It started out like some of the best ideas: scribbling on the back of a cocktail napkin.
“I was sitting in a bar with a glass of chardonnay with my husband, and he asked, ‘what’s your next project?’ And I said to him, ‘I’m going to build a tree house,’ and drew this structure on a napkin,” says Gail Goodwin, owner of the world-famous “tree house” Snow Bear Chalets on Whitefish Mountain Ski Resort’s Hope Slope.
Goodwin made her mark on Hope Slope by designing a collection of three magical luxury tree houses and a separate structure with seven penthouse chalets. Since opening for business, the mountain accommodations have attracted vacationers from all over the world and have been featured in more than 300 publications, including TIME magazine, which recognized Snow Bear Chalets as one of the “World’s 100 Greatest Places” in 2018.
“It’s humiliating how well the [treehouse chalets] are by the guests who stay here and keep coming back,” says Goodwin.
The pinnacle of the ski-in/ski-out destination is a whimsical detached chalet called Ponderosa which is three steps from Hope Slope. Now on sale for $3,999 million, the two-bedroom, two-bathroom turrets has a front row seat to the mountain action with cathedral-style ceilings and floor-to-ceiling windows on two sides.
The great room, which serves as a residential center, has a gas fireplace decorated with Montana Moss rock and native Ponderosa pine that give the space a cozy feel. Cambria Quartz countertops match high end appliances and cookware in the kitchen – all included.
Goodwin believes it’s a sense of youthfulness that keeps people coming back to the treehouse chalets. “I think it makes [guests] feel like children again. It allows them to be kids again – and I’ve had it said to me more than once.”
Much of the childlike quality comes from Goodwin’s attention to fanciful. “My mantra in creating [the treehouses] was: If Harry Potter and Hansel and Gretel decided to build a house, would this particular product fit in this house? If the answer was yes, it made the cut to go in the tree house. If the answer was no, then no. Everyone who comes in says ‘it’s so magical and whimsical’.”
But to experience the best of the chalet, you have to go to the stars.
“The turret is a three-meter room that sits at the top of the turret. The ceiling is covered with 600 twinkling fiberglass lights in the shape of stars with faint constellations,” Goodwin says of the unique feature. The room, which features a seven-foot Xorbee microfiber pillow, is loved for its mountain views and custom setup.
As you might expect, the dramatic display often elicits overwhelming reactions from guests, Goodwin says. “An 86-year-old man once climbed the tower, reached the top and began to sing an Italian aria a cappella and cried. When I asked him why he told me, ‘This is my 86th birthday, and this is the best present I ever had’.”
Montana’s mountain resort boom
Like other mountain resorts, such as Lake Tahoe and Vail, Flathead County in Montana, where Whitefish and Bigfork are located, is having a record year. The median price for single-family homes in the county is now about $1.83 million as access to world-class skiing and fishing continues to draw buyers from around the world. So far in 2021 there were about 90 recorded sales in the range of more than a million.
Luxury real estate specialist Jen Dolan of National Parks Realty has the listing for the Ponderosa chalet and says Montana’s mountain resort areas have become hot markets.
“People are moving away from crowded cities in search of a lifestyle change,” notes Dolan. “Inventory is very low and homes are selling very quickly at or above asking price.”
The real estate run in Montana is not limited to resort condos or waterfront homes. Rental homes are also having a moment, especially VRBO homes, the broker says. That’s good news for the next Ponderosa chalet owner, who could use it as a private home or income.
As buyers continue to seek more space and access to the best parts of Montana, it’s safe to say the treehouse chalet won’t be on the market for long.
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