Transmission line project in Big Sky to continue through October

EBS STAFF

NorthWestern Energy, a regulated utility company with operations in Montana, South Dakota and Nebraska, will continue its work on upgrading transmission lines in the Big Sky area through October.

Part of a 14-year plan to overhaul the electrical transmission and distribution system in Big Sky, in 2012 the company began upgrading 37 miles of electrical transmission lines from its Jackrabbit substation near Four Corners to Big Sky Meadow Village.

“What’s driving this is the growth we’ve seen in Big Sky,” said NorthWestern Energy Corporate Communication Specialist Butch Larcombe. “It’s one of our fastest growing markets.”

NorthWestern, which calls Montana home to approximately 80 percent of its operations, currently serves more than 4,200 electrical customers in the Big Sky area, including Big Sky Resort, Moonlight Basin, the Yellowstone Club and the Spanish Peaks Mountain Club. The project is estimated to cost upwards of $45 million, according to a document outlining its master plan for Big Sky.

The existing transmission line was installed in the early ‘70s, and is “approaching the end of its functional life,” according to the plan.

As the current phase to upgrade lines to the Meadow Village continues through October, motorists may see delays on Lone Mountain Trail. As the project continues, recreationalists should be aware of potential Forest Service road and trail closures as well as tem

‘Summer Saturdays’ extend the fun at Big Sky Resort

BIG SKY RESORT

Visitors to Big Sky Resort can now enjoy a summer evening cocktail on the deck of Everett’s 8,800, or mountain bike longer into the evening, thanks to extended hours.

“Summer Saturdays” at the resort began July 16 and will run through Aug. 20, as the Ramcharger chairlift will stay open until 7 p.m. each Saturday. This means more mountain biking, scenic chairlift rides and happy-hour cocktails on the deck of Everett’s 8,800, which will remain open until 6:30 p.m.

Big Sky Resort added service on Ramcharger chairlift this season to expand access to the already existing 40 miles of mountain biking terrain. The lift received a $250,000 upgrade to improve download capacity and now services mountain bikers in addition to Swift Current and Explorer.

The resort continues to push the limits of experienced riders with the improvement of two expert trails called Blue Room and Joker Lips. Also, a new intermediate trail called Snake Charmer connects to the Mountain to Meadow/Upper South Fork trails from the top of Ramcharger.

Snake Charmer includes bank turns and tabletops through Bear’s Lair and Snake Pit, and allows riders to make a loop back to the base area or continue to the meadow.

The Andesite Summit hiking trail is now also open, and it follows cairns to the top of Andesite Mountain. Viewing platforms, selfie stations and peak finders will be available soon.

Visit bigskyresort.com for more details.

Gallatin County Search and Rescue fields three calls in one day

EBS STAFF

BIG SKY – Gallatin County Search and Rescue responded to three calls of distressed or injured recreationists on July 19, two of which occurred in the Big Sky area.

Around 1 p.m., the Gallatin County Sheriff’s Office received a report that a 58-year-old man injured his hip south of Big Sky after a fall from a horse during a group ride on Buffalo Horn Creek Trail. The Big Sky division of Gallatin County Search and Rescue transported the injured man to the trailhead where he was reunited with his family.

At 8:22 p.m., a 22-year-old hiker who became lost near the head of Beehive Basin called 911. Although he was uninjured, he had become disoriented, his cell phone battery was low and he was without survival gear.

The man continued hiking after calling 911, so responders were unable to locate him using GPS coordinates from the call. A short while later, the hiker was located by security personnel on Jack Creek Road tired and thirsty but uninjured.

At 11:15 p.m., the Gallatin County Sheriff’s Office Search and Rescue team responded to Bridger Ridge for a backcountry rescue. Three women on a long hike called for assistance after one of their party became nauseous and started vomiting near Bridger Bowl.

Rescuers hiked up the “M” trailhead to the group, and transported the ill hiker to the trailhead with a one-wheeled litter. The exposed, rugged terrain they were hiking in and high temperatures were cited as major factors in the illness.

Big Sky chamber’s visitor center sees busiest month on record

BIG SKY CHAMBER OF COMMERCE

Big Sky seems to be full of visitors from all over the world this summer, and now there are numbers to prove it. This June, the Big Sky and Greater Yellowstone Welcome Center at the corner of U.S. 191 and MT 64 had its busiest month on record.

Nearly 4,200 people came through the doors of the visitor center in June, a 23 percent increase over the same month last year, and a 70 percent increase over June 2014.

That’s an average of 140 visitors per day looking for everything from directions to information on lodging, activities and dining.

July could break records as well. “It is looking right now like [the visitor center is] at least on pace if not exceeding the June numbers,” said Margo Magnant, the chamber’s membership director.

The Big Sky Chamber of Commerce was formed over 20 years ago to help Big Sky businesses have a unified voice and to focus on making Big Sky Montana’s premier place to work, live and play.

Visit bigskychamber.com for more information.

Yellowstone Park Foundation, Yellowstone Association announce new leader

EBS STAFF

The board of directors of the Yellowstone Association and the Yellowstone Park Foundation have selected Heather White to serve as president and CEO of the combined organization.

In October 2015, the two organizations announced their intention to merge into a single nonprofit in support of Yellowstone National Park. Yellowstone Park Foundation and Yellowstone Foundation have been operating jointly since March 2016 and expect the merger to close by October 2016.

White managed significant growth and change while serving as the executive director of the Environmental Working Group. Prior to working for that organization, White worked for the National Wildlife Federation and served as counsel to U.S. Senator Russ Feingold.

“When we began this journey, we were clear that this was about more than just merging two organizations,” said Claire Campbell, in a Yellowstone Park Foundation press release. Campbell is board chair of Yellowstone Association and co-chair of the search committee. “We wanted to seize this opportunity to create something meaningful, and that’s exactly what we have done.

“[White] embodies a new generation of leadership for our public lands and iconic spaces. She has deep roots in environmental education and conservation, and a demonstrated record as an effective advocate.”

White starts on Aug. 15 and will be based in Bozeman, where she’ll oversee the integration of the two organizations, including an annual budget of $20 million and more than 70 year-round employees and 85 seasonal employees in Montana and Wyoming.

The combined organization will eventually operate under a new name, which will be announced after the merger closes.