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Utah Business

Powder Mountain

Powder Mountain Could Become the Entrepreneurial Mecca of Utah

Powder Mountain never achieved the fame of Park City or Deer Valley, nevertheless, it’s this mountain that will soon become a household name for entrepreneurs, techies, artists, researchers, scientists, and everyone else who has a desire to engage, impact, and innovate a sustainable and cutting-edge future.

Save Powder Mountain

It all began with Greg Mauro, a venture capitalist and managing partner of Learn Capital, who had the desire to save Powder Mountain from becoming another overdeveloped, overcrowded, and over-the-top ski resort. But he figured out how to do it after an event put on by a company called Summit.

Summit is an organization that hosts conferences and events for young entrepreneurs, activists, artists, and others who are top of their field. They feature speakers such as Richard Branson and Bill Clinton, who discuss the latest in tech, innovation, best business practices, and philanthropy.

Since Summit’s foundation, the organization has invested in startups, such as Uber, and have raised millions for different nonprofits and charities. However, this esteemed organization never truly had a place to call home. They jumped from location to location, until they met Mr. Mauro.

Crowdfunding From Billionaires

The event was Summit at Sea and the year was 2011. After the boat was docked, and the excitement had calmed, Mr. Mauro scheduled a quick coffee with the founders of Summit. This, however, turned into an epic three-day meeting, in which Mr. Mauro and the founders of Summit wound up standing on the top of Powder Mountain agreeing they must do everything they could to buy the very mountain they were standing on.

May it be due to the stunning vistas, the breathtaking views, or perhaps just an ambitious whim, this small group of men decided to purchase the mountain and give the Summit community a permanent home, one sitting at 8600 feet. Now they just had to figure out how they were going to find the money to buy it.

Mr. Mauro and the founders of Summit turned to crowdsourcing. Over the course of 15 weekends, Summit hosted roughly 2,000 people at Powder Mountain where they talked business, vision, and goals. By April 2013 they closed on Powder Mountain for roughly $40 million, securing its future as the entrepreneurial mecca of Utah.

A New Kind Of Gated Community

Inspired by the mountain towns of Switzerland, Powder Mountain is now set to become a year-round community of innovators coming together to solve the world’s most pressing challenges. These challenges range from how to eradicate cleft lips and palates by making surgery accessible to everyone in the developing world, to funding new start-ups, to maintaining the status-quo of our environmental trajectory.

Aside from the broad ambitions and dreams of this mountain paradise, comes a residential one: to build a network of houses that form a community of likeminded millionaires. Those who invested can build the house of their dreams on the mountain with two caveats: the house can be no larger than 4,500 square feet, and it must have an organic or modernist feel that blends into the mountain―rather than fighting against its natural landscape.

To make the town even more to their liking, they’ll also be reimagining the look of Main Street. Rather than lining it with the likes of Prada, Gucci, and Chanel, the town hopes to spurn the materialistic stigma of the mountain towns before it in favor of affordable housing, education hubs, galleries, and coworking spaces.

Dustin Haggett, founder of Impact Hub Salt Lake and a member of the real estate development team at Summit Powder Mountain describes the vision as a community built around achievement. “They’re very against building a town for ‘rich’ people or centered around materialism,” he says. “It’s more about achievement—so everything from starving artists and activists to the Fortune 500 CEO.”

Making A Better Mountain

The new owners of Powder Mountain also did something a bit unprecedented in the ski resort community. Not only did they expand the actual ski resort by 1,000 acres and two ski lifts, making it the largest ski resort in the United States, but they also capped ticket sales to 2,000 tickets a day. That makes for less than two skiers per acre, keeping what Mr. Mauro found so sacred about the mountain intact.

Powder Mountain will also become a playground for all outdoor enthusiasts, not just the winter jockeys. The group has put in over 44 miles of cycling trails with a goal of expanding that to 80 miles within the next couple of years. There will be hiking, yoga, places to watch the sun rise and set, farm-to-table dining, Olympic training, and that’s merely the beginning. Powder Mountain will be completely transformed by 2022 when they hope to have their newly built mountain village fully operational and occupied.

As of today, construction has begun on many of these intentionally designed communities. New homes dot the mountainside as the future vision of Powder Mountain starts to take shape.

But Will The Locals Like It?

Creating a utopian paradise comes with its fair share of challenges. For example, the new owners of Powder Mountain must learn how to navigate the Utah Legislature to ensure they can create and deploy next-generation technologies on a large scale. They need to attract new companies, philanthropic endeavors, and creativity from around the world. Most importantly, however, they must get along with their neighbors.

The citizens of the surrounding townships and communities of Powder Mountain, such as Huntsville, Eden, and North Ogden, are especially worried about water rights. Many of Eden’s citizens rely on farming for their livelihood, and know only too well that there is only so much water to go around. “The big scare is that Powder Mountain is going to tap into an aquifer that will run it dry and affect the livelihood of a lot of people in the area,” says Huntsville Mayor Jim Truett.

Some residents have posted signs in their yard saying “Summit Sucks Water.” Without the local community’s support, the new owners of Powder Mountain could be facing failure before their dream ever becomes a reality. Something history has shown us time and time again. On the flip side, Mr. Truett believes Powder Mountain could bring new jobs to the community and says the new owners have always had great communication with him about their plans.

“There are pros and cons to every side. Perhaps it will create more jobs for people that live in the upper valley. It could be great if some of our citizens could be a part of it all,” says Mr. Truett. “So far the new owners of Powder Mountain have held open forum meetings, and I hope they continue to have good and open communication with the Ogden Valley. People have lived here their whole lives, and they have some good input.”

With all the growth that has hit Weber Valley in the past five years, Mr. Truett hopes it accommodates the citizens that call the area home, not push them out. “I think growth is good and I think it’s important to embrace growth. If you don’t you’re going to get run over and won’t have a say,” he says.

The Future Of Ski Towns Is Here

Regardless of any disputes some may have, the vision of Powder Mountain plows forward. It will remain a ski resort attracting those who enjoy the freedom of wide open spaces and natural beauty. The building and selling of new homes will continue as planned and the new owners will move forward with their dream of creating a new kind of community. A community where everyone is welcome. A community that works together to build a sustainable future. And a community that is focused on education, philanthropy, and creating a better world. Will it be successful and become the next entrepreneurial mecca for the masses? All we can do now is wait and see.

Kassi Cox Whale graduated from the University of Utah with a bachelor’s in journalism and a minor in Arabic. She has been published in the Deseret News, Utah Business Magazine, and has written for companies around the world including being published in China, United Kingdom, Egypt, and more. She enjoys traveling to the remote corners of the world and experiencing new cultures. She is currently working on her MBA at the University of Utah and will graduate in 2020.