Big Sky now has a climbing boulder
By Emily Stifler Explorebigsky.com Managing Editor

BIG SKY – Just ask Kevin Costner.

As soon as the team at Stronghold Fabrication spread the final wood chips around Big Sky’s new artificial climbing boulder on Aug. 10, a crew of teenagers from the skate ramp walked over and swarmed up the 12-foot tall steel and cement structure. One even threw a back flip off the top.

Since then, said Jessie Neal, executive director of the Big Sky Community Corp., families, kids, curious locals, and climbers out for an evening workout have all regularly visited the boulder.

There is a non-technical route to the top that Neal said is perfect for young kids, and also vertical sides for intermediates and a steep overhang to challenge stronger climbers. The wood chips provide a soft landing, and a bouldering pad and climbing shoes are optional.

The boulder, Neal said, should provide a way to get introduced to rock climbing. “It’s not so scary and helps you develop the skills you need if you get out on the big rocks. It’s also a really good workout.”

Big Sky local Nettie Bruener took her family to climb on the boulder after its completion.

“What we totally loved about it was the different ability levels that it can accommodate,” Bruener said.

The four of them do a lot of climbing together, from Gallatin Canyon to Moab, Utah, and they’re thrilled about the new rock. “Now we want to go over there all the time,” Bruener said.

Stronghold Fabrication, the company that built it, also made five of the six climbing boulders in Bozeman. The Big Sky Rotary Club funded the entire boulder project, which cost $35,000.

“The community actually funded it,” said Rotary President Jeff Strickler, explaining that while Rotary is paying for it, the community pitched in by fundraising events throughout the year. The group’s annual Gold Raffle and Auction raised $20,000, and the Rotary dipped into its reserves to cover the final $15,000, Strickler said.

The Rotary has paid for other community projects in the past including a bus shelter at the bus stop in the Meadow Village and picnic tables at Kircher Park.

“We wanted to do something for the community, and the park is obviously an active part of the community,” Strickler said. “The skate park was way beyond our means, and we didn’t want to fund just part of something. Jessie [Neal] suggested this.”

The Rotarians are so pleased with the boulder they want to help BSCC make a boulder garden and are looking for funds to build a second, smaller rock for younger kids, Strickler said.

He also wanted to credit Rotary members Dale and Gail Palmer from Nordic Hot Tub, who donated a hot tub that was raffled off at a 2011 farmers market. “That was really the seed money for this thing,” Strickler said.

The boulder, he added, looks “gorgeous.”

Neal agreed. “It looks wonderful, like a big rock fell down the mountain and landed there.” She noted that BSCC plans to landscape the area and add picnic tables in the near future.

Neal also repeatedly expressed gratitude for the partnership with the Rotary and its generous donation to the park.

The Big Sky Rotary formed in 2003 and now has 21 members. Rotary is an international organization with more than a million members, based in Evanston, Ill. Through its local chapters, Rotary brings together citizens and business leaders to help the community.

The boulder was one of two major projects this summer in the Community Park. Dreamland Skateparks is still constructing a $150,000 state-of-the art skate park a few hundred feet from the boulder that should be completed by October, Neal said.

Follow BSCC and the Big Sky Rotary on Facebook at facebook.com/bsccmt and facebook.com/bigskyrotary.