By Tyler Allen Explore Big Sky Senior Editor
BIG SKY – In 1992, Lee Poole and two other partners purchased 25,000 acres of land north of Big Sky Resort, and in 2003 opened Moonlight Basin ski resort on the dark side of Lone Mountain. Poole died at age 66 on April 18, after a long fight with cancer.
Poole operated Moonlight Basin until January 2012, when Lehman Brothers took over operation of the resort after lengthy Chapter 11 bankruptcy proceedings. The ski area became part of Big Sky Resort in summer 2013 through a partnership between CrossHarbor Capitol Partners and Boyne Resorts, owners of Big Sky Resort.
But Poole’s legacy in Big Sky remained even after losing ownership of Moonlight, and will remain long into the future. When Poole, along with partners Joe Vujovich and Keith Brown, purchased the 25,000-acre parcel from Plum Creek Timber Company, they immediately sold off 17,000 acres to private, conservation-minded buyers including the Jack Creek Preserve Foundation.
Currently, 14,500 acres of that land is under some type of conservation easement, according to Kevin Germain, Lone Mountain Land Company’s Vice President of Planning and Development.
Germain was hired by Poole as an environmental consultant in 2001 and began working for him full time in 2003. He did permitting work for the ski area’s development, and transitioned into planning and development for the resort’s real estate ventures after the ski lifts opened. He worked there until the 2013 merger.
[Poole was the] visionary behind Moonlight Basin and protecting open space,” Germain said. “He told me, ‘Kevin, we’re the only ones that could mess this up and we’re not going to do it.’ He knew we had a big burden on our shoulders to protect Moonlight.”
Poole spent a lot of time outdoors and was an avid bow hunter – he would stalk animals with a traditional recurve bow. He was a past president of the Montana Bowhunters Association and saw the value in protecting open spaces. Poole was born in Rocky River, Ohio on Aug. 20, 1948 and moved with his family to Ennis in 1973.
“No words I could say would do the man justice,” Germain said of Poole. “He was an incredible guy. He treated everyone the same – which was very well – whether you were cleaning bathrooms or the owner of a Fortune 500 company.”
Poole is survived by his wife Lathie; son Tracy; daughter Leesa; and grandchildren Cooper and Anelise Anderson, Christian and Laur’en Poole, and Kelsie and Trever Roberts.
A memorial service will be held May 16 at 2 p.m. at Bozeman’s Grace Bible Church on 19th Avenue and Stucky Road.