Skiing: Maverick's future for sale 

Maverick Mountain Ski Area, near Dillon, has been on the market for some years now, and the asking price has steadily dropped. Stelling Real Estate is now listing the resort—groomers, snowmobiles, rental skis and all—at $850,000, reduced from $950,000 earlier this year.

But Maverick isn't the only item on the market. So is the resort's future. Randy Shilling, the jack of all trades who's owned Maverick for more than two decades, is getting up in his years. And the mountain's going to need the kind of hefty financial investment that Shilling simply can't afford himself, says broker Steve Stelling. The Forest Service approved the first phase of a master plan for Maverick back in 2000, and a preliminary phase two calls for a second chairlift accessing the mountain's northwest ridge. That kind of aggressive growth requires a serious cash infusion, and the resort itself doesn't bring in much income.

"The biggest problem is your major trade centers are a little distant," Stelling says. "Dillon is the only town of any consequence within a reasonable distance. You can pull from Butte, you can pull from Pocatello or Idaho Falls or Missoula or wherever, but you're not going to get a regular bread-and-butter crowd from places like that."

That's not to say there hasn't been interest. Over the years, Shilling has fielded a number of offers for Maverick. Stelling recalls one prospective buyer who spent an entire winter scoping the place out. "He couldn't sell his property, otherwise he would probably have gone through with the purchase of it," Stelling says. "But we had some people down there a couple weeks ago."

Stelling sees serious potential in Maverick, and in the Grasshopper Valley, where four new subdivisions have been approved in the past year. What it'll take to realize that potential is a different story: Either an independently wealthy buyer who isn't worried about the bottom line, or someone willing to invest heavily in expanding the operation. The former does have a precedent in Montana. Just three years ago, New Zealand resort mogul Nick Wood bought Teton Pass Ski Resort for $270,000. But it's clear to Stelling—himself a Maverick skier of 15 years—that Maverick can't keep going the way it is much longer.

"Randy is the only reason Maverick is still open," Stelling says of the resort's 72-year-old owner, "and he puts all of himself into it."

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