Calgary Flames legend Lanny McDonald has never backed away from a challenge.
During Game 6 of the Stanley Cup finals in 1989, the Flames went into the dreaded Montreal Forum to play the Canadiens. Led by their fiery, red-headed cocaptain who potted a goal, the Flames scored a 4-2 win to bring the Stanley Cup back to Calgary.
For McDon- ald, it was the last time he would lace up skates as a professional hockey player, retiring in the offseason. Since then, the challenges have been along more traditional business lines,
the most recent be- ing his move into land development in Montana. All McDonald did was buy himself a mountain.
Bear Mountain Montana is McDonald’s first venture into development and it, too, has brought challenges — but not of McDonald’s making. Lakeside Montana is just a little ways down the road from Bigfork — an area in which McDonald has spent much of his leisure time for three decades or more.
Roads had been carefully plotted and cut, property stakes had been driven into the ground, and marketing and sales had started when the economic downturn steamrollered across the continent.
Suddenly, the real estate sector was under siege — whether it was principal residences or recreation property.
“It was a tough time,” says McDonald during a recent wine-and-cheese evening to show potential purchasers what Bear Mountain Montana has to offer. ”But we’re ready to go again.”
The project has come out of hibernation with five of the 26 lots on the mountain sold — and with a couple of other deals in the works.
Those lots, many of which offer great views of Flathead Lake, range from 1.4 to 3.55 hectares. Much thought went into the siting of the lots, says McDonald.
“Even as an 18-year-old, I had the philosophy that if you’re going to do anything, do it right,” he says. “So that’s been the challenge for me with Bear Mountain.”
Challenges included having to make price adjustments in an attempt to attract buyers. McDonald says lots that were priced from $650,000 to $1.3 million US are now listed at $349,000 to $1.04 million.
“There has never been a bet- ter time to buy,” says McDonald. “Mortgage rates are low, prices have been adjusted, and labour and building costs are down.”
Back from an on-site meeting with people from Arizona looking for a spot to get away from the summer heat of the Sonoran Desert, McDonald says there has been more interest in Bear Mountain in the past three or four months than there was in the previous five or six.
“People are exploring their options,” he says. “They’re out shopping around because everybody’s looking for a deal.”
While much of the buyer interest is coming from Arizona, California and Florida, Calgarians are also looking at the area.
During the past decade, Joel and Paula Jarding and their family have spent much time in Montana’s Flathead Valley.
They are among the five who have purchased at Bear Mountain Montana. The couple bought a lakeview lot about halfway up the mountain.
Originally from South Dakota, but Canadian citizens since 2008, the Jardings have had the opportunity, because of their work in the oil and gas industry, to live in five different states and four countries, but have a soft spot for the Flathead.
“We consider this area to be one of the most beautiful in all the world,” says Joel. “Glacier Park and Flathead Lake are truly amazing.”
Before deciding to buy, the Jardings visited Bear Mountain several times and walked all 26 lots, including several hikes to their favourites. “Every lot has a spectacular view; it’s indescribable,” says Joel.
The Jardings learned about Bear Mountain when Joel and McDonald worked together at Baker Hughes Canada, an oil and gas services company in Calgary.
“We got to talking and things went from there,” says McDonald.
With three decades as a seasonal resident, the McDonald family has become a big part of the business community in Lakeside.
In addition to owning Bear Mountain, the family has also purchased, renovated and reopened a restaurant and marina. As well, a daughter, Andra, and her husband, Josh Townsley, are partners in the Tamarack Brewing Co.
While McDonald continues to oversee the development of Bear Mountain, he has passed the sales part of the business to Sotheby’s International, and Josee LaBelleHopkins of Calgary-based ReMax Realty Professionals.
“They’re the professionals when it comes to marketing and selling, and they’ve been doing a great job,” he says.
Meanwhile, McDonald is readying for a Christmas trip to his Montana home, where he plans on doing some business with the Arizona people who are making a return trip to the mountain.
Retired Calgary Flames legend Lanny McDonald is offering 26 lots at his Bear Mountain Montana development near Flathead Lake.
The view from one of the lots at Bear Mountain Montana, a 26-lot development that includes views of Flathead Lake. Prices range from $349,000 to $1.04 million.
Former Calgary Flame Lanny McDonald is marketing the development, which is near Lakeside, Mont.