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Know the West

Armies of skiers are coming to Yellowstone


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

Among the many pressures on Yellowstone National Park's ecosystem, downhill skiing is coming on strong. Seven ski resorts, including Big Sky, ring the park in a wide radius - and all the resorts plan major expansions. Here's a partial list, in round numbers:

* The Jackson Hole resort, in Wyoming south of the park, plans to more than double its capacity for overnight tourists, from 1,900 hotel beds to more than 5,200 beds;

* Snow King, also near Jackson, plans to double its skier capacity;

* White Pine, farther south, plans five new lifts and 14 new runs;

* Grand Targhee, in Idaho west of the park, plans four new lifts, 700 new lodging units and 100,000 new square feet of commercial and support facilities;

* Red Lodge Mountain, in Montana northeast of the park, plans eight new lifts, two new reservoirs and 50 miles of new trails for hikers, mountain bikers and cross-country skiers.

As well as increasing the flow of tourists, the new facilities and related services will need employees, increasing the resident population.

"We're concerned not only with the development of the ski hills themselves, but also how those areas become catalysts for widespread development - the cumulative impacts," says Dennis Glick, who gathered the numbers on resort expansions for the environmental group, the Greater Yellowstone Coalition, in Bozeman.

Big Sky appears the most ambitious of the resort towns. Big Sky's ski village has a new plan, which includes a doubling of shops and restaurants, six new hotels and a new conference center.

There are also Big Sky developments that are separate from the ski village: Immediately west of the ski village, a developer has subdivided more than 30 square miles into about 75 lots, and immediately to the south, another developer, Big Sky Lumber, plans a whole new resort (number eight for the Yellowstone region). Pioneer Mountain proposes a golf course and a gated ski mountain reserved for people who buy lots for $1.5 million to $5 million.

Also add what's in a new master plan that covers other private land around Big Sky: about two more square miles of new commercial development, plus 10 more square miles of ranchettes (20-acre homesites), two more square miles of mini-ranchettes (10 acres each), and a square mile of new micro-ranchettes (five acres each).

If all the Big Sky plans are carried out, within 20 years Big Sky will hold 30,000 people (tourists and residents totaled, when every bed is filled), making it one of Montana's largest towns.

This story package includes these other sidebar articles:

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

- Big Sky above, private land below

- How Huntley sold Big Sky to Montana

- Touring the future on Insta-Teller Road