Making it in Big Sky: Big Sky Resort Ministries
By Mira Brody CONTENT PRODUCTION DIRECTOR
BIG SKY—Brad Lartigue, Resort and Collegiate Chaplain Minister for Big Sky Resort Ministries, has roots that run deep in the community, work he believes is an extension of the local church community. His three-year term as an outdoor minister with Yellowstone National Park and Big Sky turned into decades and by this coming fall, Lartigue will have been a part of the Big Sky community for 33 years.
In addition to leading Outdoor Church worship services on Lone Mountain, Lartigue is the original founding board member of Big Sky Chapel, “paid his dues” working in the Big Sky Ski Rental Shop for 12 years, has volunteered with Big Sky Ski Patrol for seven years, was on the committee that made the BASE Community Center a reality, is chaplain for the Big Sky Fire Department (that’s after serving as an EMT/Firefighter for 15 years), is a part-time school bus driver and custodian at Big Sky School District and offers swim lessons through his program, Lartigue Aquaman Swim School. He’s also an Ironman triathlete and much of his work is featured in a book titled Servants on the Slopes by author Skip Schwarz. When it comes to his drive for mentoring, Lartigue is inspired by the passage Luke 2:52 that states, “Jesus grew in Wisdom, Stature, and in favor with God and Mankind.”
“How we choose to live our lives based on these four areas of growth will determine how well-rounded of a person we become,” Lartigue said. “I am able to feel [God’s] pleasure when I pursue a healthy balance in all these aspects of living life to the fullest … [and] live life abundantly under our adventurous and amazing Big Sky!”
This series is part of a paid partnership with the Big Sky Chamber of Commerce. The following answers have been edited for brevity.
Explore Big Sky: I’d like to start with a little background information on you, when did you come to Big Sky?
Brad Lartigue: I landed in Big Sky in the Fall of 1990 after completing my masters at a theological seminary in Fort Worth, Texas. I am originally from Lake Charles, Louisiana and would often tell native Montanans that I’m still in Louisiana Territory as Montana was carved out of the Louisiana Purchase. Academically, I was an “honors student” being groomed for a career in the medical field and two summer trips changed my life course. In 1980, I volunteered with Operation Crossroads West Indies on the island of Montserrat in conjunction with Boys Scouts of England. The following summer of 1981, I was commissioned to my first missions experience on the Big Island of Hawaii ministering in the resort community of Waikoloa. I thought God was setting me up to minister in an island community, but then a three-year opportunity to live and minister at Taos Ski Valley, New Mexico in the southern Rocky Mountains, threw me for another loop. I was [then] commissioned as a full-time Resort/Outdoor Recreation Minister to supervise and direct college students to minister with employees in Yellowstone National Park in the summers, and I would be doing the same in Big Sky during the winters. The commitment was initially a three-year term which lasted for 21 years as a paid staff member. I will have been a part of our community for 33 years this upcoming Fall of ’23.
EBS: Tell me about the history of Big Sky Resort Ministries: When was it established? How and when did you become involved?
BL: Big Sky Resort Ministries was initially established in 1980 by Pastor Bill Reilly from Gardiner, Montana and the first resort minister was Sue Brunke-Hascall. They were in search of creating a year-round minister position that would encompass a summer outreach to Yellowstone employees and park rangers. The Director of Missions for southwest Montana was searching for a more full-time recreation minister to serve in this capacity and little did I know that I would be that person. When the position was de-funded in 2011, I felt God leading me to stay and re-create “Big Sky Resort Ministries” as an official 501(c)(3) nonprofit.
EBS: What kind of services do you offer the Big Sky Community?
BL: I prefer to see myself as an extension of God’s plan to love Him and His people, and my community; to also help support and strengthen our faith community. I’ve done that by being an extension of our local church community with conducting Outdoor Church worship services at our local ski resort during the winter season.
There is no question in my mind that Lone Mountain was created to provide this backdrop and grandeur of panoramic views specifically for this unique Outdoor Worship service.– Brad Lartigue, Resort and Collegiate Chaplain Minister, Big Sky Resort Ministries
EBS: Do you have a team or partners that support your work?
BL: My local church community at Big Sky Christian Fellowship has been an amazing support over the years, as well as our entire spiritual community at Big Sky Chapel. I also have a small team of directors for my nonprofit that is mostly funded by a handful of individual donors and seasonal guests. I also could not do this without the partnership of Big Sky Ski Resort executives like Taylor Middleton, Barb Rooney, Mike Unruh and past others like Meg O’Leary, Brian and Mary Wheeler, Brandon Bang and Glennis Indreland. None of this would be possible if it weren’t for my long-time friend and our first general manager, John Kircher, whose life/legacy we recently celebrated!
EBS: You worked as a ski patroller—where do you find that your skillset as a patroller overlaps with your work as a Minister?
BL: I am no longer an active ski patroller, but sometimes still feel a part of them, as “we look out for our own” and many whom I worked with are still actively on patrol. I was and continue to be the spiritual advisor/chaplain when called upon or needed. My most indelible experience over my time here was when we lost one of our very own, Erika Pankow. It was early in my time here, but we all pulled together to get through that huge loss and grief as a staff and to also celebrate her life with a memorable Celebration of Life service that brought our staff and her family together.
EBS: Do you think worshipping in a setting like Lone Mountain provides an experience that people may not find inside of a traditional church?
BL: There is no question in my mind that Lone Mountain was created to provide this backdrop and grandeur of panoramic views specifically for this unique Outdoor Worship service.
EBS: Is there anything else you’d like to tell the Big Sky community?
BL: On a spiritual level, if you love God, you will love People and it starts here with us. Also, Eternity doesn’t start when we die, “Eternity Starts Now” among each person we meet and want to share time with in Eternity.
On a community level, I need to applaud what we created when we saw our dream of building Big Sky Chapel as a banner of heaven under one roof. I would also like to applaud what we’ve created when the BASE [community center] was created. I am additionally ready to be a catalyst and active community member to help make our dream of building an indoor aquatics center [as a part] of BASE a reality as well. My life story of how I survived a near-drowning in the Caribbean Ocean to becoming an endurance Ironman triathlete, among other adventures can be found in Servants on the Slopes by Skip Schwarz. It’s the reason why I am passionate about the sport of swimming!
Outdoor Worship on the slopes is held every Sunday at 1:30 p.m., located below the Powder Seeker chairlift and at 3 p.m. at the top Six Shooter chairlift. This 2023 Easter Sunrise Service is on April 9 from 7-7:30 a.m. on Andesite Mountain, chairlift access begins at 6:30 a.m. Skis, Snowboards, and foot traffic are all welcomed.