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Making it in Big Sky: Big Sky Snowman

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Mac Chapin and his wife Carrie have owned and operated Big Sky Snowman since purchasing it in 2008 and have been moving snow since. PHOTO COURTESY OF MAC CHAPIN

By Mira Brody CONTENT MARKETING STRATEGIST

BIG SKY – After landing in Big Sky with his wife, Carrie, and whitewater guiding for a summer, Mac Chapin pushed snow for a living for the first time. After that initial season, plowing and shoveling through Southwest Montana’s harsh winter climate, the owner of the company asked Chapin if he wanted the business. And thus, in 2008, armed with one plow truck, two machines and a team of three employees, Big Sky Snowman began.

Explore Big Sky sat down with Chapin to talk about the years since that first winter, and how Big Sky Snowman has grown. The residential snow removal service has been going strong for 15 years and just as the winters don’t, they show no signs of stopping so that people can get to doing what they need to do when the snow piles up.

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: Lets start with some background information on you, when did you come to Big Sky and what brought you here? 

Mac Chapin: My wife Carrie and I moved here in the summer of 2007 from Northwestern Maine where we had been working as recreation guides. During the winter of 2006 we had decided that we wanted to have kids and where we were living was not the place we wanted to raise them. That spring we rented our house out, packed all of our outdoor gear along with our two dogs into our truck and hit the road! Roughly two months later we landed in Big Sky. I started working for Geyser Whitewater Expeditions and Carrie at Spanish Peaks [Mountain Club]. We never looked back and now we have two wonderful children—Marley is 12 and Grady is 9. As a family we are so fortunate to call Big Sky our home and the kids love growing up here!

EBS: Tell me about the history of Big Sky Snowman—when was the company formed and what

initially inspired you to start it?

MC: At the end of our first summer here, Eric Becker (the owner of Geyser) asked if I wanted to move snow for his small snow maintenance business. After a long summer of guiding I hadn’t really put too much thought into what I was going to do for the winter, so I said yes. Eric had back surgery that winter, so along with another staff member we pretty much kept the business moving. At the end of that season Eric asked me if I wanted the business. After some back and forth discussions with Carrie, we decided to give it a try. In 2008 with one plow truck, two machines and a team of three, we started Big Sky Snowman. We immediately realized that there was a need for the service we provided and the way we provided it! Fifteen years later we are stronger than ever as a business and a team.

EBS: How big is your team?

MC: For the 2022/23 season we will have 17 team members operating 14 pieces of equipment and four trucks. 

EBS: Tell me about the different services offered by Big sky Snowman? How have these services changed and grown as the community has?

MC: Primarily we offer residential services: clearing driveways with a machine that has a blower on the front and a drag plow system on the back. We also offer services for HOA roads and condominiums as well as commercial maintenance. The consistent growth of this community has obviously added to the need for our business over the years, but the reality is we are still just moving snow so folks can do what they need to do!

There is no doubt that this growth has created some additional challenges for us. When we started in 2008, we could pretty much drive our machines anywhere around Big Sky at any time of the day or night to get the job done. These days we have had to get creative as to where we stage our equipment, fuel and when we can physically send team members out to do their job. The amount of traffic and the sometimes lack of understanding by drivers on the road as to why one of our slow-moving machines is out there, has definitely created some safety issues for our drivers and the equipment they are operating. This season we have had to set a window of time for our clients as to when it is safe for us to be out there due to these traffic concerns.

EBS: What is the best part about working at Big Sky Snowman?

MC: There are many great things about working at Big Sky Snowman for me. There are two reasons that stick out the most. The first one is our team. We have been so fortunate over the past 15 years to have many of them with us for so long. Currently our average team member has been with us between four and 14 years. The support and commitment from these guys have been amazing, and I am so grateful for each and every one of them! My second favorite part of working this business is the time I get to spend with my kids in the summer. It is so fun to watch them grow up here and enjoy all the things Big Sky and Montana have to offer.

EBS: What is the best business advice you have ever received?

MC: Years ago when I was guiding in Maine, my boss and the owner of that business told me never to call the people that came to us customers, but that we should call them clients. To him a customer was someone that came to your business, purchased something and left. A client is someone who comes to you for a service that requires you take time and procure a relationship with, earn their respect and do the best job you can to take care of their needs as it relates to your business. He felt this was the best way to keep people coming back for more and provide the prospect of earning that trust with more people in the future. In my eyes he was right and I will never forget the day he told me this. Thanks, Chris! 

EBS: Is there anything else that you want to let the Big Sky Community know?

MC: Well, as we go into our 15th year of business here in Big Sky, I would like to say thank you to all of our clients that have been with us for so long. I would also like to thank all of our many friends here that have supported us, the team and our family over the years. It takes a village and what a great village it is to live in!

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