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January 08, 2009

Warren Miller on the Yellowstone Club

New West brings this article from Warren Miller on the Yellowstone Club - the haven for the uberrich in Montana near Big Sky:

Lately I have read numerous newspaper articles about, “the haven for the rich and famous at the Yellowstone Club in Montana. Its’ gated community guards the super rich from being bothered by less fortunate people.” I signed on as the director of skiing at the club two years before the first lift was installed because its 14,000 acres of private property would continue to provide a wilderness experience for my children and my grandchildren. I bet my over-half-a-century reputation as an extreme sports movie producer that my own vision of the Yellowstone Club would someday become a reality. It has done that and then some...

Almost every member of The Yellowstone Club is a self made, very successful person and can’t avoid being Economically Stratified. Can they pay more for a cup of Starbucks coffee than you can? Do they still drive all night to go skiing close to where they live when they don’t have time for their Montana vacation? Yes, and they do that on a lot of weekends.

What would happen if one of the wealthiest people in the world showed up at Vail or Aspen with his wife and children? They would be mobbed by people wherever they went! The privacy that every member of the Yellowstone Club has earned by their hard work is highly treasured by them.

I have less of a problem with the Yellowstone Club that sits on private property, not leased USFS Land, than the Vails and the Aspens of the world that are public resorts and charge rates that the public cannot afford.

If the rich want to isolate themselves in their own castles to keep the riff raff from bothering them, who am I to object, so long as they do not use public land and public financing to do so. I like the concept of private, exclusive resorts, golf courses, etc. If you can afford it, buy it. Just don't use shady means like BLM land swaps to do it. There is plenty of that sort of stuff going on and I am left to believe the Yellowstone Club was on the up and up, just like Beaver's Elk Meadows proposed resort is.

I have written a lot about the increasing price of skiing and the negative effect it has on the sport. On gentrification of ski towns. On escalating commutes for ski workers. On low wages. On all of the visa'ed workers because your average US worker won't take the low wages.

I don't dislike resorts or the rich by any stretch. I just think that many of the macroeconomic decisions by the resort industry as a whole are hurting families and making skiing such an exclusive sport that you have to make $150k a year to do it. Yellowstone Club ups the ante on exclusive from $150k a year to owning at least a multimillion dollar home. You have to be worth $10M or more.

I agree with Warren Miller in defending the hard working folks that have earned their wealth and defending their right to own property wherever they see fit, be it on a golf course, next to the ocean, or at a ski resort in Montana. It is quite dissimilar from thousands of moderately rich folks take over a town, force out the locals with high real estate prices, and swamp a public resort with escalating traffic and high prices. But that is the industry model.

Posted by Justin at January 8, 2009 11:51 AM