Tim and Sally Ryan get to fully enjoy life in Big Sky now that the River Rock Lodge has sold to Spanish Peaks, LLC. PHOTO COURTESY Sally Ryan

River Rock Lodge becomes employee housing

Big Sky couple intends to enjoy life after sale

A few months ago, Tim and Sally Ryan were at Olive B’s quietly celebrating the likely sale of the River Rock Lodge. Big Sky locals had whispered the news. The couple was greeted with periodic handshakes and hugs and a visit at the table from the chef/owner of Olive B’s himself – Warren “Bipper” Bibbins. 

Tim discussed their long history as Big Sky business owners beginning in 1980 – how they were able to buy the Golden Eagle Lodge in 1985 and the River Rock Lodge in 2000.  He explained that they know the drill of a resort community well – they lived it for decades: Work at a frenzied pace to exhaustion and just hold-on for the periodic off-season hiatus. Yet, Tim observed the breaks are coming less and less frequently for business owners as Big Sky sees growth. 

Both said they were pleased the lodge could help ease the workforce housing pinch so prevalent in Big Sky. 

“I think it’s nice for people that are here without a car. They may have company cars they aren’t allowed to drive. It’s just nice that there is a place for them to live in the core area of Big Sky. I like that aspect of it: the movie theater, softball, three ski shops, 12 restaurants, several shops. Everything is out the door and most importantly on the shuttle system,” Tim said. 

Still, it’s the quiet pleasures – the ones that have eluded them in daily life – about which they are most excited. 

There aren’t many things in the world more beautiful than a quiet walk in the woods – just walking the dogs, Tim said. There’s a simplicity to it and it seems like walks of that kind, immersed in nature and the moment should be easily found in Big Sky. Not for business owners, Tim said. His daily walk with the dogs always had an element of haste to it. 

“It’s a great time of year. It’s quiet now. We’re out every day,” he said. “We always were. We’re just on a different pace now. You always have to kind-of run a marathon when your business is 24/7. We were there every day but we were fortunate to have John D’Amico and Pam Butterworth who job-shared the management position of the lodge and about 75 rental properties for resort property management.

The couple sold the property management business Dec. 31 of 2018 and sold the River Rock Lodge on April 4. So, now they get to enjoy life in Big Sky. 

This new life – the life without running a 29-unit lodge – will mean Tim and Sally get to walk in the woods without rush and they get to ride horses, a passion to which Sally introduced Tim. The couple loves riding horses up mountains – viewing vistas from horseback worthy of Louis L’Amour novels. 

“We have a riding group that meets Tuesdays, Thursdays and Sundays,” Tim said, adding that with the shortage of help, the regularity of riding was put to the test. 

As the Ryan’s step away from the business, Spanish Peaks, LLC steps forward. 

People have already moved-in to River Rock Lodge, which is now serving as employee housing for Spanish Peaks, Leslie Kilgore, Director of Communications for Lone Mountain Land Company said, also stating there will be no changes to the property, located at 88 Pine Drive.  

The lodge is to permanently serve as employee housing, currently for individuals constructing Montage Big Sky – a $400 million hotel project with 150 rooms which is projected to take approximately 2.5 years to finish. After completion of the hotel, the River Rock Lodge will be employee housing for seasonal and long-term employees via a rental program. 

“We’re not trying to make money from the rent, we’re just trying to provide more housing so that our employees don’t have to drive from Bozeman or further,” Kilgore said. 

Matt Kidd, managing director at CrossHarbor Capital Partners explained in a press release that this push for employee housing – to ease the grind of the daily canyon commute for employees – is a company focus and philosophy.  

“As Big Sky continues to grow and there are more opportunities for employment, we will continue to support and seek out affordable and accessible housing in productive ways that help the entire community. It’s an ongoing effort that we take very seriously as the community continues to evolve,” Kidd said.

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