New owners’ updates to keep Powder Mountain the same
Skiing • Summit’s young innovators scale back plans as they move forward.
Published: December 4, 2012 01:35AM
Updated: December 3, 2012 07:15PM
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A skier at Powder Mountain the morning of Wednesday, Oct. 24, 2012. Courtesy Matt Baydala | Ski Utah

Powder Mountain’s new owners are young, hip, idealistic, accomplished and confident they have a business model that can preserve the throwback character of the upper Ogden Valley ski resort.

Summit, a company that has brought together young entrepreneurs and innovative thinkers at motivational conferences for several years, announced Monday it was buying the resort from the current ownership group for an undisclosed price.

In a two-phase transition, Summit assumes resort management immediately. The actual sale of Powder Mountain’s property is expected to occur early next year.

“We think we can do something great here,” said Summit’s 27-year-old founder and CEO, Elliott Bisnow, noting the new owners have jettisoned previous plans to transform Powder Mountain with close to 4,000 dwelling units.

“Our footprint will be more modest,” he added — 500 homes in a horseshoe around a village on the resort’s east side, not visible from Powder Mountain’s main facilities.

“I fell in love with every single thing you heard about the character of Powder Mountain and what it stood for. It was the last undeveloped resort,” Bisnow said of his first trip to the upper Ogden Valley ski area in July 2011. “I thought, ‘What if we could take this resort and preserve what it is?’ ”

Bisnow took his idea to the Summit team, who bought into the concept.

“We’re not trying to shake things up but enhance what’s here,” said Thayer Walker, a Summit partner. “If we do things in a smart, incremental, sustainable fashion, we can preserve Powder Mountain’s character for years.”

That’s because Summit’s mission is different than most companies, said co-founder Jeff Rosenthal. “We’re looking for a return on community rather than a return on investment.”

This approach started in 2008 when Bisnow and his colleagues organized a three-day meeting in Park City of young entrepreneurs who explored ideas, such as what’s good for business can be good for the world.

More high-minded seminars in following years led to cooperative ventures that supported a marine park in the Bahamas, venture capital investments in innovative products and philanthropic support for nonprofit groups.

Now, Summit is looking to create a community where leading futuristic thinkers may buy homes, then interact to advance good causes.

The cost of joining the team — and pumping capital into the ventures — was not revealed.

Bisnow insisted Powder Mountain’s new owners are serious about working with local businesses. “We’re willing to put in the years it takes to build trust,” he said. “We want to earn that trust.”

The new owners’ beliefs should be “music to the ears” of loyal passholders, “an answer to our prayers,” said Gregg Greer, who will remain as Powder Mountain general manager.

Ski Utah President Nathan Rafferty likes Summit’s intention to “keep Powder Mountain as it is, enhancing services but doing its best to keep it unique. It’s important to me for Utah to have 14 different ski resorts, not all the same like they’re out of a cookie-cutter, lift-ticket factory.”

Summit’s leaders are not seeking state financial aid, but have talked to the Governor’s Office of Economic Development about issues such as Ogden’s role in Utah’s outdoor-industry cluster.

“We love the fact they’re environmentally friendly,” said GOED Chairman Christopher Conabee. “We recognize Summit’s ability to gather entrepreneurs and innovators in technology, entertainment and nonprofits. Summit’s leadership promises to have a positive impact on Utah’s corporate growth and recruitment over the coming years.”

Added Utah Office of Tourism director Leigh von der Esch: “Their commitment to how the world looks tomorrow is a message that helps brand the state in a positive way.”

mikeg@sltrib.com

Twitter: @sltribmikeg

What is Summit?

Information about Summit, its short history and long-term initiatives, is available at www.summit.co