By: Hadassa Kalatizadeh
The COVID-19 pandemic has cancelled travel to European destinations like St. Tropez, Cannes, Paris and Athens. As a replacement, New Yorkers have been flocking to less known destinations within the U.S. One such lucky location is Bigfork, Montana.
As reported by the NY Post, business is booming in the remote mountainous towns of Montana, which were little known before the pandemic. Flathead Lake Lodge is a 2,000-acre ranch which offers horseback riding, fire pit breakfasts, hikes to nearby waterfalls, an elk preserve, kayaks, and swimming at the lake. It has unwittingly made its way to the top destination list, and is sold out. “Right now, we have an average of 20 families per week on the waitlist for 2021,” said Chase Averill, the general manager of Flathead Lake Lodge. “For 2022, we already have 88 families on our waitlist, and we’ve started to receive inquiries for 2023.”
“Montana is where people want to be,” said Averill. “While we see significant traffic from the west coast and Midwest, during the last five years, we’ve seen more guests come to the ranch from New York, Texas and all along the East Coast, which aligns with the increase in airlift from direct flight markets.” Over the past few years, American Airlines and JetBlue have begun flying direct flights between New York City and the Montana hot spots during the summer months. “This summer is wild in Montana,” Averill added. “All across the country, there’s a car rental shortage, and we’re no exception. We’re working to fill those voids for our guests, and we offer complimentary shuttle service to help eliminate that stressor. Plus, once guests arrive here, they don’t really want to leave.”
Even celebrities have been heading to Montana. Justin Timberlake moved to a home in Montana for close to a year with his wife Jessica Biel and their children. Bill Gates also spent time at his home at the Yellowstone Club in Big Sky, Montana, following his divorce from Melinda.
It’s not only a vacation destination anymore. As per the Post, since the pandemic, there has been a “COVID migration” from states like New York. “No one who is from here can actually afford to live here anymore,” said one local. Home prices have soared in the Whitefish area, reaching an average home price of $704,000, more than double what it was pre-pandemic, as per Realtor.com. Locals are shell-shocked over the jump in real estate, especially as their average wages are merely $30,642, as per www.bestplaces.net.