By Bella Butler EBS STAFF
BIG SKY – A new luxury resort opened its doors in Big Sky this month. Now the largest building in Montana, Montage Big Sky’s more than half-a-million square feet reflect the enormity of the mountains surrounding the structure.
Montage, a self-proclaimed ultra-luxury hotel management company headquartered in Irvine, California, adds the Big Sky property, located in the heart of the Spanish Peaks Mountain Club, to its eight other destinations, now covering ground from the Northern Rockies to as far as the Bahamas.
Rick Riess, vice president of operations of Montage International and managing director of Montage Big Sky, says the Big Sky property is particularly special.
“It’s like where all the stars have aligned,” Riess told EBS in a Dec. 10 interview. “It’s got this spectacular setting where we’re looking out at the Spanish Peaks and the mountains all around us.”
In addition to the natural amenities, Riess said, the building is a wonder all its own: finishes include regional wood and stone, and high-end local art adorns the interior. The resort, which is open to the public, features indoor and outdoor pools, six restaurants, a spa and fitness center, ice skating rink, and bowling alley along with ski-in/ski-out access to Big Sky Resort slopes and the Spanish Peaks Golf Course for lodging guests.
“It’s like there were no corners cut,” Riess said of the more than $400 million development. “It’s done to an extremely high level. And I sincerely believe that it will become one of the great ski resorts in the world.”
The resort includes 150 guestrooms and suites that start at $1,500 per night, starting at $750 in shoulder seasons as well as 39 private residences. Riess said the resort is already booked out across the board—restaurants, spas, and lodging—until mid-January.
Montage broke ground in fall of 2018 and opened to guests on Dec. 15. Lone Mountain Land Company, the development affiliate of Boston-based firm and Yellowstone Club owner CrossHarbor Capital Partners, owns Montage Big Sky, and Montage will serve as the resort’s managing partner.
Montage has already become acquainted with many of the same difficulties that other Big Sky businesses face, according to Riess.
“Without a doubt our two biggest challenges are housing and staffing,” he said. As of Dec. 10, Riess said the resort was staffed at about 75 percent of its optimum workforce of 350. He added that they have near a dozen people “in queue ready to come work” when Montage and LMLC find them housing.
“Every day we get new applicants,” he said. “Now is the challenge of trying to find a place for them to live.”
Montage Big Sky is currently being supported in part by approximately 50 managers from other Montage properties that will remain on site in Big Sky through the start of the season.
For Riess, who’s been with Montage for seven years, this will be his 24th hotel opening. And, as “the guy that’s responsible for running the operation,” as he says, he will oversee the property until it’s stabilized, perhaps longer.
“One of our values and goals in our business is to be a positive member of the community,” Riess said, adding that the resort intends to be involved with local charities.
“I think it can be sometimes a little intimidating for this big building to come into a small community,” he said. “So, we want to be very aware of that. And very respectful.”
In addition to philanthropy, Riess said Montage will add significant tax contributions to Big Sky, both through resort tax as well as Montana’s lodging sales and facility-use taxes. At other Montage properties, the company has also organized service opportunities such as beach cleanups through its internal Hearts of Montage board, something it hopes to bring to Big Sky.
“We’re kind of pioneering in a lot of ways in bringing this property to Montana,” Riess said. “And we feel a tremendous responsibility that we do it the right way, that we’re doing it very respectfully, that we’re doing it very sensitively; that we’re good, contributing members of the community.”