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Local look back: Uncle Dan remembers a true Big Sky legend



By Dan Wade

To set the stage: Big Sky in the early ’80s was just a little bit different than it appears today. In Meadow Village, there were no buildings in the Westfork Meadows or Town Center area except the old McBride Homestead. This made for excellent gopher hunting, but not much else. Even the path to Ousel Falls was an old dirt logging road. The Meadow Village Center consisted of The Country Market, Furst Place Restaurant and a much smaller post office, along with just a couple offices in that complex.

On the mountain, the Huntley Lodge and Mountain Mall were the dominant buildings. There were no other condominium complexes except the Hill Condos and Deer Lodge (aka Fear Lodge) and the upscale dorms—not. The Mountain Lodge was a hostel, where I believe you could stay for under $20 a night—lift ticket included! There were just three places to eat dinner on the mountain: the Huntley’s main dining room, Ernie’s Deli, and the Ore House, now the much bigger Montana Jack.

There were no cell phones, ATMs, computers (for the most part), no full-time police presence, no guard rails on the canyon highway, no traffic. Nighttime forays from the Mountain Village to the Meadow or Bozeman meant that you were on your own for anything that might happen—off the road into the river, vehicle breakdowns, animal strikes, whatever. The community was small, but you could rely on the “Montana ethic” in folks to help you out.

But this is really a story about a dog. One early winter I roomed in a Hill Condo with Chris Nash and his alter ego, Strider. Strider was a Big Sky celebrity. Everyone knew him. He could, and would, stand by the road and hitchhike where ever he wanted to go. Mountain to Meadow, Hill to the Huntley, Strider got around. Strider probably went to Buck’s for “two-fer night” for cocktails, but kept a low profile.

One night, a friend and I skied down the Middle Fork (aka The Sewer Line) on the full moon to enjoy dinner at the Furst Place. This trip was always an adventure because there were no houses, condos, or lights from the start until you got down to the trailer court, where Aspen Groves now resides. Moose, elk and the bitter cold were all at play. We took Strider along as a watch dog. He was good company and was big enough to provide security against whatever popped out of the woods.

I recall that it was well below zero when we crossed onto the golf course on our ski down. At this point, Strider found a more interesting calling and totally ditched us—for a moose or canine friend we never knew. We completed our ski, had a great dinner, and rode the (only) shuttle bus back up the mountain late. But we had lost Strider. What would I tell Chris? A lost dog in bitter cold and snow with predators about. I was fretting having to tell Chris that his dog, our roommate, was lost. Until, we arrive back at our Hill castle to find Strider, sitting by the front door, wondering what the hell took us so long to get back up the mountain. A dog’s life indeed.

Dan Wade opened Uncle Dan’s Cookies in the winter of 1983-1984 with a cookie cart parked at Big Sky Resort. Thirty-five years later, Uncle Dan’s Cookies is still baking all their cookies from scratch in Big Sky. Not only beloved in Big Sky, Uncle Dan’s Cookies have been photographed being enjoyed at Mount Everest base camp, underwater in Zanzibar, in Antarctica, and many other exotic international locales.

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