This month is the perfect time to spotlight and celebrate our corporate member, The Base Camp; who is also bringing Billings the Banff Centre Mountain Film Festival World Tour April 28, 2023. Owners Scott and Deb Brown have chosen to give the proceeds from the event to Billings TrailNet.
Scott opened The Base Camp in 1975 and has been sponsoring the film festival in Billings and Helena since 1994.
A favorite for locals, the Banff Film Festival has most years, sold out in both communities, but this year, Helena may not be so lucky to view the film due to changes in the Banff Centre’s procedures.
Prior to 2020, the Banff Centre would bring all equipment for the production, and the sponsoring business just needed to provide the venue and support crew. Now, the venue must provide all of the hardware to show the films. The Babcock in Billings is the perfect place to host the festival, but Helena’s biggest available theater has only a capacity of 60 seats, and Scott says they typically sell out at 600 seats!
“I love seeing the films,” says Scott. “They are all about extreme skiing, kayaking, biking, and cultural things.”
“It’s fun to see those great films shot all over the world about people doing these amazing things. I always come away being inspired about going out and doing something fun.”
While Scott is an avid outdoorsman who loves to Nordic ski, telemark, and hike, he especially likes to paddle Montana rivers, most any time of the year.
“The Marias River is way up on my list. It is wild prairie,” Scott says. “Such gorgeous country. You paddle past a pishkun, which is a buffalo jump, and there are thousands of bones.”
The Native Americans herded buffalo off the cliff,” he explians. “They would get 3-4 men and put a buffalo hide over their heads and lead them over the edge and the Native Americans would spend a few weeks at the site, preparing the food to eat throughout the season. Now in that area, are buffalo bones and I’ve found 3 buffalo skulls throughout the year.”
Scott thinks a trip on the Marias River would make a great Banff Film Festival film.
The Browns chose to not only support Billings TrailNet as a corporate member, but also give the proceeds from the Banff Film Festival to the organziation because, Scott says, “Billings TrailNet is doing so many great things- for those of us that like to walk, bike and stroll around Billings.
We are so very lucky to have Billings TrailNet and all the time and energy that’s donated, and Kristi and Lynn as leaders.”
One of Billings TrailNet’s goals has been to help the city build the Skyline Trail.
“That will be such an amazing thing for Billings; not only for residents, but it will also attract tourists,” Scott predicts.
“They will want to stay when they’ve heard about it, so they can walk all of our trails. With the views of the city and with the views of Yellowstone River, the Pryors and the Beartooth Mountains, it will be spectacular. I can’t wait to walk the Skyline Trail and the Stagecoach Trail too.”
Scott believes that trails in Billings benefit the city’s economy: “I think once the Marathon Loop is completed, Billings will be second to none as far as a trails are concerned.”
Scott really found his calling when he decided in his early 20s to open an outdoor store, but his path was not headed that way until he pushed the envelope.
“My grandpa moved to Billings in 1911. His name was Rockwood Brown, and he was a lawyer. My dad was born in Billings and his name is Rockwood Brown and he was a lawyer. My name is Rockwood Scott Brown and I was supposed to be a lawyer,” Scott muses.
“While I was bartending during college in Missoula, a guy named Charlie Stevenson opened an outdoor store called The Trailhead and he would come into the bar. I got to see this guy open a store and he inspired me.
“I was on my last semester of college and just about to go to law school. I read a book by Anthony Burgess, who wrote “A Clockwork Orange” and some other books. He said, ‘bail out of college and do your own thing.’ So I went to Mexico, then got back and painted houses in Helena. I couldn’t find an outdoor store there,” so Scott and his friend Joe decided an outdoor store would be their next venture.
“We were trying to figure out what to call it and we were in a bar in Helena called Bert & Ernie’s. As they debated names, (Joe wanted to name the store “The Switchback” and Scott suggested “The Porcupine”) a guy sitting at the bar overheard and asked them ‘what you call the place people camp before they reach a peak,’ and they both replied that is was ‘a base camp’– and the rest is history.
When asked what legacy Scott would like to leave to Billings or greater Montana, he did not hesitate to reply that he hopes the Base Camp will continue to thrive, “both for our great crew and for our great customers.”
“I used to tell my crew that customers are our most important asset. But over years I realized it’s our crew that’s the most important asset. Some staff have worked for more than 40 years. And new staff could work for 40 years. To employ such great people. My best memory is all the great staff members that have worked for us over the past 48 years that I’ve gotten to know.”
Scott and Deb Brown are truly quintessential business owners: generous with their community, caring about their staff, customers and products, and passionate about their misison to get everyone outdoors. It is truly an honor to be a beneficiary and friend.