Sun Sets Behind Lone Peak

The sun begins to set behind Lone Peak in Big Sky on March 5.

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BIG SKY — Big Sky Resort’s parent company Boyne Resorts announced Wednesday it plans $150 million in improvements to the mountain and unveiled its 10-year plan for the ski area and surrounding community.

The Big Sky 2025 plan involves the upgrade, replacement or addition of 12 lifts — including a 10-person gondola — as well as incorporating night skiing and building a new hotel complex.

“We’ve been investing here, working with the team and local community to create a destination that is a world-class destination,” said Stephen Kircher, president of Boyne Resorts’ eastern operations. “It’s an exciting moment.”

Kircher broke the plan down into near-, mid- and long-term improvements.

In the near-term, Boyne, which owns more than a dozen resorts across the U.S., including Sugarloaf in Maine and Brighton in Utah, plans to “re-concept” several restaurants on the mountain. The resort recently upgraded its Ramcharger lift to allow for summer travel, and opened a new restaurant, Everett’s 8800, at the top.

Earlier this year, the resort also invested $9 million on two lifts — a six-person, high-speed chair that will replace the Lone Peak Triple, and a conveyor-loaded triple that will replace the 28-year-old Challenger, which closed midway through last season.

The lifts are expected to open in time for Thanksgiving weekend.

Beginning this season, Big Sky will move to a dynamic ticket pricing system, Kircher said. Similar to airline tickets, day pass prices will range from $89 to $129 based on holidays and how far in advance they are purchased.

Much of the mid- and long-term investments will center on upgrading the mountain’s infrastructure to handle the 650,000 annual visitors predicted in 2025. The resort has plans for new parking lots, a gondola that will run from the base, a new lift that will take skiers and snowboarders up the south side of Lone Peak, as well as a hotel where the tennis courts are currently located, Kircher said.

The Lone Peak Tram will also need an upgrade or replacement by the end of the 10-year period, he added.

“This is about making Big Sky not just bigger but making Big Sky better,” he said. “We want to build this infrastructure for the future.”

Boyne will also help “guide” future investment in the Big Sky community, Kircher said, which includes adding employee housing and encouraging direct flights into Bozeman Yellowstone International Airport.

“We’ve had this relationship with southwest Montana, the Big Sky community and Bozeman; this symbiotic relationship we think is important,” he said. “We’re aware that this is a critical part of the future of Big Sky. We need to be looking at making it livable and affordable to all the people who need to be a part of this resort experience.”

Much of the improvement will be funded by resort revenues. Big Sky has added $10 to $15 million in annual earnings since its merger with Moonlight Basin and Spanish Peaks in 2013, Kircher said.

The resort also plans to continue to grow its summer and shoulder season activities, including improving its mountain biking trail system.

“We have amazing natural strengths in this part of Montana that we are hoping to build upon, and we have a maturing sense of community here,” Kircher said. “We really think this plan is going to develop into something that is best in class when it’s done.”

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Kendall can be reached at lkendall@dailychronicle.com. Kendall is on Twitter at @lewdak

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