Having a healthcare facility the caliber of Bozeman Health Big Sky Medical
Center is monumental for Big Sky and southern Gallatin County, according
to people who have promoted and lived in the area for years.
The tourism industry has played a key role in the development of the landlocked
mountain town located amidst some of Montana's tallest peaks. But
until recently, Big Sky's growth has been focused on vacation homes
Kitty Clemens, executive director of the Big Sky Chamber of Commerce, says
the area's entire economy has been based on travel and tourism.
“Were it not for tourism, there would be no Big Sky,” she says.
“None of these businesses could be open without visitors.”
The ski slope couldn't afford to operate with only local skiers, Clemens adds.
But with the medical center's round-the-clock services, Big Sky is
poised to become an honest-to-goodness community.
“The community didn't really exist before the 1970s,” says
Taylor Middleton, Big Sky Resort's general manager.
The opening of the resort, Ophir School and Lone Peak High School, the
first bank, hardware store, movie theater and the Warren Miller Performing
Arts Center “created the fabric of our community weaving it into
a livable place,” he says. “And adding a hospital is core
to having a livable community.”
Paul Robertson, general manager of Lone Mountain Ranch, agrees that with
a hospital in town, Big Sky is more established with less of a “boom-and-bust,
“It's like Big Sky has arrived and doesn't have to rely so
heavily on surrounding communities,” he says. “It feels like
Big Sky is in control of its own destiny now.”
Hans Williamson, Yellowstone Club vice president and general manager, says
it was evident years ago that a local medical facility was needed.
“Having been involved with the committee when we were trying to get
one of the healthcare providers to develop a healthcare facility in Big
Sky, I can tell you that this facility certainly exceeds my expectations
of what we were going to have,” he says.
All four agree the hospital's presence provides a sense of security
and are thankful its time has come. It will have a major impact on residents
who no longer need to take a harrowing canyon drive for a middle-of-the
night emergency, Clemens says.
It will serve area employees and visitors well too, Lone Mountain's
“We've been fortunate,” he says. “But there's
risk with the activities we offer, especially horseback riding. Having
a first-class facility a mile from our gate will give us all more peace
Williamson agrees, adding that with the hospital here, Big Sky is poised to grow.
“Certainly in the future, Big Sky has great growth potential,”
he says. “And with that you need a medical facility that will keep
up with that growth. This facility is going to do that. That's very
important for all of us who live in the community.”
Middleton sees the hospital's arrival as a tipping point for Big Sky.
“The opening of the Big Sky Medical Center will be transformational
for our community,” he says. “We will look back on this as
one of the most important things that has happened in our history.”