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Local Look Back: Jean White reflects on opening Big Sky’s first daycare center

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By Jean White

I first came to Big Sky to ski in 1973. We had to bring our own babysitter and the only lodging was at the Mountain Hostel—now The Lodge at Big Sky. After two visits we called Big Sky Resort’s general manager at the time, Gloria Chadwick, to see if the resort had any plans in the works for a daycare center—they had an unfinished space in the basement of the Mountain Mall. We sold our house in Billings the summer of 1973 and moved to Big Sky to finish the space and start the First Run Day Care Center.

Two of the major needs in Big Sky at that time were daycare and affordable housing. We were able to fill the daycare need, but the community is still wrestling with the affordable housing issue.

We provided pick-up and drop-off service for families and got the kids out skiing or sledding on the bottom of what is now Old Tippy’s. Ski Patrol roped off half the lower part of the run for our use.

The resort has since backfilled the Mountain Mall basement to make space for the Summit Hotel and there is no way of seeing where that business was. Because of the landscaping and earth-moving, it’s very difficult to visualize the location of the daycare center. Our door practically opened onto Old Tippy’s and we were steps away from what was then the Andesite chair.

One of the most influential people we met upon arriving here was Ernie Larson. Ernie had what is now the Country Market and managed the little post office. He helped us find a place to live and gave us lots of encouragement.

There were not many condos or houses built at that time. We ended up renting a trailer at Pine Grove Trailer Park which was located a mile west of the junction of Highway 191 and Lone Mountain Trail on the other side of the West Fork (where the 5-B Ranch is). Finding and keeping a place to live was a big issue. We had to move practically every season and were really dependent on the good will of friends who had vacation homes here.

After selling the daycare center three years later, Jean White worked as office manager for a property management company. She also owned the storage company south of Big Sky and a snowmobile rental and tour company. In 1990 she moved to Southern California where she taught for 17 years. In 2007, she moved back to Big Sky with her husband, Joel White, to enjoy retirement.

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