The first home in the development of Bitterroot Resort is finished and the owner, Tom Maclay, hopes the rest of the development is a blending of the Old West values with New West ideals.
Maclay is the developer of the Bitterroot Resort, which, should it come to fruition as he plans, will be the biggest destination ski resort in North America and shuttle skiers from the floor of the Bitterroot Valley to the top of Lolo Peak on the edge of the Selway Bitterroot Wilderness.
And while the swirling controversy continues surrounding the resort and its effects on the communities of western Montana, Friday was a time for the public to see Maclay’s new home on the northwest portion of the property planned to be developed for the resort. The home offers the public a glimpse of just what kind of home and style the housing side of the Bitterroot Resort could offer.
The development plans for the Bitterroot Resort are being finalized, but Maclay anticipates 2,400 dwelling units total at the resort and about 10 percent of those would be single-family homes. The majority of the remaining dwelling units would be condominium and townhouse style.
The final applications for the development have yet to be submitted to Missoula County, Maclay said.
Maclay’s strategy to develop his 3,000 acre ranch and the adjoining National Forest has hit some resistance with a portion of the public in the Bitterroot and Missoula Valleys as well as the Bitterroot and Lolo National Forests, which have already turned down one special use permit request from Maclay. He needs the permit to use public land and the majority of the Bitterroot Resort ski area would be developed on National Forest Land in areas designated for limited, non-developed recreation. The Forest Service has extended the public comment period on the Forest Plan Revision until September 7. At Maclay’s home Friday, he had petitions available for people to sign that support developed recreation for the Carlton Ridge and Lolo Peak area. Under the current draft of the Forest Plan Revision that area would be for primitive and semi-primitive use only.
But the ski resort is only partly about skiing. Condominiums, a walking villiage, a golf course and high-end single-family houses provide the money and part of the infrastructure for such a development. Maclay’s home epitomizes this sentiment, with expansive living areas, high-class views of the valley and luxurious furnishing.
Maclay opened his 5,500 square foot home to the public as part of the Bitterroot Builders Association’s tour of homes. Though the style of the home is indicative of what Maclay wants for all aspects of his development, the size of the structure is not. Most dwellings at the Bitterroot Resort would be 1,600 to 3,200 square feet, he said.
The long road up to the home traced through open fields and along ridges. If the resort goes as planned this road will be lined with fairways and tee boxes.
Near the house, the road snaked into a thicket of large pine trees. Maclay says the house’s location blends in with the landscape well enough that it can only be seen from two places on Highway 93. And even then you have to know exactly where to look.
The home was designed by Kibo Group Architecture of Missoula and built by Hutton Fine Builders of Florence. The large, squared Douglas fir logs were processed in the Bitterroot Valley and nearly all of the construction materials were purchased locally, said builder Jeff Hutton.
The design is a true blend of the old and new techniques, Hutton said. The joints for the squared, rough-cut logs are dovetailed together in a traditional style.
“This is the way they built log homes a hundred years ago,” he said proudly.
But inside, the modern world creeps in with a big screen television, sound system and energy efficient appliances.
The blending of the Old and New West and the way they can exist together is shown through artwork in the large open living and dining room, Maclay said Friday, while he stood in the room looking out over the northern Bitterroot Valley viewed in glimpses through the tops of the ponderosa pines in his back yard.
George Gogas paintings line the walls. His early, simple watercolors represent the Old West, Maclay said. Gogas’ newer, Picasso-inspired works demonstrate a new idea and interpretation of the West.
The home was also built with energy efficiency in mind, said Jill Clapperton, Maclay’s partner.
The tiled floors have radiant heat, which will help the home hold its temperature in the winter, while keeping it cooler in the summer. All the appliances are energy efficient and the home it self uses natural materials on the outside, which allow it to blend into the landscape. This home is the example the Maclays want set as they look forward to the rest of the resort development.
“This is about human landscape ecology,” Jill said.
They weren’t interested in promoting homes that wouldn’t fit into the landscape. So their home sets the model for how future homes in the resort would be built fit in with the surroundings, she said.
Correction: A previous version of this story misidentified Jill Clapperton.