Big Sky and Moonlight Merger Brings Risks and Benefits

The shocking announcement of  the merger between Moonlight Basin Resort and Big Sky Resort last week confirmed past rumors and speculations of what will be the largest ski resort in America. The combined ski resorts will create more than 5,700 acres of skiable terrain (outdoing Vail by 400 acres), a skiable drop of 4,350 vertical feet and 23 chair lifts on the property.

The purchase amount remains undisclosed, however the recent purchase of Spanish Peaks by CrossHarbor closed at $26.1 million. Spokesmen Greg Hitt declined to provide further details about the purchase just yet.  CrossHarbor Capital Partners LLC and Boyne Resorts, together, now own Big Sky Resort, Moonlight Resort, Spanish Peaks and The Yellowstone Club.

Despite many excited shareholders and businesspersons, the community is skeptical about changes to the beloved ski resort, Moonlight Basin. Often viewed as an undiscovered gem that (even days after a big storm) fresh lines and powder stashes that were still pristine and untouched; something impossible to find at the much more crowded Big Sky Resort.

In addition to taintless snow, Moonlight Basin worked hard to accommodate to college students and families by creating affordable ticket prices and lessons. Moonlight locals will be sad to see the ski culture change over time as new management and a new breed of skiers will be introduced to the “dark side”, one of Moonlight’s common nicknames.

Pat Gannon, a local coach and ski instructor at Moonlight recently stated “the strong community that grew at Moonlight over the past decade was a special event in the history of ski culture, no less than the glory days of Vail and Summit County, Co., in the 1970s, or the early rugged days of Jackson Hole, Wyo.”

Many Moonlight employees are concerned about the changes they may see to the quality of their jobs. Moonlight boasts a close knit ‘family’ of employees that are treated as individuals within a team. They are concerned that instead of being treated as an individual and part of a team they will be mainstreamed into a huge organization and be treated as just a face in a crowd.

Snowboard Instructor and Coach Bridger Biggins stated “People come to Moonlight for the atmosphere, not the name brand, it is a truly enjoyable place to ski and ride because of its unique character. You get the big mountain skiing and the high-end resort feel with still preserving the local family oriented environment where everyone knows each other and it’s not just another tourist trap.”

Although it is natural to resist change, there are many locals looking forward to a better future in the town of Big Sky, economic stability for the area and increased revenue for the state. Local schools are optimistic about the increase of new students and local delis, ranches and small businesses are hopeful that the changes will benefit the community and create new profits.

As this coming year progresses many ski and snowboard enthusiasts, as well as community members, will be watching closely as the combined resorts reveal and implement their future business plans. Everyone is hopeful the combination will benefit the community positively as well as keeping the popular sport affordable so we can keep enjoying the snowy Montana winters.