Dazzling Montana boasts big value
Alberta’s southern neighbour drawing interest as second-home country
Montana. It’s a word that conjures up myriad images.
Brad Pitt as Tristan Ludlow in the epic film Legends of the Fall, thundering along, perched astride a chestnut mare, long blond locks flying against a backdrop of jawdropping scenery.
Or perhaps pristine white powder atop a majestic mountain, a skier swooshing effortlessly.
Or maybe a rustic cabin with an old-school, long wooden pier on a crystal clear mountain lake, two red canoes docked alongside.
Montana is a place that offers the unexpected at every turn.
Big skies. Clean, fresh air. And lots of wide-open space.
But, until recently it’s all been hush-hush.
“If you went out into the street and asked someone about Montana, all they would know is Glacier and Yellowstone National Park,” says Mike Harrelson, spokesperson for Tourism Montana.
“They are beautiful, but there is so much more to Montana.”
That’s a rather large understatement.
Diversity is the name of the game in this stunning state where mountains, rushing rivers, lakes, prairie grasses and badlands all coexist.
Whether you are looking for a great paleontology dig, amazing back-country skiing or some of the best fishing in the world, you’ll find it here.
Harrelson says what differentiates Montana is the expanse of untouched, unspoiled land.
“Not only is the scenery spectacular, but it is also highly accessible because of the high percentage of public land,” he notes.
Montana offers a multitude of national and state parks and forests, from Glacier National Park in the northwest to Yellowstone National Park in the southwest.
And the places between the spaces are charming, charismatic and unpretentious, often stepping stones and gateways to myriad sporting and outdoor attractions.
Take for example, the university town of Bozeman in the state’s southwest quadrant.
It’s a five-hour drive from Calgary and yet Harrelson says most Canadians are unaware of what it offers.
“Most Canadians don’t make it past our northwest corner, the Whitefish and Kalispell areas.”
Good restaurants, a great cultural pulse and an educated air define this quaint city of 40,000.
But what really makes it stand out is its location, just an hour’s drive to Yellowstone and 70 kilometres to the chi chi resort town of Big Sky.
“There are a number of people here from all over the world with second homes,” says Dave Gluek, a real estate broker for Prudential Montana.
“It’s just got a great feel, a lot of energy, great coffee shops and the climate is awesome.”
Montana is all about lifestyle.
At the doorstep is mountain biking, downhill and back country skiing (four resorts within an hour’s drive), crosscountry skiing (track and skate), mountain biking, water sports, hunting and some of the best trout fishing in the world.
“A lot of places in the world are beautiful, but you’ve got to bring a fat chequebook to gain access,” Harrelson says. Not so in Montana. The state has 16 ski areas with the average price of a lift ticket sitting at $50 US.
“It’s still affordable here,” Harrelson says, noting that the ski hills are more about the activity and less about the real estate shopping.
That said, Gluek notes real estate prices are still very reasonable in Montana.
“We’re recovering from the recession. Developers are starting to build again and there is a bit of a buzz, especially in the Bozeman area.”
He says homes range in price from $200,000 US for a condo near main street Bozeman to $1-million plus for a few acres of land in a gated, horsefocused development with a private caretaker and a common stable with onsite groom.
“It’s a great place for the Calgarian thinking they might want a second place in the U.S. They can drive, so they don’t have to jump on a plane to tap into it.”
Gluek adds that for the jet-setter, Big Sky offers a range of multi-million dollar homes.
“Every Friday, I see the private jets flying in and then they fly out on Monday.”
At its heart, with a statewide population that only recently crested one million, Montana offers a quieter, more peaceful and connected way of life.
“It is really perfect for the sophisticated traveller who wants a more low gloss and really active experience,” Harrelson says.
Rodeos are one of the popular pastimes for residents of and visitors to Montana. The state also offers great hiking, canoeing and skiing.
Go for a stroll with family in Bozeman, Mont.
At left, you can hit the waters of the White Cliffs on the Missouri River. Above, carve the slopes at Whitefish while visiting Montana.
Lake McDonald at Glacier National Park is one of many stunning sceneries in picturesque Montana.