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In Montana, Bitterroot Resort Rides Out Volatile Market

Photos by Anne Medley

While high-end developments around the West collapse under the weight of huge debt loads the slumping housing market can’t support, the planned Bitterroot Resort south of Missoula, having yet to tap investors and with little built infrastructure, appears to be in position to ride out the slow down.

As rancher-turned-resort CEO Tom Maclay said Tuesday, “It’s very good to be standing outside of that.”

Money spent so far on planning, public relations, carving runs on private land, retaining top-flight resort manager Jim Gill has all been “internal,” Maclay says, made possible by “a few land sales” and “good bankers.”

Of course, the resort is still mired in a three-year back-and-forth permitting process with the Forest Service. Maclay hopes to gain access to public lands beneath Lolo Peak. But even if the Forest Service rejects the latest proposal, tweaked to account for lynx and elk, the resort will almost certainly be built, Maclay said.

The proposal seeks 3,000 acres of Forest Service land (down from the 12,000 originally requested in 2005 — see map at right) for gladed skiing, Nordic skiing, guided touring and mountain biking, none of which would require ski lifts to access. The ski lifts, reaching about 6,000 feet, are planned to be only on Maclay’s land.

  Click the image for a larger version (PDF)

A Bitterroot Resort without public lands would have about 300 acres of trails and 1,000 acres of skiable terrain. It would still be viable, Maclay asserted, because “It’s a great place to live.” By which he means the roughly 2,700 chunks of his 3,000-acre ranch he plans to sell as real estate. Those lots are extremely valuable, even with a scaled-down ski resort above.

But will real estate generate enough money to cover, using Gill’s estimates, more than $100 million in skiing infrastructure and a resort village that could cost just as much? Maclay and Gill are convinced it will. Maclay cites the “embedded demand” in the resort market and said, “We’re surrounded by 150,000 people who want to live here.”

Using real estate to finance ski and golf resorts is a common model, but it doesn’t always work, according to William Marks, an analyst covering real estate and leisure services with JMP Securities. “If a ski resort is financed from the sale of lots, the developer better look into how profitable the ski area can be with people not using their homes all the time.” It can lead “to a ski resort that could consistently disappoint down the road.”

Of the 12 lots already sold, six of which have been built upon, about half of the buyers are Montanans and half from out of state, some of whom are real estate investors, Maclay said. He expects that trend to continue. If it does, the problem of absentee homeowners may apply.

Despite the credit crunch and the struggles among projects of similar scale in the West, Maclay is in talks with potential investors. He said one effect of the downturn is that it “brings only quality institutions forward.”

“We’re on many people’s radar,” he said.

But, incidentally, not Credit Suisse’s — that’s the international investment bank that loaned $250 million-plus to Tamarack Resort in Idaho and Promontory Club in Utah, both of which defaulted and filed for bankruptcy protection. “I’m sure they’d return my call if I called,” Maclay said.

Last fall, Arkansas-based ANB Financial’s new branch in Jackson, Wyoming, courted Maclay, but he didn’t bite. Regarding the negotiations he would only say, “It was not the right fit at the right time.” (In May, the U.S. Comptroller of the Currency shut down ANB Financial, calling it undercapitalized and saying it used unsafe and unsound practices.)

“(Maclay’s) being very cautious, going slow, trying to make good decisions,” Gill said. Asked if financing will be sought upon approval of a Forest Service special-use permit, Maclay said, “It’s too early to say, but everthing’s on the table.”

At this point, the pace of the project, especially the construction of the village and golf courses, is “simply market driven,” Maclay said.

With the permitting process still in flux and the market floundering, Maclay appears content to — and thankful that he can — wait it out. “It can’t not work out,” he said.

As Gill said, “You try to set yourself up for when things start picking back up again.”

About Matthew Frank

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  1. It is hard to believe that Mr. Maclay will operate his ski resort without some help from one of the big boys. He has never been open and honest about who that might be, and how much of an out-of-state investment and out-of-state control that might be.

    Of course, that is smart, very smart. As a third-generation Montanan, Mr. Maclay knows that we don’t welcome out-of-state folks swooping in with a big dog and pony show, make a bucket load of cash, and leave us to deal with the impacts on local infrastructure. If we knew who was going to be his business partner, then we might ask them to fund the major road/water/sewer projects that will inevitably be need for his residential development.

  2. I stand Aghast at this story. Has Newwest no concern for our backyards?

    I have seen very very good stories from Matthew Frank before, and I wonder who gave him this assignment because it’s shamelessly pro-business and anti our back yards. That’s right.

    Told from the perspective of Tom Maclay –cast as an underdog developer facing the giant tide of unsucessful mega-ski developments– this story reads like a watered-down wall street journal story. It begs us to identify with the developer. Nowhere does it mention anyone’s back yard.

    What about the story of out of wealthy out-of-state landowners and huge private companies who’ve taken advantage of a persecutionist tax structure to permanently alter the very landscape that’s supposed to attract their customers? How about the social impact –not to mention the drastic depletions in water supply that will occur in what is currently a closed-basin– of several-hundred unit developments on the magnificent Bitterroot Valley.

    This kind of pro-business framing of major issues is something I won’t stand for. Not like this, and not in MY BACK YARD.

    I sit on top of my apartment building on Beckwith, and with my range finders I can see down to the Bitterroot Valley, and I see the growth, the eyesore, the SOILED BACKYARD.

    Then, believe you me, I aim my range finders north to the area where the old post and Newwest’s office is, kind of by the Courthouse. And I can only see the Courthouse, but in my mind, I think about the Newwest office, and how you guys framed this story in a way that hides the objectionalities of a most preposterous thing.

    No Bitterroot Resort. Not in OUR back yard.

    Because we care, that’s why.

  3. patient? did you actually say patient? the man illegally entered onto USFS land, cut trees, built roads and just generally did what he pleased until a judge shut him down a few years ago. have none of new west’s reporters any access at all to recent history?
    it’s all reported and nicely tucked away where any ninny can find it.

    talk about a fluff piece. Maclay should get down on his knees and thank that judge and all who have fought him on this pipe dream or the ranch would be in receivership by now.

    by the way, when just firing up the old bulldozer and pushing federal land around to his liking didn’t work he hired public relations firms to try smooth it all over. I guess it was money well spent since Mr Frank managed to swallow all this up to the barrell swivel. Maclay was patient my xxx! He’s lucky concerned citizens stood up to his topographical looney tunes.

  4. Missoula_Misanthrope

    Maclay is being patient, it lulls many opponents of the resort into a false sense of security. I actually have run into people who said “Well, the USFS denied him so I guess that’s that.”

    That kind of complacency will get you a tram to the top of Lolo Peak before you know it.

    Folks may view this a a pro-business fluff piece, but the underlying message is clear: Maclay and the resort proposal are not going away. Let me ask a question- if Maclay builds on his own land and builds the 2500 suites and condos at the base, do you think those 2500 individual owners will be for or against lift access in the National Forest? Will their voices drown out the relatively few vocal opponents of the resort? They might. Each of those owners, after all, will have a vested financial interest in their slopeside condo at a 2600 vertical foot resort turning into a slopeside condo at a 5,000 vertical foot resort. The current proposal for gladed skiing is nothing but a foot in the door to a larger scale proposal later down the line.

  5. I finally made it to Broot vallley and thought it was rural was I wrong.Place is overrun stop lights ,lucky Lils , and the rest of the sprawl crap that Montana has. The mountains are pretty but all the crap surrounding them isnt. My point is the place is already shot.

    Probably was nice 20 years ago.

  6. patient? all those assumptions you make about magical residents living in already sold homes outvoting the locals sound pretty convincing mt missy but that pie in the sky scenario would only work if this were the only resort left in the world. it isn’t and it won’t.

  7. Yeah, I was in the Valley 3 summers ago (I first went through in the spring of 1970) and was appalled at what linear development had done to the once beautiful space–boxy mansions on ridge tops without any trees around, backed up traffic, suburban malls, etc.

    The cow is out of the barn folks, good luck.


  8. Missoula_Misanthrope

    Bear, there’s plenty of crap real estate going up around every major (and minor) ski resort in the country that has the land to put it on, what would make this place any different? If Maclay can’t build or sell the real estate then you’ll never have to worry about seeing the ski resort either. With the lack of regulation in MT, the place is a developer’s paradise compared to what they have to deal with elsewhere. That’s the best part of all this- Missoula’s going to get the bottom of the barrel when it comes to national-level resort clientele. It’s not going to attract people away from Jackson hole or Vail, it’s going to attract people who never thought they could afford slopeside living in the west before, but now they can. Build it, they’ll come. The old axiom is that they aren’t making any more land on the ocean, but land at a ski resort is a close second in a lot of ways. Can you imagine even one of those new land owners opposing an expansion of Bitterroot?

  9. Yeah, Maclay has been around for years. He is one Montanan who needs to be pushed out. He has been involved with lawsuits for doing ridiculous things for as long as I remember.
    The bottom line is that he does not care for Montana.
    He has proliferated for far too long.
    Thanks, NW, for the fluff piece on him. Before doing any more articles on him, please research his legal issues from the past 3+ decades. See what he has done to the place he ‘loves’.
    I am anti-development…I am anti-Maclay development of the Bitterroot Resort.

  10. The Bitterroot Resort will become the property of the banks that loaned money to Tom Maclay and will never become the resort Mr. Maclay thinks it will become. Sadly, a wonderful winter range for elk will be destroyed by piecemeal development. The Forest Service will once again reject the “new” plans that do not conform to the Forest Plan, and the land belonging to tom Maclay will fall into the hands of out-of-state developers. How do I know this? I don’t but I am guessing that my predictions will come true.

    The Bitterroot Resort has never been anything but a real estate development opportunity for out-of-state “investors.” Tom Maclay doesn’t care about the health of a national forest. He cares about the wealth of his pocketbook, which, when all is said and done, will be very, very small.

    Susan Reneau

  11. When the Bitterroot Resort is selling tickets, I will be smiling and thinking to myself “It’s about time”. I can’t wait to ski there, bike there and eat there. If you don’t like the developement, move.

    The Missoula area needs a facelift. If I thought a resort wasn’t going to happen, I would have moved yesterday. I spend my money at local businesses, grocery stores, gas stations. I pay local contractors and plumbers to work on my house. I pay local taxes to fix the roads, city parks and public schools. I want to see positive growth in the greater Missoula Metropolitan area. Folks, we don’t live in a rural area. Missoula is a large Montana city and it’s only going to get bigger. Don’t you think we should plan for growth, instead of fighting it and ignoring a mess of unplanned sprawl? We don’t need anymore strip clubs, bars or casinos. How about more healthy outdoor recreation?

    Bozeman is half the size of Missoula and there are 4 large ski areas within an hour. Missoula has one ski area which is trying to expand because it is not big enough for the amount of snowriders in the area. I want a ski pass to both resorts. Just think how great the snow would be at Snowbowl if it weren’t so crowded! Competition between resorts is great! This is how businesses grow and make improvements…ex. new chair lifts. Bozeman was recently listed as one of the top 50 best communities to live in, all due to outdoor recreation.

    A resort would be one step closer to a cleaner, more prosperous Missoula. Don’t turn your heads at the transients and homeless in town. Look at it. Smell them. Let’s clean our town up and make it safe for women to walk to get a coffee or take a stroll by the river. Let’s build a better public transportation system for commuters and cheaper flights out of the Missoula airport. More jobs would be created at a more competitive salary. Maybe graduates from the University wouldn’t pick up and move…they would have a chance to stay in the city that they have grown to love and pay back their school loans on Missoula wages. If one company offers a better wage, so will other companies to keep good employees…it’s called competition. Right now, the average college student will accept working for $7. What business owner would pay more, if people are willing to work for that salary? No wonder many people have more than one job.

    Positive and planned growth needs to happen in our valley. Otherwise we will be the next Billings. At least housing is cheaper in Billings.

    Patience and smart planning is necessary. I can guarantee to all of you, the cows are gone at the Bitterroot Resort.

    Remember…the few people that are activists against development are strong, well-knitted into the community, and they are the loudest and most aggressive voices out there. It’s amazing that most of the letters to the editors in our local papers, are all originated from the same environmental activist group. It’s amazing to me, how organized and time committed they are in submitting letters and opinions. Just a new name from the same group gets an assignment each week. Did you know there are 36 environmental organizations in the city of Missoula banding together? That’s more than most states!

    The majority of the supporters of a planned recreational resort are far too busy working and making an honest living to form a group or club to express their excitement of the future. The supporters are the most quiet voice. They are anticipating and dreaming of visions of a brighter future for their businesses, families and quality of life. Don’t be fooled. Western Montana is saturated with healthy people in favor of more developed recreation.

    My fingers are crossed and my smile bright.

  12. Lake: Bitterroot Resort aside, you characterize yourself as “anti-development”. Presumably you have a home that you either own or rent… perhaps an apartment? Without some sort of development where do you propose we house all the people that will undoubtedly be moving here over the next few decades? Development, per se, is not bad… it is the manner in which development occurs that should be subject to criticism.

  13. The land that Tom Maclay wants to use to boost the retail value of his private land belongs to ALL Americans and should not be blocked off from them because of a real estate venture that has all the hallmarks of not working. I believe a national forest should be multi-use, which means use by logging, recreational, scientific interests. I do not support a ski resort that scars trails down the mountainsides as Tom Maclay has done on his portion of the property below Lolo Peak. If the snow-empty ski runs on Mr. Maclay’s land is any indication of how he would take care of national forest land, I want no part of it.

    Mr. Maclay is welcome to try and get his housing development going on his land, but having a real estate developer take over public land that blocks everyone else except those in his development is against what our National Forest System is all about as created by Theodore Roosevelt and Gifford Pinchot.

    Simply because Maclay developes scans of ski runs down a mountain and a ski village doesn’t mean that development will be planned. Taxpayers will foot the bill for roads, emergency medical, firefighters, and all the other social services necessary to pay for such a development that isn’t off-set by the taxes paid when new houses go up or a lease is paid to the Forest Service for use of their lands by the likes of a real estate developer.

  14. mt missy; the saying is build it and they will come- not talk about it and they will come. Mr McClay is missing some ingredients to this so called ski resort- like oh say – a ski resort. so far he has really big skidder trails with no snow and no access to snow. these people are deluding themselves. good luck getting earnest money down in this economy for a – gee whiz. it’s gonna be really neat when it happens- pipe dream.

  15. Access will be closed in areas where the ski resort has a lease. They are obligated to inform the public where the ski resort begins and the rest of the national forest starts. Tom Maclay also wants to place ski runs and lifts in an area that is set aside for research. That area allows all other activity but not intensive recreational activity like skiing. Wildlife will not stick around as skiers fly down the hillsides or swish past them, so the public that enjoys that area, such as hunters, will be excluded. We are surrounded with many ski resorts and outdoor opportunities in Western Montana. The only reason Tom Maclay wants this resort on public land to go through is that he knows the awful looking runs on his property will never have enough snow. We are in a dry climate with drought.

    A resort tax wouldn’t begin to off-set the cost of a resort if it ever gets started. Salaries in a ski town (I’m from Colorado originally) do not pay for the increased cost of living that is stimulated when a ski resort goes in. In Colorado, locals can’t afford to pay the taxes on their properties that have been in their families for more than a century as Avon and Vail expanded. Part-time residents that buy expensive ski resort mansions will only come periodically and rent their mansion out to tourists that have no investment in the community and no interest in supporting that which makes our community in the Bitterroot special.

    The cost to pave roads, hire extra police and firefighters, increase hospital bed space, etc. would all be supported with increased property tax of existing residents that also are the ones to contribute to local charities and churches, etc.

    Interest in skiing is declining nationwide and real estate sales for McMansions are declining. I frankly don’t see this project ever getting off the ground without the original landowner going bankrupt.

  16. …Swish?

    I can tell all the Anti’s in town are getting nervous, hence the hurt feelings and anger in the writing.

    I know many emergency folk, including fireman who would love a raise in taxes, so they can actually protect the growth from the last 10 years. As now, there’s a shortage. So it’s a good thing to make a point of.

    Every ski town I’ve lived in has paid 3x as much as the wages in Missoula.

    No matter who does it or when…a resort is going in. The forest service had a plan back in the 60’s in which the majority of the population was in favor of. It’s only a matter of time.

  17. I’m anti public lands being controlled by economic development interests and not scientists trained to care for the land.

    No, the Forest Service has rejected this project from the get go and I expect the project will again get rejected.

    We only have to look to Marshall Mountain near Missoula for another example of a failed ski resort and Lolo is much lower in elevation. This isn’t Avon, Vail or Jackson Hole. We don’t have the elevation, the water, or the snow.

  18. Thanks for the comments, everyone.

    We wanted to write a story to update the economic situation of Bitterroot Resort in light of the market forces that have a number of high-end resorts in the West in bankruptcy court. (We did a roundup of them in the New West magazine, here.)

    It appears to be true, as reported in the story — and with the resort’s environmental and cultural consequences aside — that the resort is in a better situation today because it didn’t get in over its head with massive loans the real estate market can’t support, a la Tamarack Resort. We think it’s important for the community to know what’s going on with the resort financially because, as Tamarack and others have shown, the finances of a project like this can have big impacts on the communities around it.

    We also think it’s news that Maclay is committed to building a resort even if he can’t gain access to public lands, that the permit is less of a hinge going forward than the real estate market.

    None of this, we don’t think, has to do with us being pro- or anti-development. And I would hope reporting on it doesn’t make us “bought-out punks,” as one commenter just put it. We see the Bitterroot Resort as a big story for our communities, one that will have big impacts on what happens here and so we’re trying to give Missoula and the valley the most information we can — whether that be news about the business aspects of the project, or as we have in the past (see here, here, here, here and here) the environmental, cultural and economic aspects as well.

    Of course, you’re free to debate all of this, just please refrain from vulgarity and personal attacks. Thanks.


  19. In response to Matt, I appreciate the article because it has stimulated debate and exposure of the project to a bigger audience. Many people thought this issue was dead and did not think that the Bitterroot Resort had been approved but it continues to take on a life of its own.

    I also hope that New West asks hard questions and explores another pressing problem that is related at the National Bison Range where a sovereign nation has been given inherently federal positions (scientistic and technical tasks common throughout the federal lands systems under the Civil Service Commission) and do not have anyone to do the work. Federal works are asking for transfers because the work climate has become so negative. The sovereign nation doesn’t plan to send any workers until late spring of 2009 but their agreement contract begins October 1 so a big questions is, “Who will get the $800,000 plus dollars to do the work and who will do the work?”

    The National Bison Range is a federal national wildlife refuge begun by President Theodore Roosevelt to preserve the last of the northern plains wild bison. The bison at the National Bison Range are sent to national parks, private lands, and national wildlife refuges because they are almost genetically pure and disease-free.

    The Bitterroot Resort is another example of special interest group that wants to take over control of federal public lands and exclude others from access and control. We as taxpayers bought national wildlife refuges as well as national parks and we should have a say in how OUR money is spent.

    I for one do not object to the Bitterroot Resort developing their land but I want their hands off of the Bitterroot and Lolo National Forests. They do not have an intension of helping the land improve for timber harvests or recreation.

  20. Tom Maclay is a disgrace to the upper B-root Valley. He is an egomaniac with visions of Dick Bass Success in his head, fueled by rich venture capitalists who have mounted a multi-million dollar advertisement/public relations campaign, centered around lies and distortions about the “resort” and what it’s about.

    Anyone who thinks the “resort” is about skiing is foolish, and obviously is a typical Yuppie Transplant who doesn’t know diddly about the region. The “resort” is way too low in elevation to hold snow — natural OR man-made. Why do you fools think Marshall Mountain went belly-up?

    Maclay’s vision is the same as the vision behind Charles Schwab’s Stock Farm, and the Triple Creek Ranch on the West Fork of the Bitterroot River. It’s to create a millionaire’s paradise in the middle of rural Montana, for maximum profit. Maclay doesn’t give a damn about impacts on the community surrounding his “resort” — he is completely unlike his father and grandfather in this respect. He is basically a spoiled little child, who never has had to work a day in his life. His role on the family ranch has been to simply use family money to buy expensive ranch machinery to show off his wealth. He doesn’t work. He doesn’t know how to work.

    If you yuppies love Maclay’s “resort” so much — then move to Vail, or Aspen, or Whistler, or some other place. Stop converting our beautiful region into McSame McMountain McResort. We don’t need it, we don’t want it.

    And I haven’t even begun to mention Maclay’s ILLEGAL acts in furtherance of this “resort” idea of his.

    Go back to your cities, Yuppie Transplants. Go live your phony dream somewhere else.

  21. I suggest that NewWest describe its comment policy this way:

    NewWest encourages pro-business, pro-yuppie, pro-development commentary, particularly from the perspective of the Yuppie Transplant Egomaniac who has disdain for the “stupid redneck natives” who are “backward” and “against progress.”

  22. Beth Tyler, I invite you to move elsewhere.

    Since you want Missoula and its surrounds to become like some other place, I suggest you move to that place, and stop demanding that Missoula change for Beth Tyler.

    You’re arrogant, condescending, and pathetic.

  23. Not to worry. As with other millionaire play areas that have gone bankrupt, this ski resort was doomed before it started. Maclay’s development on his land may happen but not the massive ski development on public land but to make sure that happens, it is critical that everyone who cares takes the time to speak up to Senators Max Baucus and Jon Tester and their local commissioners in Missoula and Ravalli Counties. Many of Maclay’s family oppose his proposal so I hope they continue to speak up against it.

  24. Miss tyler.. if you truly like those other ski resort towns you’ve visited in the past, then move there. quit trying to mold a city such as missoula into yet another cookie cutter resort town.

  25. the conversation deteriorated awhile back on this but to return to the point of the article i would like to say that the economy we are about to experience will be unlike any economy ever seen- even by our grandparents. the shortage of resources combined with the growth of china and india will dwarf these tiny conversations we are having here in montana about some foolish dream of a low elevation ski resort in a drought starved state. the ripple effects of more oil increases, foreclosures, unemployment and bank upheavals combined with the increasing national debt will make us long for the days when we had the time to debate about building new homes. we will be too busy trying to find food to feed our families and scrambling to keep our families sheltered.
    no, of course this isn’t going to be built. if you have an interest in surviving, i would start working on the logistics of that rather than worrying about this sorry pipe dream. i’ve said it before and i must say it again. i love the smell of smoldering developers- god help me but i do love it so.

  26. regular joe: uh… the resort is in the “lower bitterroot valley”. Do you know which way the river flows?

  27. elfman, I take it you didn’t like the substance of my posts, so you choose to quarrel over a matter of preferred description.

    I follow compass points. “upper” to me is north. always has been. you can laugh at me for it, you can mock me, you can try to enlighten me — but none of those things has any bearing on what I had to say about the arrogance, grandiosity and illegal behavior of Tom Maclay, nor about the exceedingly short-sighted and selfish posts of Beth Tyler.

    it’s very childish of you to point out such a pointless point, because whether Maclay’s development is a good idea doesn’t turn on my preference of using “upper” to describe the north end.

    and yes of course I know which way it flows. I spend plenty of time in its headwaters, both East and West Forks.

  28. regular joe: virtually any native Montanan I know refers to the “lower” part of a valley as the downstream end… not the southern end. You don’t seem like much of a “native” given this comment on your part. Whatever the case, I pointed that out simply because you seem to be one who feels that those born and raised here are somehow have more of a right to live here than others. That is simply not true in this country. The people you so disdainfully refer to as “yuppie transplants” have every bit as much right to take up residence in this area as you do. So, do black people… is that okay with you? How about Muslims? Yes, even they have the right to pursue happiness here if they are American citizens. Sorry, but that is the way it is.. you know, the American dream? Personally, that is one of the things I love about this country. It is unfortunate that you do not seem to recognize or respect the freedoms we have… or at least other people’s freedoms.

    Your venomous attack on Tom Maclay’s personal character (i.e., “spoiled little child”, etc. ) was simply tasteless. Even if you think he has hair-brained ideas that you disagree with common decency would prevent most people from slinging mud around like this… but not in your case! You might want to try to behave with a little class next time you decide to make a criticism of another’s viewpoint too. It is fine that you do not want this resort to succeed but you needn’t drag the debate into such a nasty place. Hell, I am really somewhat ambivalent about the resort for a variety of reasons so I am not here as an advocate or critic of the Bitterroot Resort per se.

    Get over your anger problem (this is painfully evident that you are suffering) and welcome your new neighbors of all backgrounds, opinions and experiences! They are here to stay.

  29. elfman,

    I don’t know who you’re describing there. I didn’t say I was a “native” — I’m complaining about predatory practices.

    The other bits of your post are directed at a stereotype that you seem to find bothersome. If that works for you in your life, that’s great. But it has nothing to do with this thread, its primary topic, or the problem of Tom Maclay’s illegal acts and selfish motives.

    The bits about “tastelessness” and all the rest of your high-hat attitude are quite hypocritical and ironic. You seem to think that money and some form of politeness = superiority. Perhaps they are in your small circle of friends.

    I’d wonder about your stake in all this, elfman. Are you an investor? Maybe a prospective “luxury home” buyer? Someone who is eager to work as a groundskeeper at the “luxury” golf course?

    You think yourself clever and your condescension is ironic, given the attack you have levelled at me.


    David Cardiff —

    You, too, are skilled at attacking strawmen. In your view only out-of-work people would complain about Maclay’s “resort.” How naive. I work. As do all of my friends. In estatblished jobs, jobs that do not need the sorts of servant-labor positions that Maclay deigns to offer the residents of Lolo. There is nothing positive about Maclay’s plan, unless you are an investor, or unless you plan to live on his “resort.”

    So I’ll guess that like elfman, you have a stake in seeing it succeed.

    Best of luck to you and elfman. And please keep congratulating Maclay on his illegal deeds!

  30. elfman,

    You again create a stereotype and ascribe it to me. You’re wrong. You’ve never met me. You don’t know a doggone thing about me. Your erroneous guesses demonstrate as much.

    I am posting here as a counter to the article, and to make observations about Tom Maclay’s motives and tactics, and to counter the obvious profiteering/social engineering posts of Beth Tyler.

    Maclay seeks only to get rich, consequences be damned. You can call me “no class” for observing this, but it’s true — whether it’s “classless” or not, it is true. Sometimes the truth is somewhat impolite. And sometimes the obscurant lies offered in place of truth, given politely, are immoral and sociopathic. So I’d not be too proud of the approach you’re using here, elfman. It’s not very honest.

    Tyler seeks only to convert Missoula to Vail (or similar), and the consequences be damned. She makes that clear with her posts discussing her various travels to “resort” towns, and she avows admiration of those towns. It’s really quite simple for people like Tyler — if they want Vail, they can live in Vail. Or Whistler. Or Whitefish. Or Sun Valley.

    Once the Lolo Peak area is converted to a “luxury resort,” the region will have been forever changed for the worse. None of the arguments offered in favor of the “resort” show benefit to anyone in the region, long-term, unless they are investors or residents of the “luxury homes” on the “resort.”

    The skiing will be a failure due to lack of elevation and too-warm temperatures. The golf course is not needed, as the region has many and none is at max capacity. Not only that, the golf course will dewater Carlton Creek and deplete water in the Bitterroot River — a first-class trout fishery, which depends on sufficient water. And the golf course will pour insecticides and pesticides into the water table, and into Carlton Creek, and into the Bitterroot River — further injuring the fishery.

    The luxury homes are disproportionate — the only people who could afford them are millionaires who don’t work and contribute to the local economy in any way but buying a “luxury home” and paying their “servants” to clean up after them.

    What confuses me is how you can claim to be a lifelong resident of Lolo and not see the region as unique and worthy of preservation.

    Perhaps you should travel a bit, elfman. See what happens to places that get over-developed by “luxury resorts,” and see the long-term impacts.

    Since you cannot find any way to counter my points, you resort to a fake-polite form of put-down (“no class”).

    That says all anyone needs to know about your posts, and your perspective.

    I’m sure you’ll come back with another barrage of cheap ad hominem attacks on a scarecrow version of what you imagine to be me, my perspective, and the views of those who are opposed to Maclay’s “resort.” I guess that’s all you have — invective, offered as a polite put-down of stereotypes.

    I find it all pretty sad.

  31. Regular Joe:

    It is clear to me that you are prepared to perpetuate this little “debate” to no end or at least until you get the last word. So, I am prepared to give you the last word following this post. Enjoy.

    You keep trying to debate with me as to whether the resort should happen or not. I am not here to debate that issue and I will not because I do not care one way or another. Part me loves it. Part of me hates it. In fact… if anything, most of me doesn’t want it to happen but that is completely beside the point. I am not here to debate that. Enough said on that issue.

    I never referred to you as “no class” for holding strong opinions about whether this resort should fly. Again, I referred to you as “no class” because the only way you can think to fight this thing is by casting mean-spirited aspersions against a man many of us know to be a very good person who has faced many of the same challenges as all of us. Again, you may not agree with his development attempts but why not stick to the true issues at hand and leave the personal attacks out of it. You are correct in that I do not know a “doggone thing” about you OTHER than what you post here. However, what you have posted here speaks volumes of your character.

    Also, I never claimed to be a lifelong resident of Lolo. I have lived here approximately 15 years and I moved here from the southeastern US… a place where when I was a child we enjoyed riding our bikes down the red dirt road to and old railroad trestle where we would throw out a bobber and a worm and be content for hours upon hours to skip rocks, catch bream and enjoy nature for what it is… or was. On the way home we would stop off at an old cinder block built store (the same place we bought our worms on the way out) for a coke and some candy. Now that old red dirt road is paved, widened and used to access countless lakefront homes that once used to be vacant lots filled with trees, frogs and the occasional deer passing through. The old cinder block store is now gone and there is a strip mall in its place with all the usual big box stores. Things change, man… especially when humans are breeding at the rate we are. I would love to “preserve” what we have but the exponentially increasing population will inevitably cause clash after clash like this as to what should happen here, there and everywhere in between. Does that mean I do not wish to preserve what we can? No. However, I am powerless to stop this incessant breeding. If you want to fight what you see as the “good fight” then you should do exactly that… however, if you wish to do so you should strive to do it in a manner that is respectful to others.

    You have suggested that I travel? Hmmm… let’s see: I have lived in Alabama, North Carolina, California, Florida, and Montana. I have been fortunate enough to have traveled to almost every country in Europe. I have been to Mexico, Brazil, Canada, the Caribbean and many other places around the globe. I have lived in the boonies and I have lived in very, very big cities. I have lived in resort areas and I have lived on an Indian reservation in Eastern Montana… the equivalent of a third world country. I think you might be the one who needs to get out a little.

    How incredibly audacious of you to refer to me as “invective”. “…He is basically a spoiled little child, who never has had to work a day in his life…” Your words. Perhaps you should pick up a dictionary. You are just trying to backpedal your way out of this and it is not working. Your words are posted above and they are not going anywhere (unless New West decides to remove them). Keep pedaling and enjoy your last pathetic word. You cannot get yourself out of this one. You have been served.

  32. Disappointing, one-sided article. It seems that the writer did not even seek out information from the majority of residents who support keeping the public land just as it is. If New West wants to serve and inform the community they should do a piece on Lolo Peak and the many values and benefits the community currently enjoys from those 12,000 acres of public land, or better yet sponsor a public forum/debate at the Wilma theater. I encourage anyone who opposes the current condition and traditional uses of those public lands to read the following comments that I posted on last months’ New West Bitterroot resort article some of which has been touched on by others in this string. Where to begin? Oh, Lack of trust. Tom Maclay has shown over and over his complete contempt for the public lands, law, process, and his neighbors by knowingly cutting 400 trees, building 7 new roads and opening up 7 other roads ON PUBLIC LAND without permission. And this was not an “oops I forgot where my property line ends” but 5 miles into the backcountry. Purposely and arrogantly. And what about the roads that he illegally cut? Now he has the audacity to request the permitted use of those same roads for his commercial operation even though the court settlement that he agreed to says that they will be restored to their original condition. Oh and many of the 400 trees he cut were 500- 700 year old old growth White-bark pine and alpine larch growing within the protected Carton Ridge Research Natural Area.
    And then there are his official comments to the Forest Service asking that the Research Natural Area be open to snowmobile use and that the high basin below Lolo Peak and adjacent public lands on Carlton Ridge be managed under a allocation that allows all forms of motorized recreation and timber cutting (all of this in a 16,000 acre inventoried Roadless Area abutting the Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness.)
    What about public support for the resort? Two years ago the Forest Service conducted a public comment period during their Forest Management Plan Revision process. Over 1000 citizens sent in comments specifically addressing the future of Lolo Peak and Carlton Ridge. The large number of comments was in part spurred by numerous full page advertisements from the resort asking citizens to comment in favor of development. 80% of those comments asked the agency to keep the 12,000 acres of public land just the way it is – no resort development. 1 in 5 wanted the resort to move forward. This past spring, Off the Grind magazine, a western Montana snowboarder/skier publication polled their readership about the resort’s use of public land and 58% of those skiers and snowboarders said no. The Confederated Salish & Kootenai Tribes this year passed a resolution calling for the protection of Lolo Peak and Carlton Ridge and opposing the development of the Bitterroot resort there. Trout Unlimited and Hellgate Hunters & Anglers opposes the resort’s use of public lands. So does Mayor John Engen and a host of City Council members. Former Regional Forester and two former Forest Supervisors think it’s a bad idea. The bigger question is, who really supports it besides the obvious real estate brokers, construction engineers and consultants and anyone else in line to make a profit from it? After more than 4 years the Missoula Chamber of Commerce is yet to officially support the resort’s development of public lands. Additionally, the resort’s own market analysis lists public opposition to the plan as one of the resort’s central weaknesses.
    The resort is not needed. The FS did a “Needs Analysis” and found that the six ski areas already operating within a 100 miles of Lolo, MT. are operating at an average of 25% of their capacity, clearly able to accommodate many more skiers should they come. Remember “growth for growths sake” is the ideology of the cancer cell.
    Do you hunt? well you can forget about hunting white-tail deer and elk on those public lands because it is common for the FS to prohibit hunting in high-use recreation areas including ski areas for the obvious reasons of public safety and to protect facilities. We know that the bitterroot resort doesn’t really care because their CEO said that the hunters have lots of other places to hunt. The resorts Mater Plan (make no mistake, they are after the whole 12,00 acres) develops elk winter range and a major carnivore corridor as outlined by MFWP biologists.
    There is so much more. Any one or group interested in learning more about this real estate development disguised as a ski resort call me at the Sierra Club office in Missoula. Remember, Lolo Peak is YOUR Mountain, will YOU give it away to developers?

  33. Well then, Southern Gentleman Elfman,

    I guess a consensus opinion of many long-time natives of this region is “no class,” then.

    Of all those references to Tom Maclay I’ve received from all those who have met him — including several people who worked for the Maclay family — the consensus is consistent. It is how I described him.

    This bothers you. That’s your problem.

    It is obviously nothing Tom Maclay himself cares about. Which, incidentally, further encourages the accusation of arrogance — his disdain for others is palpable.

    His postcards sent out last year to convince people to support his “resort” were equal parts arrogance, lies, and distortions.

    And you are here to rehabilitate him, for reasons unknown, for reasons you won’t share. It doesn’t matter. The consensus remains, Maclay’s behavior confirms the consensus, and you dislike it being revealed in a thread created to discuss Maclay’s plans. If this thread is about Maclay’s plans, and the main essay about the same subject, then Maclay’s motives and persona are directly in issue here, no matter whether your Genteel Southern perspective dislikes it.

    I find it interesting that you hail from the SE USA. In my travels throughout the USA, the “South” is where the officious facade of polite dismissal originates, as an American cultural construct. Nowhere have I been more insulted with polite dismissal than in the South. It is the home of friendly-to-your-face, back-stabbing-when-not-there sorts of duplicity.

    Not saying that’s what you’re using here.

    Saying only that it’s unsurprising that someone from the Southeastern USA would think it fine to call another “classless” while upholding the lies, illegal behavior, and arrogance of another. Not surprising at all.

    If you’re so concerned about “class,” then maybe you ought to consider a blog at which you denigrate all of us heathens who don’t measure up to the Genteel Southerner way of being duplicitous. I think it would be a big hit with the gang of people who support Tom Maclay’s “resort.” I’m sure Beth Tyler would love it. And the investment bankers backing Maclay’s “resort” likely would bankroll the effort for you, maybe even hire a ghost-writer.

    Enjoy your superiority, elfman. It really suits you. Especially when you use it to distract from the subject of this thread, and the primary essay — a fraudulent perspective which portrays Tom Maclay and his investors as “victims”.

    Dali never painted surreality better.

  34. Debby Jones, (aka Super Ad Hominem and Edgar N.)

    We cycle through “editor’s pick” every few days, or depending on what’s breaking and what stories warrant that spot. Then, they stories cycle through the “New West Features” box. The Bitterroot story was up as the top story for two full days and then in the New West features for another day before other stories flowed through and cycled it off those spots. There are numerous ways to find the story, including on the Development page (where it is still the editor’s pick) or if you click on “more” right above the New West Features box, you’ll get all the previous editor’s picks. No censorship, just plain old news flow.

  35. Debby Jones = AdHominem… Bwahahahahaha!!!! That is freaking hilarious. Debby is caught red handed and exposed trolling for visitors to her blog where she alleges something that is a complete falsehood. A third grader could easily find this story without succumbing to a conspiracy theory. “Its over at “…”? You mean YOUR website Debby? is that what you mean? Pathetic. Are you having trouble getting visitors to your site? I completely understand the desire to comment here on an anonymous basis but that is a totally different thing than setting up a bunch of different handles and “posing” as some kind of unbiased observer in an attempt to gain some web traffic. Funny that DebbyHominem accuses New West of being exactly that… “posers”. Hypocrite!! Hahahahahahahaha!

    Also, what is this crap about “white people”? What does any of this have to do with race?!

  36. what’s “hilarious” is “elfman” pretending to be a long-time resident of Lolo, when he’s no more than a PR flack for Tom Maclay who is on the “resort” payroll, while pretending to be something else entirely.

  37. Regular Joe: Ouch! You got me! Your credibility is simply overwhelming. I better be quiet now lest you expose another one of my deceptive ways.

  38. whatever you say, dude. you’re just a coward who uses internet forums as a place to play “gotcha” with all the people you fantasize as your mortal enemies.

    I’d love to discuss this in person with you at Charlie B’s, but I’m sure you’d never show up. People in khakis and polo shirts tend to get bounced out of Chuck’s pretty quickly, especially when they come walking in while talking on their cell phones in a loud, bragging voice.

  39. Regular:

    If you want to discuss this in person with me… meet me on the river between Florence and Lolo. I will be floating this afternoon and I will be taking out at the Maclay Ranch. Hahahaha!

    “Khakis and polo shirts”? Boy, you sure are eager to buy into stereotypes. I have never been that much for such attire as I prefer jeans, flip flops and t-shirts but I really didn’t come here to satisfy your vision as to how people should dress and act.

    Again, if you want to talk about this in person you know where to find me today and, if you have any trouble, you can just call my cell phone. My guess is, however, that you are going to sit in front of your computer all day j_cking yourself off as you try to convince yourself that you are winning these ridiculous little arguments. Enjoy yourself!

  40. ironically, “elfman,” you prove my points with that reply. I’m surprised that you can’t see what messages your posts convey. you’re oblivious to it. and it’s quite funny, in a sad way.

  41. Just another pseudo-journalist doing a half-assed PR piece for Maclay. It’s funny though, how the NewAgeWesters react when people call them out on their bs.

  42. I don’t appreciate any of the name calling that this discussion has sunk to. There are many valid points to be made related to the Bitterroot Resort and calling people names doesn’t strengthen any of the points.

    I appreciate the fact that New West has tackled the story as it has in the past and I hope it will continue to tackle it.

    What Tom Maclay does on his own private property is his business and will be based upon market conditions and local development restrictions and requirements. The portion of the resort on public land is the business of anyone that owns it, so that’s everyone. We have a right to comment and are encouraged to do so.

    I object strongly to the development of land on Bitterroot and Lolo National Forests and will remain that way. A real estate developer will become the “manager” of the public land and that is not a wise use of our resources.

  43. Waaaahhhh, “New West has no concern for our backyards”
    What your looking for is a magazine called OLD WEST (I think this one is about progress) You’ve lived your life in the wide open spaces so cash out now and let your kids blow their inheritance. I’m coming to Montana with my skis and non native family. (I need a Walmart nearby also)

  44. A simple observation to the hot-blooded among us:

    An honest effort at writing about something important in a clear fashion — while leaving out one’s ego — is much harder than spraying opinions all over the “Comments” section.

    No one article is going to cover all aspects of the issue; I’m just glad NW is writing about development, instead of letting it go forward without any discussion.

  45. You know, “dan,” that’s really weak… that pretense at cold logical detachment. So it’s better for New West to be promoting Tom Maclay, than to be objective about it? Tell me the logic behind that sort of “thinking,” would you please, “dan”?

    I love you people who think that staying “calm and rational” in all discussions is the ONLY way to be. That sort of emotional repression must go over like gangbusters in the real world outside these e-forums.

    “Hey robot-man! How’s it going! Gonna smile this year?”

    “Nope, that is too hot-headed for me. Must be logical. Must be calm at all times. Please stop raising your voice at me.”

    “But robot-man, I’m not raising my voice. I’m just changing pitch.”

    “That’s not how it sounds to robot-man. It sounds like anger and hot-bloodedness. You scare me. I fear emotion.”

    “Okay robot-man. Have a great …errr, ahhh… I mean, have a day.”