While we all find different reasons to give back to our community, Ryan Blechta’s gateway into involvement in Big Sky was his love for hockey. One of the founders of the Big Sky Skating and Hockey Association, Blechta has not stopped his public service, today serving on the board for the Big Sky Community Organization and Peaks and Prairies at Spanish Peaks Golf Course. Blechta truly believes that part of being in a community is giving back to it, which is one of the many reasons he, alongside his wife Sarah and their daughter, love living in Big Sky.


Blechta is the senior director of ground and mountain operations at Spanish Peaks, and chatted with Explore Big Sky not only about his time with nonprofits, but also Spanish Peaks’ environmental efforts and his favorite part about work—watching those mountain sunrises on the golf course at 6 a.m.



This series is part of a paid partnership with the Big Sky Chamber of Commerce. The following answers have been edited for brevity.


Explore Big Sky: Ryan, tell me a little about yourself. What brought you to Big Sky initially and what made you stay?

Ryan Blechta: In 2005 I moved here from Minnesota to take a job as an assistant golf course superintendent. I was looking to get away from the big city life and Big Sky seemed to be a chill town with a lot of potential to grow. Originally my plan was to stay a couple of years, get experience and move on to a golf course superintendent job somewhere else in the west. After one winter of being here I met my future wife Sarah who had grown up in Big Sky and was back for the summer. Fast forward almost 20 years and now we are raising our daughter here in Big Sky, involved in the community and love what Big Sky has to offer for families.


EBS: What led you to your position today with Spanish Peaks Mountain Club?

RB: In 2011 when Spanish Peaks was going through bankruptcy, I had the opportunity to help a small team ensuring preservation of the course during those two years. In the fall of 2013 when CrossHarbor purchased Spanish Peaks I was promoted from my position at Yellowstone Club to the superintendent position at Spanish Peaks. We reopened the course in the summer of 2014 and it’s been such a great opportunity and experience over the last almost 11 years.


EBS: Tell me a little bit about what you do at SP and what your favorite thing about your position is:

RB: In my role I oversee all the grounds and mountain operations for Spanish Peaks. From the 18-hole golf course and the new par 3 course to the Nordic and member access grooming, there isn’t much I won’t help with around the club. You can find me all over the property, mostly outside if I have my way, and I really enjoy working with and getting to know our members and other associates. One of the things I love most about my job is managing people, teaching them what I have learned and it’s a real bonus watching the sunrise over the beautiful landscape and golf course at 6 a.m.


EBS: What other organizations or groups—inside of work or outside—are you a part of? Do you believe it is important for locals in Big Sky to get involved in some fashion?

RB: I first started getting involved in the community back in 2010 when Marty Pavelich got together with a group of us hockey guys to talk about getting a rink for Big Sky. It was then we created the Big Sky Skating and Hockey Association and my passion for giving back really began. It was such a great experience to help start a nonprofit from the ground up and see it through to the end, over 13 years we accomplished so many things I am proud of. In my own industry I became involved in the local golf course superintendent’s association called Peaks and Prairies and just finished my term as president. The organization I am focusing my efforts with currently is Big Sky Community Organization and I sit on the board of directors. I have served on the BSCO board for four years and am focused on the parks and trails programs as well as being heavily involved with the new park design. I truly believe that if you want a voice in Big Sky you should join an organization and get involved. I really care about our community and want to be involved in the community my family calls home. I think everyone who lives here should get involved in something they are passionate about, it can be as simple as helping on trail clean up day or as involved as joining a board. 


EBS: With no formalized government, local businesses such as SP have a strong voice in the way Big Sky operates—what responsibilities do you see SP holding in the community?

RB: I believe Spanish Peaks is an organization that has a lot of responsibility in the community through the Spanish Peaks Community Foundation. They have supported many employees and organizations in Big Sky. Through their efforts they have funded grants to local organizations and projects that help enrich the greater Big Sky community. This town is continuing to grow and is going to continue to need support through organizations like the SPCF with funding projects that help identify community needs. 


EBS: Are there any environmental initiatives SP is involved in when it comes to the ski area or golf course?

RB: One of the great things about working at Spanish Peaks is the environmental aspect of my job.  We just finished our Best Management Practices manual for Spanish Peaks last year and having this guiding document in place really helps us make the right decisions when managing our golf operations within this beautiful and sensitive environment we call home. We carefully use reclaimed water under approvals from the state to water the turfgrass and other areas at Spanish Peaks. This practice is widely used by golf courses across the county and allows us to reuse this resource in a beneficial manner. By using reclaimed water, it avoids the need to supplement that same watering need with valuable groundwater sources, allowing more groundwater to reside within the watershed that aids in the overall watershed function. Golf courses are also great wildlife corridors and managing these successfully makes me proud of what I do. We accomplish this by maintaining proper messaging throughout the SP community and ensuring that our staff is adequately trained to share that messaging to our members and guests. I am part of an internal wildlife working group, and we meet quarterly to find ways to improve our practices to manage the human/wildlife interactions within our community. More information can be found on wildbigsky.com. Utilizing these sensitive management practices on our golf course has been beneficial in my time at Spanish Peaks, and I hope we can be a model for others to follow within the industry. 


EBS: Anything else I missed that you would like to tell the Big Sky community, whether it be about your work, or yourself?

RB: When I am not at work, I love to spend time with my family. I have a 12-year-old daughter that loves soccer, so we get to travel all over to watch her play. In the summer months we love to hang out at Hebgen Lake and wake surf; I obviously love playing golf and try and get out as much as I can to work on my handicap. In the winter months I love to play hockey and Nordic ski and we enjoy skiing as a family. I just love being outdoors, I will find something to do as long as it is outside.