By Gabrielle Gasser EBS STAFF
BIG SKY – The Lodge at Big Sky has operated since 2001, sporting multiple names and boasting a storied history rooted in the glory days of Chet Huntley.
The Patel family acquired the Lodge in 2011 and Shivam Patel has been the general manager for six years. His wife, Kruti, serves as the assistant general manager of the Lodge. Shivam originally came to Big Sky six years ago to supervise a carpet renovation on the property. Two days into his visit, the general manager at the time quit, and Shivam has been in Big Sky ever since.
Kruti married Shivam and moved out to Big Sky to join him in the hotel business. “Our marriage was arranged, and I still don’t know if she fell in love with me first or Big Sky,” Shivam said.
The Patel family has been in the hotel business since 1990, a few months before Shivam was born, and for him, it has been a lifetime career. He explained that he loves the customer service aspect of the general manager job and the opportunity to meet the many interesting people who visit the hotel.
EBS sat down with Shivam to learn more about the Lodge and its colorful history.
Explore Big Sky: Tell me about the history of the Lodge?
Shivam Patel: “I believe that this was originally land used by Chet Huntley as a horse pasture or ranch. I currently have four horseshoes that I found on our property and I have been told that this was the case as well. I was also told that the property was given to one of the Kircher’s wives in a divorce settlement and was originally built as a Holiday Inn Express. I believe the second owner renamed it the “Mountain Inn” then “The Lodge at Big Sky.” I have a few pieces of apparel and collateral that still has the old Mountain Inn logo on it. That’s all I’ve pieced together over the years. I’m sure some of the locals that have been here for 20-plus years could tell you a more vibrant story than I could as I’m learning new facts every year.”
EBS: What sets the Lodge apart from other hotels in Big Sky?
SP: “Independent ownership. Especially now that River Rock Lodge and Bucks T-4 Lodge have been sold. There’s a level of customer service and care that just can’t be given in a corporate environment. That’s the biggest benefit of staying at the Lodge at Big Sky. Kruti and I are at the hotel from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. every day during the season and much more during the holidays. We feel as though it’s our responsibility to ensure that everyone’s–most times hard earned–vacation goes off without a hitch. Most people we speak with say they’ve been waiting a year or more to visit Big Sky and the area. It’s our duty to make sure they’re leaving smiling.”
EBS: Why should travelers choose the Lodge?
SP: “More of the above. Kruti and I are here every day during each season and don’t take a day off till it’s over. It’s very rare if we are not on a first name basis with a guest if they are staying more than four nights.”
EBS: Tell me about some of your amenities?
SP: “The hotel is laid out like your typical limited-service hotel, but our rooms are about 50-100 square feet larger on average. My favorite part of our rooms is the 10-foot ceilings throughout all four floors of the hotel. We’ve built many hotels over the years stressing to the franchises that taller ceilings play a trick on the eyes to make them feel larger. The person who designed this hotel apparently had the same thought process as we do, and we always get compliments on the size of our rooms and ceiling. The main focal point of our hotel is our Great Room, which has the best view in Big Sky. That’s a fact. The Great Room during the day is where we serve our breakfast where people eat while enjoying the gorgeous Lone Peak alpenglow in the winter. At night, we have our own private bar that we operate for hotel guests only to enjoy in the Great Room by our fireplace, on the patio in front of our firepit, or in our aquatic facilities. We have one indoor pool, an indoor hot tub, and three outdoor hot tubs for guests to use. Our hotel also has fitness facilities, ski and bike storage, and a winter shuttle to take guests to and from the Resort.”
EBS: Has it been difficult adapting to CDC guidelines during COVID?
SP: “On the staffing side, we’ve all come together as a team. All of us are working together to ensure that guests are abiding by our and local rules to keep everyone safe.”
EBS: When is your busiest time?
SP: “That’s now changed three times since I moved here. Winter was the busiest when I first got here. Then the Chinese tourism boom rolled through, and then the summer became the busiest. Those months were the funniest as we had 95 percent of our rooms filled by tour buses so our parking lot would always be empty during the day. It was a daily occurrence where someone would stop by to ask if we were open for business. After Big Sky became a part of the Ikon Pass the winter is again our busiest time.”
EBS: What is the best business advice you have ever received?
SP: “My dad always says, ‘If you fail, fail fast, and try again.’”
EBS: Anything else that you would like to share?
SP: “It makes me proud to be a part of my little slice of Big Sky history. In the last six years, Big Sky has grown up so much, and I don’t see it stopping anytime soon. When I first moved here, Big Sky was skiing’s best kept secret. Now, almost every guest that visits our hotel is here for the first time, and the secret is out. I’m excited to see what the future holds for Big Sky.”