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Yellowstone Club: Steep Slopes, Steeper Entry Requirements

Wednesday, 14 Nov 2012 | 12:41 PM ET
Source: yellowstoneclub.com

Upscale winter resorts routinely attract celebrities, CEOs, even royalty to their slopes. But the Yellowstone Club in Big Sky, Mont., is even more exclusive.

The year-round resort is a "private residential community" for millionaires, and those aspiring to join will have to pony up.

Membership costs $300,000. Then there's the annual dues of $30,000, plus the required property purchase of a $2.5 million condo, a custom mansion, or an ranch that costs more the $10 million. (Residents can get their membership fees back if they sell their property.) There also used to be a minimum requirement of $3 million in liquid assets, according The New York Times.

The Yellowstone Club has 13,400 acres, 2,200 of which are skiable and are being used by a limited number of skiers. The club's founder, timber baron Tim Blixseth, foresaw an eventual cap of 864 members. That which means less sharing of the slopes and no lines at the lifts. On the busiest of days, there are 150 skiers and snowboarders using the mountain, according to one report.

The resort doesn't make it into gossip columns and paparazzi photos, at least partly by design. Yellowstone Club posits itself less for the jet set and more as a family establishment. Blixseth, who rose from a childhood of poverty, told the Los Angeles Times, "Our target member is a good, down-to-earth, humble person who is thankful for his or her success. ... No jerks allowed."

Some of the better-known but still relatively low-key members include politicians Dan Quayle and Jack Kemp, executives like Peter Chernin, former president of News Corp. and Steve Burke, president of Comcast unit NBC Universal, not to mention Bill Gates. Athlete members include Olympic skiers Warren Miller (the main lodge is named for him) and Hank Kashiwa, former British Open champion Tom Weiskopf, who designed the 18-hole golf course, and Tour de France winner Greg LeMond.

Among the first Yellowstone Club members were television producer Burt Sugarman and his wife, "Entertainment Tonight" host Mary Hart. And outside of the odd guest visit from a superstar such as Justin Timberlake, that's about as Hollywood as the membership gets.

The Yellowstone Club has gained more unwanted attention due to lawsuits from the Montana Department of Environmental Quality and the EPA, and in November 2008 with bankruptcy proceedings. hree months before the bankrupcy declaration, Blixseth and his wife, Edra, filed for divorce. Edra Blixseth was awarded the club in the divorce, along with its $360 million n debt, then later declared bankrupcy herself and sold the club to a private equity firm of a club member for $115 million.

This summer, Yellowstone Club made the news again with the death of Parker Regan, son of R. Christopher Regan, co-founder of health care consultancy Chartis Group, in an all-terrain vehicle accident.

Source: yellowstoneclub.com

The club originated with a real estate trade when Blixseth and his partners swapped 160,000 acres adjacent to Yellowstone National Park for the 100,000 or so acres in the Bozeman and Big Sky area. The partners took the timberland, and Blixseth planned to use the rest as a family compound. The idea for a private resort evolved as friends expressed interest in the land. It opened in 1999.

More than two dozen custom residences are currently listed on the Yellowstone Club website, as well as condos and lots, but none pecify a price.

The club's residences include a LEED-certified rustic log home situated on a pond, and a house with a top-level room that rotates 360 degrees. In 2007, Blixseth planned to build The Pinnacle, a 53,000-square-foot mansion on 600 acres with a private chairlift, an ice rink and underground parking to house 20 SUVs. The estimated cost was $155 million, which could have made it the world's most expensive home. Only the 1.25 mile driveway was ever made.

A few other tidbits have trickled out to the public, adding to the myths of this exclusive resort—the more than 70 runs are dusted with its trademarked Private Powder. The club used to have $1,000/head New Year's Eve parties (which appear in the Yellowstone Club-inspired novel Triple Cross).

Finally, much has been made of the Yellowstone Club's security team being ex-Secret Service members, so no need for some of the country's richest families to hire bodyguards for the slopes. But according to a regional publication most of them were from Big Sky or Bozeman. The club's director of privacy, Bruce Bales, was a veteran of President Gerald Ford's protection detail.

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