One of Katie Boedecker’s first memories of growing up in Showdown Montana is waking up to the sound of ski boots trudging through the lodge. Katie’s family has owned and operated the Showdown ski area for almost half a century. Living in Showdown allowed her to learn how to ski and gave her experience working most jobs at the resort, making her an ideal successor to the family business.
After 48 years of owning and operating Showdown Montana, her father, George Willett, recently sold the business to Katie. She purchased the company with help from a loan from the Montana Business Assistance Connection (MBAC).
Showdown Montana is located in the Little Belt Mountains in Meagher County, only 100 miles from Helena. The ski resort has three chair lifts, 640 skiable acres, and a summit elevation of 8,200 feet. While not a mecca, bragging intense vertical runs, they sport all-natural snow, and most importantly, offer family-focused hospitality.
Katie grew up in this environment. She remembers gathering in the lodge with guests after a day on the slopes, sharing stories, and laughing about the wild adventures of the day. Frequently those guests became long-time friends. “Dad championed a family culture,” remembers Katie.
Showdown is where numerous first-time skiers fell in love with the sport, the mountains, the snow, winter, and Montana. It’s where those skiers remember cultivating those passions with their families and friends.
When the ski area initially opened in 1936, it was called King’s Hill. According to Lewis and Clark County Commissioner Jim McCormick, his father-in-law was one of the earliest King’s Hill skiers, who cut tress and created runs for the hill. In 1973, the ski area changed its name to Showdown Ski Area. In 1995, the name changed again to Showdown Montana.
Katie’s passion for Showdown Montana is evidenced by her breadth of experience, having worked almost every facet of the business. When asked which jobs she’s worked, she’ll say, “it’s easier to ask me what I haven’t done.” From marketing and advertising to prepping in the kitchen, bussing tables, operating lifts, being a ski instructor, managing staff and operations, and overseeing guest services, she’s pretty much done it all. And now, she can add owner to the list.
Guests at Showdown can enjoy a wide range of services, including children’s activities, childcare, ski instruction, convenient equipment rental or purchase, dining at the restaurant or bar and lounge, live music, and access to meeting space. Montana’s oldest ski area is even ADA accessible. Outdoor enthusiasts have no shortage of options at Showdown and have access to backcountry, cross-country, and downhill skiing; racing; snowboarding; snowmobiling; snowshoeing; and telemarking.
But Katie isn’t stopping there. She has plans for Showdown’s future. After purchasing Showdown, Katie set firm goals to preserve, protect, and build upon its legacy, all while growing it into a family-oriented, year-round recreational destination. She plans to work with the U.S. Forest Service for a property exchange to gain better control of the land. Her plans include building accommodations and an outdoor pavilion to utilize Showdown’s year-round recreational opportunities, in addition to providing an array of family-related outdoor activities, and hosting small conferences.
The economic impact of Showdown’s expansion in both footprint and services will extend through Meagher County to the whole of Central Montana. By creating year-round career opportunities, Katie will increase the vitality of the region. Showdown currently employs between 13–15 year-round staff even though the resort is only open seasonally. Too often, excellent seasonal personnel are lost due to a lack of year-round recreational employment. Katie’s plans will change that.
At the close of my interview with Katie, she requested that I include her thanks to MBAC’s loan manager, Mark Menke. She said, “Without Mark’s support, creativity, and encouragement, this deal would not be done.” The process of buying a ski resort can be overwhelming and intimidating. With Mark’s help, Katie felt like her dream COULD happen. She said to MBAC’s staff, board of directors, and supporters, “Please just know that what you’ve done has made a generational difference to our family, employees, guests, and community. To you, this may have been a small thing or ‘just another loan,’ but to us, it was everything.”