The road to 1,000 employee winter beds


Big Sky Resort to open for ski season with 791 beds, hopes to accommodate 1,000 employees by winter 2023-24

By Jack Reney STAFF EDITOR

As Big Sky Resort prepares to open its 49th winter of slopeside slides, they’ve added 142 beds to accommodate employees in a tough rental market. Resort officials say they are processing a record number of job applications for the upcoming season and are working to provide housing for 50% of the winter workforce by the start of 2024.

Troy Nedved, General Manager of Big Sky Resort, and Stacie Mesuda, Director of Public Relations, sat down with EBS to discuss recent updates and resort housing plans.

“We’re really trying to do our part on probably the toughest issue we have in our community,” Nedved said.

Over the summer, Big Sky Resort converted Huntley Lodge Short Hall into staff housing, adding 142 beds.

“We realized how important it was and how necessary it was to house more employees,” Nedved said. “For lack of a better term, we ‘sacrificed’ those guest beds and converted them into staff beds [located] right in the center of our village. It was a pretty big decision for us, but we think it was the right one.

Nedved said the new Huntley complex is for returning staff and key positions that require easy access to the mountain due to early morning or late evening working hours.

Huntley Lodge’s conversion comes just a summer after the completion of the Mountain Lodge housing complex, a three-phase project which has added an additional 186 beds since the winter of 2019-20.

Mountain Lodge East opened after the completion of the first phase in fall 2019 and is located within walking distance of the mountain. PHOTO COURTESY OF BIG SKY RESORT

Just five years after planning to deliver 500 beds in March 2019, Big Sky Resort plans to reach 1,000 beds with the completion of the three-phase Levinsky Resort at Lake Levinsky. Under construction, the project aims to provide apartment-style accommodation for resort management and families.

“This is the first time we’ve tried to have real apartment-style housing. We have already paved the way, and [phase one] will be complete and ready in February,” Nedved said. The first phase will add 36 beds and Nedved expects employees to move into the Levinsky Complex mid-season.

Once phases two and three are completed by winter 2023-24, the resort will provide more than 1,000 beds for employees, according to Nedved and Mesuda. That’s about half of their approximately 2,000 winter employees.

“This is not a new mission for us,” Mesuda said. “The resort has been building accommodation for almost 40 years now, recognizing that [housing] was a challenge for the community. All of these investments over time have really paid off in getting us to where we are, as shown by how far we are ahead of other mountain communities.

“What we found is that we definitely have a lot more beds for a high percentage of our employees than our [competitor resorts]said Nedved of the best ski destinations across the country.

According to data provided by the National Ski Area Association, 62 ski areas indicated that they plan to add an average of 48 additional beds during the summer of 2022. To do so, they offer an average of 119 beds.

“Big Sky is a leading supporter of employee housing in the ski industry, often exceeding the national average for available beds and housed employees,” wrote Adrienne Saia Isaac, NSAA Director of Marketing and Communications. , in an email to EBS.

Nedved said Big Sky Resort also offers employee beds in Bozeman, and Mesuda acknowledged that many employees choose to live in Bozeman for a variety of reasons. Resort employees receive a free Skyline bus pass, which contributes to an ongoing community effort to reduce commuter traffic in Gallatin Canyon.

“We are really trying to focus on our housing investments which are in [the] Big Sky community, and preferably within walking distance of the workplace,” Nedved said. “We want to have enough housing available for those who want to live in Big Sky. But some choose Bozeman, and we have that option as well.

For potential employees, Nedved said housing is “rooted in the application process” because beds are “a limiting factor” for the resort, as well as the community. Applicants who state that they need housing for their employees will likely be at a disadvantage in the application process, due to the nature of the limited housing supply. Once a candidate receives a job offer, they can make decisions based on the types of housing they qualify for, he said.

As for the rental cost, Nedved said employee housing is considerably more affordable than market value. The Big Sky Resort employee housing webpage shows that double and triple occupancy rooms average between $12 and $15 per night per tenant, or about $360 to $450 per month.

A decade ago, employees would spend a winter or two in employee housing before heading out to seek rental opportunities nearby, Nedved said. Recently, the station has been developing ways to add diversity to employee housing options, from dorm-style living to apartment or family-style housing. This allows employees to have a longer-term, more comfortable buffer before entering Big Sky’s competitive real estate market.

When long-term employees are ready to leave Big Sky Resort housing, that’s when they intersect with Big Sky Community Housing Trust’s efforts to provide a roadmap from entry-level work to range and from affordable rental to middle management and ownership. property.

Record number of winter applications

For the winter of 2022-23, Nedved said almost all of the approximately 800 vacant units had been filled.

“In broad terms, we tend to have all of our accommodations assigned and booked by the end of October,” Nedved said.

Mesuda said it was a testament to the strength of their hiring process this winter, especially after facing employee shortages in the previous two seasons since COVID-19 ripped through the industry.

“It’s the highest number of applicants we’ve ever seen at the station,” Nedved said. “It allows us to be more selective and ensure that we allocate and spend our limited beds to the right people.”

Official snow forecast: “A flagship season”

Mesuda said after the recent storm in October, mountain operations had a record snowmaking effort with 91 snow cannons operating simultaneously.

It was our best start for artificial snow,” said Mesuda. “And there is more snow forecast for this week. And next week. I think we will be well placed. »

Nedved made a similar prediction:

“We have already had a great start with natural snow and low temperatures favorable to artificial snowmaking. It really feels like we are heading for a record season. »

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