Trapper's Cabin Ranch

Five cabins stand on the 640 acres at Trapper’s Cabin Ranch.

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Crosscut Mountain Sports Center last week closed on a deal to buy the historic 640-acre Trapper’s Cabin Ranch south of Big Sky, with plans to create year-round outdoor programs serving groups including veterans and at-risk youth while maintaining trails and facilities on the land.

“Our current offerings (in Bridger Canyon) make for these great after-work skis or Saturday morning family mountain biking,” said Jenn Adams, the communications director at Crosscut. “One of our visions with Trapper’s Canyon Ranch is to take the adventure between people and nature to the next level, to provide a little bit more of an immersive Montana experience.”

Crosscut, a nonprofit that owns and maintains a trail system and Nordic ski area in Bridger Canyon, closed on the deal with the longtime owners of the property, the Martin family, on April 30. The Martins have owned the property since purchasing it from Dr. Caroline McGill, a co-founder of the Museum of the Rockies, in the 1960s.

The original listing of the property was $15 million, but the Martin family offered it to Crosscut for $2.9 million, an about 80% reduction in price.

No organized programming is planned to take place on the property during 2021, said Crosscut Board Member Cliff Montagne. Crosscut wants to be deliberate in its programming and have discussions with organizations and the community as a whole about what kind of programming is most needed, he said.

“We’ll be going to the community at large to explore what organizations and people think the needs are,” Montagne said. “That land has a wilderness character and offers solitude, so we’ll be careful to have activities that fit the values of stewardship and wilderness respect … and also the kinds of activities that will not degrade the land.”

Nothing is set in stone yet, Montagne said, though some ideas for programming on the property include youth hunter safety, wilderness search and rescue training, avalanche safety, fly fishing retreats and partnering with local organizations that could use the 640 acres and 5 cabins for programs year-round.

Group sizes would stay relatively small — likely fewer than 30 people — as part of Crosscut’s pledge to take care of the property in the Taylor’s Fork drainage of the Madison range.

Trapper's Cabin Ranch

Crosscut purchased Trapper's Cabin Ranch in late April for $2.9 million, an 80% reduction in price from its listed value of $15 million.

“We want to be open to a myriad of possibilities to choose from and then move forward in a slow and cautious way, to start slowly and then build as we learn more about what the needs are,” Montagne said.

Montagne has a long history with the Trapper’s Cabin Ranch property — as a high schooler in the ‘60s, he got a job guiding people on trips in the Taylor Fork area and wrangling horses on the property. Later, as a scientist with the Gallatin National Forest, Montagne did soil survey mapping on and around the property.

Sandy Martin also has a special connection to Trapper’s Cabin Ranch — his family, the Martins, are the ones who have owned it for four generations. They wanted the property to be taken care of and put to good use and Martin said that he thinks Crosscut will do both of those things.

“To have the opportunity for a week to just sit and hear the sound of a beautiful native cutthroat trout stream, maybe do a little fishing or just sit and watch the water play over the gravel runs in the stream and look up at the mountains … I think there’s something to be said for that,” Martin said. “It’s not going to cure people, but from a standpoint of providing some peace and maybe some serenity in what’s a difficult period of their lives, I definitely believe it’d be helpful.”

Programming ideas for the Trapper’s Cabin Ranch property can be shared on Crosscut’s website:

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Melissa Loveridge can be reached at or at (406) 582-2651.

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