Celebrate Big Sky's Shining Stars


The Big Sky Chamber of Commerce recently held its 27th annual Black Diamond Awards Dinner, a night dedicated to recognizing outstanding businesses and leaders who contribute to the community's vibrancy. Below we want to highlight the 2024 Black Diamond Awards Dinner Nominees and Winners, showcasing the incredible talent and dedication within Big Sky.


A Night of Recognition

The evening commenced with a networking reception, where community members had the chance to talk about the year and gather in a fun environment before heading into the Big Sky Resort's Yellowstone Ballroom for dinner and the award ceremony. To kick off the programing, Brad Niva, Chamber CEO, emphasized the organization's growth, now boasting over 500 members, a testament to Big Sky's thriving business community. Continuing with the conversation of support and growth our Presenting Sponsors, Big Sky Resort, Buffalo Restoration, and Lone Mountain Land Company took the stage to share their story on the Big Sky Community. 


2024 Award Nominees and Winners

  • Emerging Entrepreneur: Vicky Childres & Beth Johnson (Reset Big Sky)
  • Leader in Sustainability: Lizzie Peyton (Big Sky SNO)
  • Spirit of Big Sky: Jenny Muscat (Big Sky Resort Area District)
  • The Master of Making it Happen: Al Malinowski (Big Sky Post Office) [Not present at the ceremony]
  • Steve Johnson Non-Profit Person of the Year: Kiernan McCarthy (Wellness In Action)
  • Business Person of the Year: Troy "Twist" Thompson (Blue Buddha Sushi Lounge, Tres Toros Tacos and Tequila, The Drunken Monk, Blindside Burger)
  • Business of the Year: Santosha Wellness Center
  • Chet Huntley Lifetime Achievement Award: David O'Connor (Big Sky Community Housing Trust)
  • A Celebration of Community

Nominees are Champions Too!

Each award presentation highlighted the recipient's accomplishments and their significant contributions to Big Sky. The ceremony not only honored individual achievements but also recognized the collaborative spirit that defines the Big Sky community.

Please join us in acknowledging the exceptional work of all the nominees in each category. These individuals and businesses are also instrumental in shaping Big Sky's success:


2024 Emerging Entrepreneur Nominees: 

  • Caroline Kelter, Bluebird
  • Erik Morrison, Love Street Media and Second Season
  • Janet and Brandon Tran, Big Sky Noodles/Scoops
  • Patrick Griffith, Blue Moon Bakery
  • Shawna Bennett, The Big Sky Experience 
  • Andrew Robin, Peak Creative Designs
  • Sam Rickenbaugh, Rocky Mountain Toy Company
  • Vicky Childres and Beth Johnson, Reset Big Sky

Peak Creative Designs to me is the perfect blend of doing what I love while also being able to stay up to date with the pulse of big sky and its great community. Whether it be as simple as updating a dinner menu or branding a new business. One of my greatest achievements within my business has been working on community events that bring people together like Big Sky Soul Shine, Big Sky Skijoring, and the Big Sky Shootout. It’s events like these that show the true culture of our wonderful town and I feel honored to be a part of them. 

The Great Rocky Mountain Toy Company brings smiles to everyone that comes through our door. We offer a vast selection of toys and games, sparking imagination and fun. This year, we're thrilled to celebrate the opening of our brand new Big Sky store! Being part of this welcoming community means fostering new connections that we hope will last a lifetime . We can't wait to get to know our neighbors and become a hub for family fun!

Residents and visitors alike make the most of the amazing Big Sky activities and environment.  As a longtime Big SKy homeowner, Vicky Childres saw a perfect opportunity to leverage the success of sister company, ReSet Lounge in Chagrin Falls, Ohio and bring cutting edge wellness services to this active community.  As she and her family transition to spend more and more of their year in Montana,  it felt like the right time to launch Reset Big Sky and become even more ingrained in the town.

Working with business partner Beth Johnson, Reset opened in  2023 to complement the existing health and wellness offerings in the community. Reset focused on efficient modalities that support muscle recovery, vitality and a relaxed nervous system.  


Leader in Sustainability Nominees: 


  • Big Sky Recycling Center
  • Big Sky Resort
  • Gallatin River Guides
  • Junk In The Trunk
  • Max Scheder-Bieschin
  • Big Sky Water & Sewer
  • Hungry Moose
  • Lizzie Peyton, Big Sky Sno
  • Outlaw Partners
  • YES Compost

At the Hungry Moose, we are keenly aware of waste from food, packaging and transport.  We use compostable food containers and we compost from our delis, kitchen, floral and produce departments.  We encourage customers to use recycled cardboard boxes or reusable paper bags. We are proud to offer local options for produce, flowers, eggs, dairy, beef, chicken, pork, and cheese.  Each local purchase helps us expand local offerings, reducing transport and production emissions.  Our general manager himself sorts through plastic and aluminum recycling.  In both Moose locations, we devote space to water refill stations to encourage employees, locals and visitors to reduce plastic bottle usage.  We sponsored Big Sky SNO’s One Less Car initiative in March.  It’s invigorating to make changes in a community that so readily supports sustainable efforts.  Keep an eye out for our continuing efforts.  Customer and Moose Crew ideas keep our sustainability efforts moving forward. 

Lizzie is the Director of Community Sustainability for Big Sky SNO (Sustainability Network Organization). Lizzie facilitates and oversees implementation of the Community Climate Action Plan to reach net zero emissions by 2050 by focusing on energy, transportation, consumption & waste, and the natural environment. This year SNO partnered with the Community Housing Trust to install solar panels on the new Riverview Apartments, providing onsite renewable energy and reduced utility costs for workforce residents. SNO also collaborates on Alpenscapes, which is an online resource for creating appealing, alpine-appropriate landscapes that are fire-safe, water-wise, and ecosystem friendly. Lizzie oversees One Less Car in addition to all SNO projects and programs.

Outlaw is a one-of-a-kind real estate, marketing, media and events company providing the passport to western lifestyle. Founded in 2009, Outlaw’s family of brands create connections, build community and inspire action.

For the past 15 years, Outlaw has had an active role building the Big Sky community. From creating the town's first events, to publishing news in Explore Big Sky, and helping fellow businesses succeed. 

Most recently, Outlaw was awarded 10-time PBR event of the year for Big Sky PBR, beating out 250+ national PBR bull riding events for the 10th year in a row. Outlaw’s 2023 events generated a $38 million dollar economic impact for SWMT, diverted 5.2 metric tons of waste through its sustainability program, and raised over $805,000 for local charities. 

We are grateful Big Sky is our home, and being part of this community is an important centering point.

YES Compost is proud to partner with the Big Sky Community to keep food scraps out of the landfill and instead turn them into compost, a nutrient rich soil amendment, that is used throughout Gallatin County. This past year Big Sky diverted nearly 20 tons of food scraps through our 21 commercial partners, approximately 100 residential participants, and collection from events throughout the summer. We look forward to increasing our impact through continued growth in commercial partnerships and hope to give access to composting to 100% of Big Sky residents. Thanks!


The Master of Making it Happen 


  • Al Malinowski
  • Alli Mooradian
  • Danny Bierschwale
  • John Haas
  • Amy Vance
  • Eric Ladd
  • John Zirkle

Big Sky Bandage was conceived by Amy Vance, a nurse practitioner at the B2 Urgent Care, who witnessed first-hand the stress of healthcare costs on the uninsured and underinsured. BSB is supported by the sponsorship of the Big Sky Rotary Foundation. In its inaugural year of the 23/24 winter season, BSB received generous support from the Spanish Peaks, Moonlight, and Yellowstone Foundations. All donations received are dedicated entirely to reimbursing patients or directly assisting with their medical bills. To date, BSB has provided reimbursement of up to $500 to over 100 community members, covering a range of acute medical services. 

Big Sky has been home to Eric for 25 years as Outlaw Partners enters its 15th year serving the community.  Founder of Outlaw Partners, Eric Ladd leads a dynamic team formed around the principles of the Code of the West. Outlaw Partners is an award-winning real estate, marketing, media, events and adventure travel company. Through its various entities, Outlaw Partners creates meaningful connections, supports local community organizations and inspires action in service. Recent highlights include The Big Sky PBR winning Event of the Year for the 10th time, executing the Wildlands Festival featuring Foo Fighters which raised over $500,000 for river conservation and the birth of their son Haydon

The Warren Miller Performing Arts Center was founded in 2013 through a partnership between the Big Sky School District and the greater community of Big Sky, and has since hosted over 330 productions. In just 11 seasons, WMPAC has served over 5,000 local artists of all ages, over 1500 touring artists, and more than 80,000 patrons, one full theater and one inspired audience at a time. This last Winter at WMPAC featured a wildly diverse and adventurous season of artists who performed to sold out houses, and WMPAC continues to maintain a creative home for local youth and adults here in Big Sky. But the biggest achievement from this last year was, hands down, the stellar high school production of Mamma Mia, which had crowds leaping to their feets. What gets me up in the morning each day? I get to work with incredibly creative people from all different backgrounds in one of the most beautiful spots in the world. 


Steve Johnson Non-Profit Person of the Year Nominees: 


  • Jess Olson, Gallatin River Task Force
  • Brit Diersch, Big Sky Out 
  • Anna Shipley, Moonlight Community Foundation
  • Becky Brockie, The Big Sky Housing Trust
  • Kiernan McCarthy, Wellness In Action
  • Kim Hall, Greater Gallatin United Way
  • Stephanie Kissell, Morning Star Learning Center
  • Whitney Montgomery, Big Sky Community Organization

Moonlight Community Foundation supports initiatives for youth education, conservation, and underserved populations in Big Sky through semi-annual grant cycles. These initiatives are vital for sustaining Big Sky as a vibrant, unincorporated community. The Foundation's impact has grown significantly this year thanks to the contributions from the Moonlight Basin Community. In 2023, $748,000 was awarded to 41 diverse projects, highlighting the Foundation's dedication to making a positive difference. To me, being part of the Big Sky community means embracing collaboration, innovative solutions, and appreciating the extraordinary beauty of our shared environment that we are privileged to call home.


Big Sky Community Housing Trust believes everyone deserves a safe, stable place to call home. In 2023, we reached an organizational milestone when we broke ground on RiverView Apartments, and 63 residents will move in this summer. During the construction of RiverView, I oversaw the development and management of Rent Local and Good Deeds, programs designed to utilize existing inventory as community housing. By launching two preservation programs while simultaneously constructing RiverView, BSCHT helped 372 community members find a home. I could not be prouder of this organization and the Big Sky community's support in addressing this critical need.

Wellness In Action (WIA) is a non-profit that seeks to improve community wellbeing by providing mental and behavioral health resources to people in Big Sky. At WIA, I am responsible for the development of the Community Health Worker program, oversight of the Counseling and Scholarship programs, data management and impact reporting, and program evaluation. In 2023, WIA served over 320 people (9% of the community population), and we hope to continue to serve the community as long as data shows a need and demand for mental health services. I am grateful to live in Big Sky and to be working on a challenge that impacts all of us. Big Sky is in a unique position to build systems that are a good fit for our community, and I am excited to be part of that process.


Greater Gallatin United Way (GGUW) is deeply committed to the Big Sky community, providing vital resources for working families. In 2023, they swiftly responded to a need by establishing a Summer Camp for children entering kindergarten. With funding and support, GGUW ensured full-day childcare for 4 and 5-year-olds for 10 weeks, expanding to 3 to 5-year-olds this summer. Benefitting more than 30 Big Sky families, this initiative allows parents to work while their children are cared for in a fun, safe and educational environment. Additionally, starting this fall, GGUW will offer aftercare services onsite at Ophir Elementary for elementary-aged children until 5:45 PM daily, including PIR days and breaks.

Big Sky is surrounded by mountains literally and figuratively and for the past 8 years I have been journeying on an intimidating peak called “childcare”. Since moving to Big Sky in 2005, I have worked in education while volunteering with Big Sky Community Theater, BBBS, Big Sky Christian Fellowship, and Morningstar. I am so proud to labor alongside some of our community’s star talent to keep MLC sustainable, accessible, and a choice employer. In the past year we doubled enrollment for ages 0-2, expanded employee housing, provided 61% of our families with Tuition Assistance and doubled our staff retention rate. One of the reasons I love being in this community is that Big Sky is used to mountains. It's why most of us stay here, and together we keep moving to reach that breathtaking view.

Over the last year, Whitney has focused on the continuation of program and facility growth for our community through BSCO, and he has also taken on a leadership role in the Coordinating Council of Big Sky (CCBS).  The CCBS is tasked with advancing the Our Big Sky strategy to improve our community.

Since Whitney started as the CEO of the Big Sky Community Organization in March, 2021, he has overseen the opening and growth of BASE, Big Sky’s only community and recreation center that is accessible to all.  BASE now has over 2600 passholders and is actively growing programs and services to better serve our community.  BSCO has also launched the ALL OUT for Parks and Trails campaign.  The goals of this campaign are to improve and enhance the Big Sky Community Park, build a new six-acre park, and grow the trail network.  Already completed from the campaign is a new mini-adventure playground, expanded skatepark and pump track, a new Maintenance Facility, and the BSCO Park Apartments for staff.


Business of the Year Nominees: 


  • Ace Hardware
  • Big Sky Build
  • The Riverhouse
  • The Rocks Tasting Room
  • Santosha Wellness Center
  • Alpine Property Management
  • Surefoot
  • Big Sky Thrift
  • Montage Big Sky

Big Sky Thrift, established in December 2022, has quickly become a community cornerstone. Recognized with the Big Sky Chamber 2023 Emerging Entrepreneur award and the Best of Big Sky Leader in Sustainability, we’ve made a significant impact by granting $157,500 to the Big Sky Community. With the help of over 100 volunteers, we've kept more than 40,000 items out of the landfill, showcasing our commitment to sustainability and community support.


Montage Big Sky is a bespoke mountain basecamp; the ultimate all-season destination for endless discovery, featuring five distinctive dining destinations, a full-service Spa and 100 guest rooms and 39 residences. This past year, Montage Big Sky received our inaugural ‘Five-Star’ rating from Forbes Travel Guide, the foremost authority on genuine Five-Star service. This prestigious designation is a testament to the dedication of our associates, whose unwavering passion and commitment to delivering impeccable hospitality fills us with immense pride. We extend our heartfelt gratitude to the Big Sky community for their continued support and look forward to welcoming locals and visitors alike to enjoy our resort for years to come.



Business Person of the Year Nominees


  • Benjamin Axe, The Waypoint
  • Cara Blodgett, The Rocks
  • Paul Makarechian, Lone Mountain Ranch 
  • Tanner Dunlap, First Tracks Tire
  • Taylor Middleton, Big Sky Resort
  • Dr. Kaley Burns, Big Sky Natural Health
  • Kelly Kern, The Hungry Moose
  • Mandy Hotovy, The Wilson
  • Twist Thompson, Blindside Burger, Blue Buddha, Drunken Monk, Tres Toros

Big Sky Natural Health provides holistic care focused on the health of the whole person. We work with our patients to enhance each individual’s health and value our role in supporting a healthy, vibrant community. 

We have expanded our care team this year, allowing us to reach more into our community. We’ve enjoyed opportunities to expand outreach and support various organizations and events throughout each seasons.

We firmly believe that nothing is more valuable than optimal health and that everyone deserves to experience their greatest wellbeing. Our care comes from understanding the power of relationships and knowing that community is not a place, but a feeling, integral to both individual and group health.

Cheers to 30 years of the Moose.  Kelly is proud to have joined the Moose leadership team alongside her mother, Kristin.  The Moose continues to adapt to evolving business dynamics and the changing contours of the Big Sky landscape.  Additionally, with Kelly’s push, we were one of the first businesses to incorporate wellness trainings with Be Well Big Sky and we continued to expand our local product offerings and sustainability efforts.  Kelly participated in the fifth Leadership Big Sky Cohort (2023-2034) to continue fostering connections with leaders throughout the community to ensure the Moose can participate in and contribute to Big Sky’s continued growth.  While there are challenges to running a business in Big Sky, it is empowering that so many people have made an intentional choice to be a part of making Big Sky a strong community.

I had the great pleasure of opening The Wilson Hotel 5 years ago in May and our team now manages Block 3 along with Tips Up here in town center.  I’m extremely excited to share that The Wilson is receiving its first Golden Circle award from Marriott.  Our team finished in the top 10% out of 842 Residence Inn properties with intent to recommend.  Now it’s time to push for Platinum status, top 5%.  This would not have been possible without the support of our community and close friends.  Everyone pushes one another to grow and to feel inspired.  That is what I love about Big Sky.  Coming together to face any challenge, whether big or small.


Twist Thompson is a local restaurant owner operator, that had the privilege of finding himself in Big Sky in 2016, and recognized a once in a lifetime opportunity to contribute something special to an amazing place that he was excited to call home. In 2019 Twist opened Blue Buddha Sushi and has since then opened three other concepts, The Drunken Monk, Tres Toros Tacos & Tequila, and the newest edition Blindside Burger. Twist feels very fortunate to be able to work with some extremely talented locals, and provide great guest experiences for our growing tourist and local base.  


Chet Huntley Lifetime Achievement


  • Chief Greg Megaard
  • John Haas
  • David O’Connor
  • John Hannahs

Executive Director David O’Connor has made his home in Big Sky for over three decades and has been at the helm of the Housing Trust since 2022. David works with the board of directors to set the agenda for the Housing Trust, spearheads new initiatives, maintains close relationships with funders, and manages the team. David advocates for housing equity locally, regionally, and statewide.

Throughout his time in Big Sky, David has gained a myriad of perspectives on what it’s like to live, work, raise a family, and operate a business in this growing community. From line employee to general manager to eventually becoming co-owner, David spent the majority of his career at Big Sky's Buck's T-4 Lodge. He’s been a tenant of employee housing, a housing provider, a renter, and a homeowner.

David’s career has also included service with a variety of local groups and nonprofits. The Big Sky Chamber of Commerce, Visit Big Sky, Yellowstone Country Montana, and the Montana Lodging & Hospitality Association are a few of the boards of directors on which he’s served.
David lives in Big Sky with his wife Jennifer and their three children.


John has been with the school for ten years. He has taught both second and sixth grade, coached basketball at all levels, and is currently the district’s athletic director. He has had the pleasure of overseeing our athletic programs (old and new) reach new heights thanks to the eagerness of the athletes, the hard work of the coaches, and the overwhelming support from the community. John was also recently voted to the position of Class B Southern Divisional President of athletic directors in the state. It was always his goal as an educator to be a part of students’ lives both inside and outside of the classroom and witness their success throughout the years. The town of Big Sky has given him that. It is home to some of the most outstanding people he’s had the pleasure of interacting with and he is eternally grateful to his community, his colleagues, and of course the students he gets to interact with each day.


Big Sky: A Place Where Community Thrives

The Annual dinner is not only a time to celebrate the amazing nominees and winners, it’s a time to celebrate our entire community and the accomplishments over the last year.