Private Powder Perfection
You can have your own private ski resort
– for a price.
You know how it goes. Somebody knew somebody, who was married to somebody
else, who happened to be extremely wealthy.
That’s the only reason my very average self was allowed to step foot onto
the posh, elusive, and exclusive resort known as the Yellowstone Club.
Suddenly, our predictable week at Big Sky, Montana had turned into an undercover
adventure. Four Park City locals were going to have a complimentary day of
skiing and snowboarding at a place where the typical patron is worth at least
3-million. Let’s just say our lives may be rich, but that we didn’t quite
meet the income requirements for this joint.
The Yellowstone Club is a members-only ski resort on 14-thousand acres of
land bordered by wilderness and the Big Sky resort. The concept was perceived
back in the late 1980’s after Tim Blixeth had made his fortune in the timber
industry in Oregon. Blixeth and his wife Edra originally wanted to use the
land for a family home, and put in “a lift or two.” The overwhelming response
from their friends led them to the concept of a private ski area, where their
families could spend time together in wide-open spaces. Since then, the idea
has evolved into the Yellowstone Club.
The driveway to the Yellowstone Club veers off from the main road to Big
Sky. Blink and you’ll miss the average looking and unmarked dirt turnoff.
Our tattered photocopied map was our only hope to find this ski oasis for
the rich. As we approached the guarded threshold, our van came to a halt,
and our driver told the security guy what he wanted to hear.
“We’re here to meet Charlie at the lodge.” This, apparently, is as good as
a legitimate backstage pass at a U2 concert. We’re in.
Friendly relaxed maintenance men wandered around a log cabin. Inside, the
lodge was warm, rustic, and inviting – in a Sundance-5-star-kind-of-way. The
chef has just pulled out a batch of cookies. He urges us to try his new recipe.
Shit. Life is rough here on cloud fucking nine. How did we get here? Who cares,
give me another one of those cookies.
Once Charlie arrived, we discovered our party of four would make up nearly
half of the skier count for the day. Talk about open spaces. Blixeth’s vision
was alive and well. The ski area takes up 4500 acres - bigger than The Canyons,
and if public, one of the six largest in the nation. The Yellowstone Club
is slated to be a mega-resort when finished, complete with an 18-hole championship
golf course, a fly-fishing camp on the Gallatin River, and a spa. Already
there are 38 miles of trails for hiking, biking, and horseback riding.
So how do you get to be a member? First, you’re wealthy. Then, if all the
other members like you, you can buy in. Blixeth has explained publicly that
some people who have been financially able to buy in, have also been jerks
(shocking!). If members and/or employees think you’re an a-hole, you can’t
be a member of the Yellowtone Club. Neener, neener! So, if you’re nice, the
initial fee is $250,000, then a $16,000 annual fee. Then you buy a lot for
around a million dollars or more and you can build your dream home. So far,
about 70 families are members – and only 864 will be allowed in all.
That may be the dream for many of our nation’s wealthiest folks, but for
us —- getting to spend a day at this private playground was heavenly. The
weather had been warm, it was March… still, the perfectly groomed runs made
up for the lack of snow. I giggled out loud as I made each turn on my board.
This is so bizarre! I love it! Not a single gaper to run into… and the views…
they don’t suck either.
At first, I thought this would be a lame substitute for a resort – I was
expecting flat groomers and maybe three lifts. I was wrong. There are three
high-speed double quad lifts (with bubble shields to guard wealthy pupils
from those pesky snowflakes), a fixed grip double and a fixed grip triple
lift. The final plan calls for 12 lifts in all. Pioneer Ridge alone offers
skiers and snowboarders more than a dozen challenging chutes—which was more
than we had time to explore.
Will this playground for millionaires succeed? No one knows. But for now,
it seems to be doing just fine. Plus, it doesn’t seem to be a bad place to
work. “Do you get fresh tracks on a powder day?” I asked a ski patroller.
His answer, “Always. Powder and solitude.” The average skier day is still
only about 20 people.
As the rumor mill churns, there is talk of a Yellowstone Club-like resort
developing in Utah. Who knows—if it comes, I just want ski privileges.
YELLOWSTONE CLUB FACTIODS TOP ELEVATION: 9,856 feet BASE ELEVATION: 6,800
feet VERTICAL: 3,056 feet DIRECTOR OF SKIING: Warren Miller LIKLIHOOD OF CROWDED