The 864 members of the Yellowstone Club, which bills itself as the “world’s only private ski and golf community,” often club together to arrange private jet travel to its secluded Montana location.
“I'm in four different private jet chats,” said a member, who spoke on the condition of anonymity due to the club’s small number of members, “Yellowstone Club New York area travel, Yellowstone Club Florida travel, Yellowstone Club Southern California travel, and there’s one more.”
To avoid the hourlong drive from the Bozeman airport, members like Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg can also fly into a different airport and then take an eight-minute helicopter ride.
There’s a long waitlist to buy a $22 million condo at the Yellowstone Club, the only way to become a member at the ultra-exclusive private ski resort.
“It’s the most beautiful, amazing place in the entire world,” said the member. “No lift lines, they don’t let you carry your own skis, and you can get first tracks on a weekday in the afternoon because there’s so few people on the mountain. You’re at the gym next to Gisele [Bündchen]. It’s truly unbelievable.”
The member roster includes Gates, Zuckerberg, investor Warren Buffett and former Google CEO Eric Schmidt, according to a lawsuit filed by Jamaican ex-workers who alleged discrimination. Schmidt hosts a summit there every July.
Other business magnate members include Instagram co-founder Kevin Systrom, former SoftBank President Nikesh Arora, Facebook executives and many partners from Bay Area venture capital firms like Khosla Ventures, General Catalyst, Menlo Ventures and Greenoaks, the member said.
Most Celebrities Can’t Afford It
Ben Affleck and Jennifer Lopez were rumored to have their reunion at Yellowstone, and Justin Timberlake and Jessical Biel wanted to raise their son there, away from the Los Angeles spotlight. Paris Hilton DJed her own birthday party there.
“It’s more business leaders than celebrities,” the member said. “It’s just too expensive.”
Becoming a Member
Only homeowners can be members of the Yellowstone Club, and the homes are exorbitantly priced: A one-bedroom condo sells for $6 or $7 million, and new condos between 5,000 and 7,000 square feet are selling for $30 million, the member said.
Prices have risen dramatically in recent years: The member said they purchased a home several years ago and its price has already tripled in value.
And it’s not easy to get a home. The Yellowstone Club keeps tight control over its waitlist, the member said.
After securing a home, members have to pay an initiation fee and annual costs. A 2018 fact sheet on its website states the fee is $300,000 for initiation and $41,500 annually, but the member said those prices have since gone up to $400,000 for initiation and around $60,000 annually.
And the prices might continue upward: The club has discussed making the initiation fee $1 million and increasing annual fees, the member said.
That’s causing friction between older and newer members. At one point, the club went bankrupt, and some members were able to scoop up homes for under $1 million. Those members want to keep fees low, but the newer members who paid around $20 million for a home support increasing fees, the member said.
You can go to the club as a guest, but owners are restricted to 100 guest days per season, the member said.
Reached by phone, a Yellowstone Club spokesperson said it doesn’t do any public relations, citing “the private nature of the resort.”
What All That Money Gets You
For starters, not having to handle money when you’re there.
Ski passes are not required at Yellowstone Club, and members and guests have unfettered access to 2,700 acres of what the resort has trademarked as Private Powder™ across 18 ski lifts and over 100 trails. Attendants are everywhere.
“If you are seen carrying your skis, somebody runs up to you, grabs them for you, carries them for you and puts them in the snow for you,” the member said.
And then there’s the comfort stations, colloquially known as Sugar Shacks. There are nine scattered throughout the property offering free food, each stuffed full of candy, with its own hot food specialty, such as chili and nachos, ramen or hot chocolate. Service is impeccable, the member said.
A job listing for a “comfort station attendant” requires the applicants to “learn members names immediately.”
There’s also many community events, ranging from barbecues, archery events and private concerts—such as performances from Sting and James Taylor.
Last year, a group of Jamaican workers settled a lawsuit against the club. They claimed the Yellowstone Club and another staffing agency had been discriminating against them and shortchanging tips and wages.
The plaintiffs, who worked at the club as cooks, bartenders and housekeepers, were brought to Montana on temporary work visas. They were promised tips and service charges that could amount to $400 to $600 a night at the nicest restaurants, the lawsuit alleged.
“Instead, Plaintiffs found themselves … robbed of their tips and service charges, and with deductions taken from their pay that they never agreed to,” the lawsuit says. “All the while, Plaintiffs faced discrimination. They watched other workers at the club—who were not black or Jamaican—do the same work as them, but be treated entirely differently.”
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