When Tewksbury, N.J., residents Jon and Renae Pine chose Big Sky Resort for their second home, they weren't looking for trendy bistros and mojito bars. They wanted a skier's mountain, isolated and quiet. "You're just out there—away from everything you're trying to get away from, Jon says. But the Pines aren't the only ones looking to stake out their slice of solitude. Though not prominent on the vacationer's radar, Big Sky is in the midst of a real-estate boom that's tearing through it like a buffalo stampede. From 30-year-old studio fixer-uppers to palatial mountain villas, property is flying out the door and rapidly appreciating—in some cases as much as 160 percent in the past year.
It's not hard to see Big Sky's appeal. Lone Peak, on which both Big Sky and Moonlight Basin resorts operate, offers so much terrain that in order to ski it right, you'll need a quiver of 10. The two ski areas, separately owned but now sharing lift tickets after squabbling over boundaries for a couple of seasons, offer 23 lifts, 5,300 skiable acres and a whopping 4,350 feet of vertical. From the summit elevation of 11,166 feet, this is a see-forever, ski-forever experience, with runs up to six miles long. Intermediate slopes prevail, but there are plenty of glades and bowls smothered in 400-plus annual inches.
To keep up with the roaring market, Big Sky, like many other destination ski resorts, is building up its base village, components of which have been around since the late NBC anchorman Chet Huntley launched the resort in 1973. Developments near the village include Alpenglow, which will have 60 condominium units, Cascade Ridge, which will have 24 freestanding condos, and Black Eagles Lodges, which is unveiling eight luxury units this season (with more planned) in sizes that range from 2,500 to 3,200 square feet. And last summer, Big Sky owner Boyne USA broke ground on Village Center One, a four-story building that will add more shopping, lodging and dining.
[NEXT ""]Next door, Moonlight Basin is quickly becoming a self-contained community with its own distinct identity. Holdings span some 25,000 acres, but only a fraction of that will be developed, with the rest remaining open space. Moonlight's plan is to cluster roughly 1,000 residential units around Madison Village, near the Six Shooter six-pack chairlift, and at Pony Express Village, near the Pony Express chair. The tilt is definitely upscale, with prices in the ski-in/ski-out development of Moonlight Mountain Homes between $1.4 million and $1.8 million—nearly double what homes went for a couple of years ago. In the newly developed Cowboy Heaven area, luxury suites are up to $2.2 million. In addition, a Jack Nicklaus golf course, called The Reserve, will open in a couple of years.
There are also two unaffiliated members-only residential enclaves on Big Sky's flanks. The Yellowstone Club boasts its own private golf course and ski hill, which borders Big Sky (members have access through a gate on the Club's slopes). The Club recently launched another enclave, called Spanish Peaks, on 3,500 acres at the base of Big Sky in a scenic valley adjacent to Yellowstone National Park. The Peaks intends to offer 850 homesites, cabins and townhouses, all of which will be ski-in/ski-out, with access to an 18-hole Tom Weiskopf golf course. Prices start at $500,000.
So, with a ring of new and reborn villages around it, Big Sky is in for big changes. As for mojitos, don't hold your breath: Thanks to its location and lack of year-round visitors, the resort will most likely keep serving up those slices of peace and quiet.
Population 1,350 to 1,500 year-round residents
Median home price (Big Sky) $381,500, but current average listing prices are $718,996 for condos, $1.6 million for homes and $1 million for an acre of land.
Annual taxes on a median-priced home Varies by county and property. Montana is a nondisclosure state, which means that final salee prices are not public record.
Number of properties sold in 2004 (includes Spanish Peaks) 300-plus
Listings at press time (Big Sky) 185Access Gallatin Field Airport, Bozeman, Mont. (50 minutes from Big Sky)
Information Big Sky Properties, bigskyprop.com; Moonlight Basin, moonlightbasin.com and montanarealestateco.com; and Spanish Peaks Realty, spanish-peaks.com