PHOTO: Courtesy Moonlight Basin

PHOTO: Courtesy Moonlight Basin

In what should bring to a close a troubling period for Moonlight Basin, the Montana ski area is now under the same ownership as neighboring Big Sky Resort and The Yellowstone Club.

CrossHarbor Capital Partners, owners of The Yellowstone Club (a posh private ski club for gazillionaires), and Boyne Resorts, owners of Big Sky, announced yesterday that they had come to terms with a Lehman Brothers subsidiary to purchase Moonlight Basin. Moonlight and Big Sky, which have shared a boundary on the 11,166-foot-tall Lone Mountain, will now be run as one ski area. Though it was possible in the past to purchase an interconnect lift ticket (running around $100) to ski both on one pass, the ski areas were run separately, with their own identities and two ski patrols, yet marketed as “The Biggest Skiing in America.” Now that they will be operated seamlessly, a press release promised, it truly will be with 5,532 skiable acres and 4,350 vertical feet under one umbrella.

For Big Sky skiers, it means a few things. Firstly, Moonlight emerges from serious financial struggles starting in 2008 when Lehman Brothers went bankrupt. Not able to pay the bills on its high-end real estate (including a Jack Nicklaus Signature Golf Course), Moonlight was forced to downsize staff and eventually filed for bankruptcy a year later. This stoked fears that the ski area would not be able to open for the winter. The lifts always ran, but the rumor mill speculated a tenuous future. The acquisition puts an end to those fears and should solidify lift-access for some of the best inbounds skiing in the country: the Headwaters and North Summit Snow Field.

Secondly, with CrossHarbor and Boyne now owning most of the real estate in the Big Sky area (they also purchased the neighboring and similarly high-end Spanish Peaks Resort this summer), they promised that future development would be consistent and sustainable. One of Big Sky’s primary sore spots is that it grew without any cohesive planning, which gave way to piecemeal development and no real town center.

With scarce details available, it is unknown whether season passes or a standard day ticket will provide access to both Big Sky and Moonlight. It’s also unclear what it means for the ski patrol, ski school, and mountain ops.

Something that we can guarantee, however, is that your lift ticket still won’t work at The Yellowstone Club.