Ryan Kunz

“I grew up on Long Island wearing a tank top, and now I have a cowboy hat,” says Lone Mountain Ranch’s Ryan Kunz.

A switch of apparel wasn’t the only transition Kunz had to make when he took over as General Manager of Lone Mountain Ranch in January, 2018. He grew up as a horse guy, riding English style as a kid on Long Island. But the way he experiences the equestrian life now is a far cry from his childhood. Lone Mountain Ranch has been hosting guests for more than a century and is one of the last standing relics of Big Sky’s rich cowboy culture. With trail rides all summer, and sleigh ride dinners dating back 40 winters, the ranch is where locals and visitors go for the type of immersive western experience that long ago was supplanted by automobiles and smartphones.

While Kunz has had to adjust his riding style, his seven-year-old son, Ayden and daughter Luna, four, have taken to western horse culture seamlessly. Ayden now rides Pete, a quarter horse at the ranch, two to three hours a day throughout the summer. “Since taking over the ranch I’ve immersed myself in riding,” says Kunz. “My kids and I ride once a week, even in the wintertime, and we’ve really grown to love it.”

Lone Mountain Ranch, though, isn’t just for would-be cowpokes. It also boasts 85 kilometers of world-class Nordic skiing trails and the Horn & Cantle fine dining restaurant that’s among Big Sky’s best. Nordic skiing, too, was not a feature of Kunz’s childhood on Long Island. But now that he’s managing one of the country’s premier skinny-ski destinations, you’ll often find him out on the corduroy with the kids, especially when the mountain is lacking fresh powder.

You might think that Kunz’s short history with the mountains would be a demerit when it comes to serving guests, instead he
shares their excitement. And it shows: Lone Mountain Ranch boasts clientele from all over the world, and Kunz enjoys being part of the Big Sky community that relishes hosting them. “They’re here to experience nature, get back to their roots, and disconnect from technology,” he says. “I think our guests, and the people that live here, share the same ideals.”
—T. A.