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Know the West

How Huntley sold Big Sky to Montana


Note: This article is a sidebar to this issue's feature story.

Chet Huntley did some horseback-riding and occasional cross-country skiing - but ironically not much downhill. He made his reputation as a television newsman on both urban coasts, including 14 years on the Huntley-Brinkley nightly news on NBC. But he had a rugged look and Montana roots.

Born in a small Montana town, son of a railroad telegrapher, he'd knocked around the state and lived on a ranch while growing up. At age 58, he decided it was time to come home, and he used Big Sky as his vehicle, saying that he wanted to "get these damn deadlines off my neck."

The original Big Sky Inc. met resistance - a lot of Montanans didn't want wild public land converted to a resort - so Huntley was paid a small piece of the action (0.77 percent of the stock issue) for putting his reputation behind the development. He was the front man. He schmoozed with two Montana governors, getting permission for the resort to use the state's nickname, Big Sky. He lined up support from state and federal agencies and members of Congress. He cruised around Montana in a small plane, delivering his sales pitch in the small towns, lining up customers who bought condos.

But when the resort staged the grand opening of the ski lifts in 1974, Huntley wasn't around to see it. A smoker, he died of lung cancer three days before the celebration.

As John Kircher, general manager of the Big Sky resort, says, "Chet Huntley didn't have much control over the end product."

This story package includes these other sidebar articles:

- Chet Huntley's legacy includes suppression of a free press

- Big Sky above, private land below

- Touring the future on Insta-Teller Road

- Armies of skiers are coming to Yellowstone