Teton Pass Ski Area is back in business. The small ski area outside Choteau, Mont., was purchased this summer by a New Zealand businessman who is investing $3 million in upgrades over two years.

"Skiing here is as good as anything in California, but with lift tickets at a fraction of the price, and the snow is equal to Colorado, but without the elevation," new owner Nick Wood told OnTheSnow.com. "In reality, the investment is less than buying a house in Squaw Valley."

Wood, CEO of Distinctive Holiday Homes, purchased the ski area for $270,000. The cost of the ski area ran a little more than an elite membership to his swanky club that rents yachts, condos, and homes in places such as Fiji, Tahoe, and Beaver Creek.

The small cow town of Choteau is as opposite from his club as you can get. "I like being where everyone knows everyone by first name," he added. "I looked at five or six hills and liked Teton Pass the best."

Wood intends to develop the resort with the same plans as the previous owners who did not have the capital to invest. "The hill has never been skied properly, as it's never been fully opened," he said. He plans to extend the vertical with a new T-bar after this winter.  

Work is underway this fall to upgrade the ski area, which did not operate last winter. Wood installed a new power plant, purchased new grooming equipment, cut 10 new runs, converted the one chairlift from diesel to electricity, added a new platter lift and 200 more acres of terrain, renovated the bar and restaurant in the lodge, and purchased new rental gear.

The beginner slope will be longer with a new 400-foot conveyor carpet and the rope tow moved to the terrain above the carpet. Four of the new runs at the resort target advanced skiers and riders, and slopes were cleaned of rocks and stumps to allow for an earlier opening. Wood also hopes to convert the old poma to a T-bar this season, if time permits.

Wood also introduced a new five-year season pass in addition to annual passes. Five-year local resident passes, which cost $1,299 for adults and $1,999-2,999 for families before Oct. 31, grant perks such as priority parking and first tracks skiing for one hour before the lifts open to the general public through April 2016.

Wood is not aiming to become another Vail, but appeal to regional skiers. He's added new ski and stay packages, daily operation instead of weekends only, a full season from late November until mid-April, and a free hourly shuttle from downtown Choteau that runs until the bar closes at the resort.

More information. Or call 406-466-2209.