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The True naTure of “a cabin in T he Robbins’ cabin is quintessentially Big Sky: The master bedroom with its grand windows framing Lone Peak. The expansive deck with its views to the east, where the earth falls away and rises with the Gallatins. The exterior with its hewn logs and reclaimed barnwood siding. The vaulted WRiTTen By ALex TenenBAum The woods” great room with its cavernous fireplace. Like a lot of homes in Big Sky, Moonlight and the Yellowstone Club, PHoTogRAPHy By kARL neumAnn prevails in This the Robbins’ residence flaunts fine craftsmanship and attention to detail. But big sky reTreaT its size makes it remarkable. “We just wanted a 1,500-square-foot cabin,” says Paul Robbins. “But it wasn’t easy to come by.” For about a decade, he and his wife Annie wanted to build on acreage up on the hill in Moonlight. But under the covenants, homes could be no less than 5,000 square feet, and the Robbins were encouraged to build far Opposite page: High above the Robbins’ cabin looms Lone Peak, which Paul and his eldest daughter scan each morning bigger. before making laps on the Lone Peak Tram. Right: A modest Sure, they had the money. Paul’s metal manufacturing companies, ten front door makes for an understated entrance to the cabin’s vaulted great room. Below: With high-end finishes and the of them around the world, do $200 million in annual sales. But he and Annie finest appliances, the Robbins’ cozy kitchen echoes many Big had no desire to escape from their large home in Uxbridge, Ontario to a Sky trophy homes in every way but size.126 Big Sky Journal HOME 127
sprawling trophy lodge. The key word for them was cabin. “I have a lot of access to a lot of skiing, but I’d rather ski “Cabins should be small and relatively easy to care for. here than anywhere else,” Paul says. “I suppose you could say The last thing we need on vacation is more work,” Annie I’m a (Lone Peak) Tram junkie.” says. It was the tram that brought the Robbins to Big Sky in 1996, “Nobody got what we were doing. The real estate agent after they read about it in a ski magazine. In 1999, they bought thought I was out of my mind,” says Paul. a cabin and sold it a few years later to buy a two-bedroom in Despite the resistance, the Robbins didn’t want to build Moonlight’s slope-side Cowboy Heaven development. their dream cabin at another ski area. They’d traveled the But as their three daughters — the twins now 19, and world in search of the best snow and terrain. Paul skied, the eldest, 20 — grew up and began bringing friends and boy- taught, patrolled and raced for years, and one of his companies friends on vacation, the family was running out of space. They is headquartered just a half hour from Verbier, Switzerland wanted more square footage, just not that much more. — famous for its off-piste terrain and 6,000-foot vertical. “I was pioneering around in 2008, and I came across a couple of unfinished cabins,” Paul says. They were just shells -- begun before the meltdown, sealed up from the weather and Opposite top: During the day, the Robbins tend to split up and explore Big Sky on their own. When they come back to the cabin, there’s plenty of room waiting out the sub-prime financial storm. at the dining room table to gather around and tell their tales. Afterward, the None of them had the acreage the Robbins had hoped energetic family will spill out onto the spacious deck and into the hot tub for some aprés ski relaxation. Opposite bottom: The living area is built for close- for. But there was one, way up at the top of the subdivision ness and comfort, where the Robbins can gather for movies, board games and — back against the woods and high enough to look out over conversation, set to the warm crackling of the wood-burning fireplace. Above: The walls are hung with pictures of skiing lore, including old photos of Warren the homes below — that felt plenty remote. And it had ski-in, miller’s early ski film career, and original sketches by Warren miller and Doug ski-out access to the White Otter lift. Coombs, addressed to the family. BOZEMAN • M O N TA N A128 Big Sky Journal HOME 129
because of its size, even when it’s just paul and annie, it feels warm and intimate. when the girls are there, it’s brimming with the vibrant energy of a family. It was just about perfect. The cabin was listed at $995,000 at a time when a million dollars would have bought perhaps three times the square foot- age, and likely more land. But they had been years searching for something like this, so they jumped in. “I don’t think [the builder] could even believe they’d sold it. We bought in a terrible market, and still we paid way too much — probably 20 to 30 percent more than the market would say it’s worth. But when you want this cabin on this lot, that kind of becomes secondary,” Paul says. They partnered with RMR Group, the cabin’s original construction company, to begin the work of finishing it. Paul laid out the interior walls to create two bedrooms with large closets, an indulgent master suite, a guest bath, an airy great room and a small-but-well-appointed kitchen. Everything is compact, yet quite upscale. A hall closet holds their washer and dryer — a Swedish-made set, stacked and shimmering in a silvery finish. The kitchen holds a built-in Subzero fridge and a hooded Wolf range. Because of its size, even when it’s just Paul and Annie, it feels warm and intimate. When the girls are there, it’s brim- ming with the vibrant energy of a family. And come Christmas, it’s downright festive as a dozen or so guests pack the cabin. “To add a basement or more square footage would just detract from what we’ve got,” Annie says. Paul agrees, saying that real estate seems a lot like the boat market, where a bigger, nicer boat is always better. People buy the biggest boat they can’t afford, and then neglect it because it’s not the optimum size for ease of use and enjoy- ment, he says. “A lot of it seems to be about sex appeal and social com- petitiveness. But that just creates work and more to worry about,” he says. “And it’s not about spending less, necessar- ily. You can spend an awful lot on something smaller and be happier.” H130