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Guest Editorial: Be kind to Ikon Pass holders

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On March 6, EBS received this letter from Big Sky Resort General Manager Taylor Middleton, which asks community members and resort goers to welcome Ikon Pass holders with open arms–as he says many in the community were in the past.

Dear Big Sky Community,

When I first came to Big Sky almost 40 years ago I was embraced by the community. Thanks Pirate, Betsy, Kelly, Curly, John, Tim, Sally, Mike, Dan, Jodean, Doug, Chris, Walter and countless others for making me feel so welcome back then. That same welcome has awaited most everyone coming since, whether we arrived five years ago or 50. Big Sky is a welcoming place.

Recently, local social media channels are revealing a rash of really negative postings, shunning new visitors and treating new arrivals differently than we were treated ourselves. Sadly, I just read this message from a recent guest:

“… We’re from the UK and have been skiing in North America every year for the past 15 years. We’ve had epic passes, mountain collective, and this year we bought the Ikon base pass. We usually make 2 three week ski trips each season and love the freedom to travel and explore that the multi-centre passes give us. We’ve never encountered any negative reaction to us as holders of these sort of passes- until this year!  At Big Sky they were selling bumper stickers saying ‘IKON [not] wait for you to leave’ …”

That note made me really sad because this guest did not experience the warm welcoming culture that our broad community has historically offered. A few people have been targeting these new guests with mean messages phrased around a concept that Big Sky is becoming too busy and newcomers are to blame.

Most everyone knows that Big Sky Resort recently joined two national season ski pass programs, Ikon and Mountain Collective. This move is enhancing the Big Sky brand and showcasing our community to new guests who pour spending into our community. These programs are just another piece in the long-term strategy to move Big Sky into a league of America’s best resorts, right where we belong. Our community is growing as our guests discover and fall in love with Big Sky, just like each of us have.

It’s busier now than it used to be. Is it too busy? The facts say Big Sky is one of the least crowded ski destinations offering more acres per skier than any major resort. In three years, we’ve constructed four modern lifts adding quality and increasing uphill capacity by 1,600 skiers per hour. We’ve made no secret that more on-mountain upgrades are planned.

Many of us know it can be hard to make it in a small resort town. Individuals can struggle. Small businesses can struggle. Big businesses can struggle. Not too long ago, many businesses here, small and large, were going broke and residents were moving away because we did not have enough guests to support the town. The good news is that today Big Sky is thriving. Striking the right balance between prosperity and broke can be complicated. I’ll tell you from personal experience, it’s a lot more fun to be managing success than downsizing. 

My life here, our lives here, are made possible by visitors. Big Sky’s culture is friendly and welcoming. We were all new at some point; these guests are our newest visitors. 

So here we are: We want a thriving economy without falling into that old ski town trap of not wanting others to come after we arrived. We want more and faster lifts but don’t like anyone else skiing our favorite line. The conundrum, of course, is that our community is stronger with many guests and the services they help us afford. I’m not just talking about ski lifts either. Banks, schools, grocery stores, a hospital and a theater make Big Sky more livable and fun.

I don’t enjoy traffic or lift lines either. I get it. Still, my personal experience is that Big Sky is a more livable place today than it was 40, or 20 or 10 years ago, and that’s because so many people have found our good town and our good people, and their visits have helped us afford these improvements. 

I’m committed to working hard to help Big Sky grow better, and I know countless others that are too. I’m also committed to keeping this a fun place, with loads of fun people, who do fun stuff, and I know a boatload of you feel the same way. We’re a friendly and welcoming bunch. Please keep sharing that, continue paying it forward, just like that group of pals did with me 40 years ago.

Taylor Middleton
Big Sky Resort General Manager

The Outlaw Partners is a creative marketing, media and events company based in Big Sky, Montana.

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