot of control over the resort's individual character."

One challenge is that many of the base area's businesses are independently owned and deriving a long-range plan suitable to all their needs will take some time. "We have a lot of stakeholders we have to be cognizant of," said Big Mountain CEO, Mike Collins, to the Flathead Business Journal. "Local skiers are an important part of our business, and they have a strong sense of pride of ownership."

"We had three times more locals coming this season than last. In part, do to our early season pass offered at $289," continued Schott. "Before, $500 was about the lowest price you could buy a pass. Consequently, we sold 7,500 season passes this year, where as in the past few years we sold around 3,000 a season."

Big Mountain also plans to increase its snowmaking capacity to reach the top of Chair 2. "We're definitely making an effort to attract more national and international destination skiers," added Schott. "As a competitive destination resort we need to ensure the snow will be here in the early season."

Since 1997, the resort has invested $3.5 million in capital projects, including the Kintla Lodge, two new lifts, and the slope-side Moose Run housing development and park.

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