By Emily Stifler, managing editor

Last week, a federal judge confirmed a settlement plan between Moonlight Basin and Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc.

“It was a major milestone in a series of milestones that were necessary to get us through and out of bankruptcy,” said Russ McElyea, Chief Operating Officer for Moonlight Basin.

Those milestones included getting a settlement agreement, a disclosure statement and a plan approved.

The next two steps, McElyea said, are to close the deal between Moonlight, Poole and Lehman, and transferring all the assets in the Moonlight entities to Lehman.

And then Lehman will become the owner, lock, stock and barrel, of Moonlight.

Going forward, the resort’s structure will look similar from the outside.

“Moonlight’s brand, name, logos and all the things that have always been associated with Moonlight will continue to be out there. We’re keeping the leadership team and the employee structure intact,” McElyea said.

For the 2011/12 ski season, Moonlight will operate the same as in the past, with a couple few key changes. Those include:

– Expanded lower mountain glade skiing

– Increased capacity in the Madison base area by 100 seats

– Moonlight will manage and re-brand all of Moonlight Lodge dining facilities.

– Moonlight now runs its own lodging operations through a new company called Moonlight Lodging in Big Sky.

– Significant increase in marketing spending, with a winter marketing campaign that will hit local, regional and destination markets. This includes a major emphasis on reaching families, as well as working with professional skiers to market to college students.

On the marketing front, Moonlight aims to become a bigger player in Big Sky, as well as in destination markets.

The resort is also paying the majority of its creditors in full.

“The goals of the bankruptcy were to take care of our creditors as completely as we can, to maintain the workforce as completely as possible, to provide uninterrupted service to homeowners and customers, and to make strategic changes to the business to make it more sustainable over the long-term,” McElyea said.

Retaining the North Summit Snowfield will also remain a priority.

“We decided it’s an important component of what Moonlight is all about. I’m committed to continuing to make sure that’s available to those who have the skills to appreciate it,” McElyea said. “It’s part of who we are.”

“We want to position Moonlight to realize the potential that everyone knows we have.”