Night skiing (left) and sidecountry at Powder Mountain. Photos courtesy of Powder Mountain
The access road to Powder Mountain Resort in Eden, Utah winds through 800 acres of sidecountry terrain. Skiers outfitted with avalanche safety gear can scout the avalanche controlled open bowls, chutes, and glades on the way up, then load either the Sundown or Hidden Lake lift, pick up traverse tracks, and navigate back to the road. The resort gets 500 inches of snow each year, so the odds of finding powder turns are in your favor. A free shuttle—an old school bus painted blue and white—ferries you back to the lifts. “Everyone in the bus is buzzing because they’ve had this crazy ride,” says Gregg Greer, Powder’s president and CEO. “They’re crammed together and can’t wait to do it again.”
That spirit kept people coming to Powder Mountain even as the owners put it up for sale and stopped making capital improvements in the lodges and restaurants, which are showing signs of age. The sellers had planned a 5,000-home development, two 18-hole golf courses, and new ski lifts—all scuttled by the recession. “We had billion-dollar terrain, but one-dollar facilities,” Greer says of Powder’s 7,000 skiable acres. “People were willing to overlook it because they loved skiing here.”
Then last year, yet another crew of 30-something skiers discovered Powder Mountain. But these were no ski bums content to plunder a secret stash. The group of social-minded entrepreneurs, which operates a for-profit business called Summit, set about finding investors to purchase the ski area.
And apparently, they pulled it off. News broke last week that the reported $40 million sale will be finalized in early 2013, pending county approval on a change in zoning regulations. Greg Mauro, a Utah local and venture capitalist who is a managing partner with Summit, set the process in motion. It seemed a strange fit for Summit, which is best known for an innovation conference called Summit Series that brings big thinkers like Bill Clinton and Richard Branson together with young entrepreneurs. The group plans to build a 500-home community called Summit Eden on the south side of the mountain. (Learn more about Summit’s plans in the video below.)
Members of Summit are already involved in the day-to-day operations of the resort, which opened on December 8 with 83 inches of snowfall so far this season. Summit’s focus will be on updating facilities and overhauling food and beverage operations, while Greer’s team continues to handle resort operations. “The cool thing is Summit is going to fix those things that have been lacking for a long time, but not try to grossly grow skier days to pay for it,” Greer says. “There’s a natural flow and pace that this resort has. And I think Summit gets that.” —Olivia Dwyer