Mavericks of down-home skiing

Big Sky native Kristi Borge and her husband Erik were living in Northeast Bozeman when they started wondering if it might be a good idea to sell their house and buy a ski area. 

Maverick Mountain was on the market, so the couple drove over on a spring day after the area’s lone lift stopped spinning for the season. 

“I hiked up it,” remembers Erik. “No skis. Checked it out. Hiked the whole mountain.”

Erik then consulted with a friend of a friend who helped save Mount Ashland in Oregon by turning it into a non-profit. That person and others asked about Maverick’s vital stats: base elevation and vertical drop. 

The base is 6,500 ft., while the vertical drop is just over 2,000 ft. That combination of a high elevation base (Whitefish Mountain Resort’s base sits at 4,464 ft.) and a leg-burning amount of vert made the opportunity seem promising as a for-profit venture. 

Erik and Kristi drove home and Erik asked his wife: “Would you rather have this house or would you rather have Maverick?”

That was three ski seasons ago. Today, Kristi teaches school in the “ski town” serving Maverick—Polaris, Mont.—and as Maverick’s owner-operator—Erik runs the show at the mountain, filling in where he’s needed. 

On March 9, he was on duty at 9,000 feet it the summit lift shack at the end of Maverick’s 5,010 ft. double chair. It was snowing outside and Erik was excited for fresh turns and the mountain’s upcoming annual rite of spring. 

On March 17, Maverick will host the Bartender’s Cup, where three person teams—a skier, a snowboarder and a bikini racer—navigate a series gates, stopping periodically to chug beer and shoot whiskey. Or tequila. Whatever it takes to warm the bones of those brave enough to pull bikini duty. 

Cost is $100 and includes a lift ticket. Big Sky riders are encouraged to make the trip over to Beaverhead County and compete for the Golden Boot trophy.

Borge says Maverick welcomes around 12,000 annual skier visits, with some also paying to soak at nearby Elkhorn Hot Springs. Borge took over the springs last year. Both businesses are spotlighted in a recent video produced by Beaverhead Development Corporation in Dillon and Headwaters RC&D in Butte. These organizations promote business opportunities while supporting small business owners in Southwest Montana.

Erik and Kristi—whose maiden name is Knaub and grew up traveling to Maverick for ski races—continue to support youth racing at the area, which employs around 55 people. Add in the hot springs, and they oversee about 60 staff. 

On camera in the video from Beaverhead Development Corp., Erik talks about local ranchers who are regulars on the lift and says owning a business in Beaverhead County comes with added benefit of living “in paradise.”

Maverick Mountain is 41 miles northwest of Dillon in the Pioneer Mountains.



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