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Developing Big Sky’s future

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Q&A with LMLC CEO Mark Thorne

By Tyler Allen Explore Big Sky Senior Editor

BIG SKY – Lone Mountain Land Company, LLC was formed in the fall by CrossHarbor Capital Partners to manage the entitlement, building, marketing and sale of real estate communities around Big Sky. The company supports club operations at the Spanish Peaks Mountain Club, Moonlight Basin and other projects in the Big Sky area.

“We support the thoughtful growth of our community and believe the best development is done responsibly and sustainably, both in terms of environmental protection and the long-term economic prosperity of our community,” according to the LMLC website.

Explore Big Sky recently sat down with the company’s CEO Mark Thorne, who moved to Big Sky in September from Birmingham, Ala. where he’d spent the previous three years. Prior to Birmingham, Thorne worked in Park City, Utah from 2002-2011 as the senior vice president of resort development for Talisker Development Company. From 1998 to 2002 Thorne served as vice president of development for Vail Resorts Development Company, where he helped develop Bachelor Gulch on Beaver Creek Mountain, a private ski-in, ski-out community similar to Spanish Peaks Mountain Club.

Thorne has a 26-year-old son living in Brooklyn, New York and a 29-year-old daughter in Vail, Colo. and LMLC currently employs about 12 people.

Explore Big Sky: What is Lone Mountain Land Company’s vision for developing Moonlight Basin and Spanish Peaks Mountain Club?

Mark Thorne: The original vision for both [communities] were pretty solid and thoughtful visions for building high-end, ski-in, ski-out [residences] with great amenities [such as] golf and a lot of outdoor experiences like hiking, biking, fishing and Nordic skiing. The core vision for both communities is to deliver very high-quality, multi-generational family and friendship experiences.

CrossHarbor is re-envisioning and polishing the plans for both communities in light of a different economic cycle we’re in, compared to 2007. There has to be sound financial foundations for both communities. And related to that is the smart development of new, high-quality real estate offerings over the coming years.

EBS: Will LMLC be developing any property at Big Sky Resort, the Yellowstone Club or the Big Sky community in Town Center or the Meadow Village?

MT: We will not be developing in the Yellowstone Club. A sister company related to CrossHarbor will be – that’s being done in conjunction with Discovery Land Company, and Lone Mountain Land is not directly involved.

We are in serious conversations with Boyne Resorts to partner with them in real estate development planning for the remaining development opportunities at Big Sky Resort. We are looking at select properties to acquire in Town Center specifically for future office expansion, and a real estate discovery center to present our offerings throughout the Big Sky region.

I would say that we’re keenly interested in seeing the full development of Town Center, and the completion of the Town Center community in accordance with the vision that the Simkins family has planned. We are also in discussions with them for other possible acquisitions that may involve retail, real estate and residential uses.

EBS: Is LMLC owned by CrossHarbor Capital Partners?

MT: Lone Mountain Land is an LLC, which will have an ownership structure that is an affiliate of CrossHarbor.

EBS: Will this office – at 123 Snowy Mountain Circle in Westfork Meadows – remain your headquarters, or do you plan to build another facility?

MT: In probably 18 months to two years we will outgrow this space and be in another location. A parcel has been identified just north of the Ousel and Spur [restaurant] building, on the southeast corner as you turn into Town Center.

EBS: Will the Moonlight Basin facilities ever be fully privatized?

MT: We have not made the decision to privatize the dining facility at the lodge and for the foreseeable future it will be public. There are nearly 1,300 residential units that could still be built throughout Moonlight Basin – in addition to 600 future real estate offerings in Spanish Peaks – and it’s likely there will be other private facilities for both Moonlight Basin and Spanish Peaks members in other areas [of the resorts].

EBS: What is the temperature for future development in Big Sky?

MT: The opportunity in Big Sky is centered around the natural beauty and low density as opposed to the urbanization of ski resorts in Colorado, Utah and California. We need more services here, but at the same time you go to other ski resorts that have been so overbuilt they’ve lost the natural ski town setting that people were first drawn to.

Even at full build-out, the density of Big Sky, Spanish Peaks and Moonlight Basin will be very low as compared to the amount of open space that’s surrounding that density.

EBS: When do you expect the full build-out to be completed?

MT: For the property we control, it’s a 10-15 year build-out, depending on economic cycles.

EBS: Do you plan to stay here after it’s completed?

MT: Yes, this will be my forever home.

EBS: Is there anything else you’d like to tell our readers?

MT: The Lone Mountain Land team is a core of executives and managers, many of which were part of these communities for several years prior to our acquisitions. That team is staying in place, and we will selectively hire other employees in the coming 18 months to two years.

When we build homes and condos, we will hire third party contractors rather than staff up. Right now we are building cabins and cottages in Moonlight Basin and Spanish Peaks with local contractors. We’re [currently] building 17 Silvertip cabins [at 1,800–3,000 square feet] in Moonlight Basin and six Settlement cabins [at 2,500–4,000 square feet] are under construction in Spanish Peaks.

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