On March 6, EBS published a letter on explorebigsky.com from Big Sky Resort General Manager Taylor Middleton that urged Big Sky locals to be kind to Ikon Pass holders. The result was an onslaught of Facebook comments from locals defending themselves, criticisms of the resort, and various snowsports-related news outlets picking up the story.
In Mr. Middleton’s letter, he states that Big Sky is a welcoming place. I certainly felt embraced by the community when I came here, and it seems that he did, too. In my eyes, that sense of embrace by locals hasn’t changed. What has changed is how the community has been treated in the wake of change. I think that the mistake Mr. Middleton makes in his letter is in thinking that the problem locals have with the Ikon Pass is that it’s making the mountain “too busy.” On the surface that may be true, but it’s dismissive to state that the community is only upset about tracked-out snow.
When I moved to Big Sky, rent for a two-bedroom condo was $900 per month. Now, eight years later, you’re lucky if you can find the same accommodation for less than a 60-percent increase of that. Prices for basic goods and services have increased while wages have stayed relatively stagnant. Members of the community are working multiple jobs or commuting three or more hours per day from Bozeman to work in the area. Mr. Middleton is right: businesses were going broke not too long ago, but not solely because of dwindling visitor numbers. I don’t know if you remember, but we had a little recession in 2008. Thankfully, Big Sky is indeed thriving today. But at what cost?
Some have said that we’re putting the cart before the horse, and I must agree. Is our infrastructure up to the task of supporting such a large influx of visitors? Reports on our water and sewer challenges say no. Reports on traffic in the canyon and in the meadow say no. These things are being addressed, but not quickly enough to avoid problems in the short-term.
The bottom line is that respect is a two-way street. Show respect for the local community that is continually helping build this area into a world-class destination and they may feel better about showing respect toward tourists that are currently making their day-to-day lives a bit harder. Sure, we could all move if we don’t like it, but we’d just be replaced by others raising the same hell.
In my opinion, it’s better to face the issues head on and find a solution rather than implying to locals that if you don’t like it, you can leave. Let’s get locals on board by supporting them so that Big Sky is a more habitable and hospitable place for all.
Ashleigh Van Roy
Livingston, Montana, former Big Sky resident