Published March 1, 2004 | March 2004 issue
As much as barbed-wire came to define the Montana landscape, today a new kind of barrier is cropping up in scenic western Montana-gates controlling access to exclusive subdivisions. Small cities with gated communities on their outskirts include Big Sky, Whitefish, Hamilton and Seeley Lake.
As in Colorado, Wyoming and other Western states favored by the wealthy, the gates are a sure sign that serious money has moved into Montana. Housing data from the U.S. Census Bureau also indicate that upper-income families are buying homes in the state, either as mountain retreats or permanent residences. Between 1990 and 2000 the number of Montana homes worth $300,000 or more increased 17-fold to 4,735. The Bureau didn't track homes valued at $1 million or more in 1990, but 10 years later there were 324 of them. Those are impressive numbers in a state where median income falls below $30,000 a year, and roughly half the homes sell for less than $99,500.