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‘Biggest Skiing in America’ just got bigger

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Posted: Thursday, August 22, 2013 12:00 am

It’s been a week since CrossHarbor announced its purchase of Moonlight Basin and that Big Sky Resort would take over operations, merging the two resorts as one. Since then, innumerable questions and speculations about the imminent changes ahead have arisen.

According to Big Sky Resort Public Relations Manager Sheila Chapman, resort upper managers are getting down to the brass tacks as we speak, working together to seamlessly integrate the two teams before the lifts start turning in November. Exactly how the integration will work and what it means to Moonlight employees is still being determined.

“We’re excited to work with the employees of Moonlight - we need them to make this work,” Chapman said on Tuesday. “There may be things we do more efficiently, and there may be things they do more efficiently. It’s a learning experience, but between the two, we can take the best of everything and move forward.”

There are a few things Chapman was able to verify. Already purchased Moonlight Basin and Big Sky Resort passes will be good for the terrain they represent, no more, no less.

“Each pass will be valid for what it was sold for,” Chapman said. “We’re working through other questions people have, and waiting until October when the sale is finalized to have the answers.”

Chapman did note that there will most likely be an option for pass holders to upgrade to the whole mountain for a discounted rate. Other pass rates will be announced in October.

In addition, Chapman urged those without passes to purchase early season rated passes still available as before, online at the resorts’ respective websites.

Another confirmed change involves the sale of Spanish Peaks to CrossHarbor last month. Like the Moonlight configuration, Big Sky Resort will be running operations at Spanish Peaks. But unlike past years, the three lifts and 207 skiable acres on Spirit Mountain will be open to anyone with a Big Sky Resort pass.

Adding it up, Big Sky Resort, Spanish Peaks, and Moonlight Basin now make up a resort of more than 5,700 acres of skiable terrain, with 4,350 vertical feet, 23 chairlifts and 10 surface lifts. It now comprises America’s single largest skiable in-bounds resort in America. Or, as it will continue to be marketed to the public, “The Biggest Skiing in America.”

Stephen Kircher, President of Boyne Eastern Operations, the owners of Big Sky Resort, touched on the merger in last week’s press release announcing the deal. “…For over 37 years, Boyne Resorts has been a steady custodian of growth of Big Sky Resort,” he was quoted. “We are truly excited about the positive impact this alliance will have on Big Sky Resort and surrounding communities in Southwestern Montana and permanently solidifying the ‘Biggest Skiing in America.”

Moonlight Basin, a brief history

• 1992- Ennis developers Lee Poole and Joe Vujovich and Ohio businessman Keith Brown joined forces and purchased the 25,000-acre Jack Creek drainage stretching northwest of Big Sky from the Plum Creek Timber Co. for an estimated $6.5 million.

• 2003 – Moonlight opens as a public ski resort

• 2004 – Lone Tree lift opens access to tree and groomed skiing

• Feb. 2004 – Big Sky Resort sues Moonlight over trespassing and guest endangerment

• Oct. 2004 – Moonlight management turns itself in over wetlands protection law violation, pays $39,500

• 2005 – Headwaters lift opens access to extreme headwall terrain

• 2005-06 – Lone Peak Pass offered for first time

• 2007 – The private golf club Jack Nicklaus Reserve at Moonlight Basin opens

• 2007 – Moonlight Basin borrows $100 million from Lehman Brothers Commercial Bank

• 2009 – Moonlight files for bankruptcy

• 2013 – Moonlight is purchased by CrossHarbor

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