By Joseph T. O’Connor Explore Big Sky Senior Editor
BIG SKY – The clubhouse at the newly renamed Spanish Peaks Mountain Club in Big Sky has received a facelift. It was a long time coming.
In July 2013, Yellowstone Club principal owners CrossHarbor Capital Partners and Big Sky Resort owners Boyne Resorts, partnered to bring the 5,800-acre private ski and golf community out of the Chapter 7 bankruptcy it filed for in October 2011.
Last September, the partners brought on Montage Hotels and Resorts to run the show. The team then sprinted to a Dec. 13 finish line, when the club officially reopened, again providing the upscale experiences for which it’s known.
Montage operates five other luxury hotels and resorts in California, Hawaii, South Carolina and in Deer Valley, Utah. In addition to its flagship hotel and resort portfolio, the company also operates seven of the country’s premiere golf courses and clubs, including the Prince Course in Kauai, Hawaii and May River Golf Club in Bluffton, S.C.
“We started the renovation project on Oct. 15,” said Greg Villeneuve, Montage’s Executive Vice President of Golf, who has been based in Big Sky since Oct. 26. “It was a fast-paced process with the scope of the project, launching the membership plan and recruiting the opening team all within the 60-day window.”
Bozeman-based PRG Group carried out renovations to the 29,000-square foot clubhouse, which overlooks the golf course’s 18th hole in summer and offers slope-side lift service to members in winter. The clubhouse was left abandoned since the 2011 bankruptcy, requiring a significant effort from Montage and club members to bring it around.
The remodel included revitalizing the clubhouse’s lower level by adding a fitness center, ski locker rooms, and two massage treatment rooms in the former golf cart garage area; “The Hideout,” complete with a massive TV, Xbox and Wii gaming consoles; and “Lil Peaks,” a program based in a new room to entertain younger children while their parents are dining or visiting upstairs in the Great Room.
With flat-screen TVs, fireplaces and a bar, the Great Room originally had three doors opening into the dining room, but in an effort to make the eating space more intimate, Canada-based interior design company Munge Leung closed off those doors, replacing them with 10-foot-tall, tufted leather love seats.
In addition, eight luxurious guest rooms are available for members who may not have completed their homes yet, or for their guests. As well, the company added a plush one-bedroom suite with elegant living quarters.
Montage did not spare attention to detail, according to Joel Tennyson, Food and Beverage Director and Sommelier, adding to the nearby rooms a concessions pantry named the “Night Owl” with snacks galore, “in case,” as he says, “somebody gets peckish in the middle of the night.”
For members craving food during normal hours, Tom Capretz is the man. Hired in November as head chef for the Spanish Peaks Clubhouse, Capretz moved from Studio Restaurant at Montage Laguna Beach in California. With a Master’s of Italian Cuisine from the Apicius in Florence, Italy, Capretz raises cuisine perfection to new levels.
“There were a lot of sleepless nights at first,” said Capretz, 37, of the dynamic menu transition at the clubhouse. “[But] now it’s so worth it. This team has such big hearts, and their passion is reflected in the cuisine.”
Capretz has worked in some heavy hitting kitchens, including the Ritz Carlton south of Laguna Beach and Mesa Grill, a Bobby Flay restaurant in Las Vegas’ Caesars Palace.
He teamed with another Tom for much of the menu planning and execution: Tom Cook. A consultant working with the new Spanish Peaks Mountain Club operations for Montage, Cook built operating, supply and equipment budgets, helped brainstorm the concepts and the scope of the redesign project, and helped facilitate purchasing new kitchen equipment as well the overall presentation for the clubhouse.
Cook, 60, has worked on every project Montage has undertaken since Alan J. Fuerstman founded the ultra-luxury resort and hotel management company in 2002. The two met at the Phoenician resort in Scottsdale, Ariz. and worked together at the Bellagio in Las Vegas afterward.
“Both Tom Cook and Chef Tom are people who have been with our company and culture for a long time and are largely responsible for the success of the Club and restaurant thus far,” Villeneuve said.
In early March, the clubhouse was bustling. Groups dined by soft chandelier lighting that bounced off the new flooring and the high, freshly whitewashed and pickled beams. A new bar top now rests against the dining room’s west wall and a fireplace on the east side warmed the space occupied by a long table set for 10 in the back of the room, which was previously walled off.
“Montage has set the bar in Big Sky for quality,” said Tennyson, 47, who started at the Spanish Peaks Mountain Club in February. “Dining [at the clubhouse] is an intimate experience.”
The gourmet menu features entrees such as polenta-crusted Montana trout and spinach fettuccini carbonara, among other delicacies. Each dish is paired with just the right wine.
For his part, Tennyson, a sommelier for 16 years, has enjoyed creating the new wine list. “It’s a balance of new world and old world concepts,” he said. “The wine list follows the menu [that offers] mountain, classic, rustic cuisine.”
In Florence, Capretz says he learned the intricacies of Italian food, and its presentation. “They have a lot of pride in their culture, and food is a large component of that,” said Capretz, who grew up snowboarding at Mammoth, Calif. and later worked as a lift operator in Vail, Colo.
Cook agreed, adding that Spanish Peaks also knows that quality service is equally important. “You have to be dedicated to the goal and be humble enough to realize that no one is perfect and we need to take advice from our members. The quality of the member experience is what we’re judged on.”
Servers like Claudia Foltz, originally from Peru, provide a textbook example of professional, prompt and kind service. When Foltz brought out a Les Truffieres Chablis Chardonnay, complementing the scallops in lemon and arugula on a bed of fettuccini, she smiled.
“Montage is doing an excellent job – at least, if not more than we expected,” said Judy Katany, a member at Spanish Peaks since 2004. “The clubhouse looks fantastic and they’ve been listening to the members’ input. They’ve been phenomenally responsive.”
It’s clear that providing a quality experience is integral to the Clubhouse at the Spanish Peaks Mountain Club. Looking around the dining room, the members seemed right at home.
The Spanish Peaks Mountain Club is private and membership details are available upon request.
A five-course meal at the Clubhouse, with wine complements
Amuse-bouche: Carrot and ginger soup topped with coriander
Arugula, beet, goat cheese salad. Wine: Mâcon-Villages Chardonnay
Scallops in lemon and arugula, on bed of fettuccini. Wine: Domain Coastal “Les Truffieres” Chablis Chardonnay
Brick chicken with a brown butter jus. Wine: Saduri Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir
Montage signature coffee-crusted New York Strip steak with Saphire bleu cheese and bourbon caramel. Wine: Terra Valentine Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley
Desert: Brioche donuts, Chantilly cream and raspberry coulis. Wine: Quinto Do Vesuvio vintage 2001 Porto