Crosscut Ranch has storied past
By Emily Wolfe Explore Big Sky Managing Editor
BOZEMAN – A 259-acre property at the base of Bridger Bowl Ski Area is for sale, set for auction March 20 through New York-based Concierge Auctions.
Known as Crosscut Ranch, the property also shares a border with Bohart Ranch Cross County Ski Center and is located in the upper reaches of Bridger Canyon, one of the most sought-after locations in Gallatin County, according to the listing agent Ryan Kulesza, of the Big Sky-based L&K Real Estate.
Previously offered for $16 million, Crosscut Ranch is 16 miles from Bozeman, and has drawn interest from developers, conservation buyers and the ski area itself.
“This property is really the crown jewel of Bridger Canyon, and it’s a property that always attracts a lot of attention,” said John Barkow, one of six investors in Bridger Canyon Partners, which has owned Crosscut since 2005. “It does have a long and colorful history,” he added.
American Indians passed through this land hundreds and even thousands of years ago, likely following the elk and deer that to this day migrate through the area. In a cultural resource study commissioned by the current owners, archeologists found a 10,000-year-old spear point near the confluence of Bridger and Maynard creeks, Barkow said.
In the 1860s, the U.S. Army 2nd Cavalry built a timber camp and mill there to provide lumber for the construction of Fort Ellis. Since then, the property has been home to a guest ranch, a Nordic ski center, and a gourmet restaurant.
The property was zoned in the 1970s as a northern base area for Bridger Bowl, below the Alpine area, to include commercial development, overnight accommodations and recreational sites.
Privately held since the 1980s, all of the historic structures are gone – lost in a fire or torn down – and the ranch is now characterized by its open meadows, varied plant life and forests, abundant wildlife and the two creeks running through it.
“It is probably one of the few properties in the U.S. where you can have Nordic skiing out your back door and alpine skiing out your front door,” Barkow said. “The potential would be anything from a small compound for private use to a new north base area for Bridger Bowl. Who will ultimately buy it is as varied as the character of the property.”
Comprised of five parcels, Crosscut Ranch could also be subdivided into 40-acre lots without going through the Planned Unit Development process required by the county for commercial development. The listing firm L&K has included a letter from Gallatin Valley Land Trust in the marketing materials for the property, with information about the natural value of the land and the possibility of putting a conservation easement on it.
The property is rich with wildlife including elk, bears, deer and lynx, according to GVLT Executive Director Penelope Pierce.
“Bridger Canyon is a high priority area for us,” Pierce said, explaining that it’s an important wildlife corridor for animals moving north from Yellowstone.
Conservation easements are voluntary agreements between a private landowner and a land trust, such as GVLT that further limit the commercial and residential development of high-quality, private lands and can offer possible tax benefits.
After purchasing Crosscut Ranch in 2005, the current owners had planned to develop it as a second base area for Bridger, connecting with the Alpine area lifts, but when the economy fell out in 2008, they withdrew their PUD application. The current owners began site planning for development and installed limited infrastructure including a graded dirt road to the center of the property.
“This property through the zoning was intended to help Bridger Bowl grow with the community, with defined zoning regulations in place,” Barkow said.
The board of directors at Bridger Bowl Ski Area released a statement in this vein on Feb. 18, emphasizing the area’s focus on working closely with all public and private landholders in the region.
“As a nonprofit community ski area, Bridger Bowl is committed to upholding the basic tenet of our charter which is to plan, develop and maintain facilities and services, in a financially sound manner, at Bridger Bowl which would provide the best possible skiing experience at a reasonable cost to local, regional and destination skiers,” the statement said.
“Certainly whomever [the new owner of Crosscut Ranch] is, we would want to have a strong working relationship since they would be an important neighbor,” Wales said.
Both conservation- and development-minded buyers have shown interest, according to Kulesza.
“We’ve probably have half-a-dozen different buyers that are deep in due diligence,” said Kulesza, noting that hundreds of others have shown interest. “Going the route of the auction has been wildly successful in bringing buyers to the plate.”
This is Concierge’s 11th real estate auction in Montana since its first, in Whitefish in 2010. Most notably, Concierge sold the Big EZ Lodge last year at auction, as well as several properties in the Yellowstone Club and Spanish Peaks.
“The West has been really great for our platform, traditionally because there are so many unique properties,” said Laura Brady, Managing Director at Concierge Auctions, explaining that the auction helps to identify the value of a piece of real estate by bringing together buyers to compete. “Our platform is best for properties that are really incomparable, can’t be valued based upon the property next door.”
That describes Crosscut Ranch exactly, according to Kulesza’s partner at L&K, Eric Ladd.
“Crosscut Ranch is arguably the most unique and attractive land opportunity in the Rocky Mountains and ski industry,” Ladd said. “The fact that someone is going to have the opportunity to own 260 acres adjacent to the base area of a world-class ski area is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”
An auction without reserve will be held on March 20, hosted by Concierge Auctions. Only registered bidders will be allowed to participate. Offers can be accepted through the auction date through the brokerage firm L&K Real Estate.