from Deanna Travis

FlyAnglers Online

Publisher & Owner



October 10, 2011

For those of us who aren't tied to a "real" job or blessed to be retired, the region around our home in Livingston, Montana is the perfect base for exploration of all sorts.

I had mentioned to my husband Trav as we passed the turn-off to Big Sky on our way back from a trip to Quake Lake that I had only been up to Big Sky once many years ago. In fact so many years ago that it's founder and creator Chet Huntley was still doing the evening news with his partner David Brinkley. (It was called the Huntley/Brinkley Report I believe on NBC.) 

My youngest daughter Lisa was a skier and loved catching the student bus which ran from the high school in Livingston to the ski hills on Saturdays during the winter. There is another ski resort here as well, Bridger Bowl on the back road to Bozeman. The kids received a discount lift pass at both, but the price at Big Sky in those days was already in high roller territory. Back in the late 70's going to Big Sky was a big deal, but of course we had no idea of what it would become.

I think Trav had a good laugh because I spent the trip from the turn off all the way up to the Huntley Hotel saying wow and other assorted comments of near disbelief. Trav had been there several times for various meetings and had stayed there as well.

Trav and nephew Tom get a kick out of kidding me about having lived a sheltered life, but really living just across the water from Seattle did not expose me to the number of multi-million dollar homes at the resort – and that isn't including the ones behind the iron gates with "Private" signs, and not just a few either, probably thousands of homes. Add to that the rental condos and hotels and the small commercial centers with grocery stores and restaurants, just an incredible concentration of wealth – perhaps more incredible when you realize the whole place is populated on a big part-time basis. Most of the people who own these properties are there for a very short time during ski season, and for short stays during the summer.

It's pretty obvious the economic situation in this country doesn't affect their lives. I wonder about the people who work up there. I do recall some years ago there was a problem with getting and keeping employees. Big Sky is not really next to anything. The biggest towns are Bozeman which is probably 40 miles away and West Yellowstone is nearly that far in the opposite direction. Trust me, driving to and from to work every day in the winter is not a good thing. I know at one time someone was going to build some dorm type accommodations to help that situation but I don't know if it actually happened. 

There is a college in Bozeman and that would provide summer help, but I'm told there really isn't a big pool of potential employees to pick from. One of the more popular local restaurants here in town can't stay open for dinner because they can't get wait staff: too many places to eat, too few possible employees.

It was quite an education. The local newspaper, the Livingston Enterprise usually has a color issue at least once a week, and when they do there is a large listing of properties for sale. Again, I know there has always been some big money around the area; the trout fishing has always drawn a number of wealthy folks who buy property here as has the hunting and just the great beauty of the countryside. It isn't uncommon to see several listings over 5 million.

When I first moved back here from Washington State Trav told me, "This isn't the Montana you remembered." And he was right.

There will always be some locals who resent big money and I have heard various comments about Ted Turner for example. He owns a very large chunk of property west of Bozeman and frankly if he didn't own it there would be wall to wall homes for as far as you can see. In so many places, especially if there is a view or water, the property has been developed. In some places we might want to remember the best possible use for the land is as land – land to grow wheat and cows and perhaps sagebrush.

There are places where mass development can be done without destroying the whole countryside. Big Sky seems to work very well. Better there than on every bend of the river or little valley as far as the eye can see.

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