Why buy a house when you can buy a mountain?

A team of young entrepreneurs has persuaded 50 deep pocketed investors take part in a real estate deal that you would not see every day when they purchased the nearly 10, 000 acres of Powder Mountain situated in Utah, United States of America.

The deal closed in April and development is now well underway.

Co-founder of Summit, Jeff Rosenthal, said that people couldn’t believe what they were saying when the first started making phone calls, but that they knew that the group was serious about their proposal.

Summit is a company that until now has specialised in putting on invitation-only-event experiences, gathering boldfaced names from across various fields. It started as a way for young tech founders to get together and share ideas, but it's grown to include leaders in business, entertainment and philanthropy.

Buying a mountain is obviously a new avenue for this company who once built conferences, but they are set on turning Powder Mountain into a creative center that will incubate ideas, host events and offer  innovators like themselves a place where they can let their guards down. 

Spending time with Summit can feel like being at summer camp for grown-ups — the highly produced convenings mix serious talks with ideas and adventure. It's like Davos for millennials.

"If you were at our Summit at Sea event you could have gone tagging tiger sharks with University of Miami scientists and your friends. If you were at our DC10 event, you could have gone off 20-foot waterfalls with some gold-medal-winning kayakers," Rosenthal says.

Now these thrill seekers have a year-round playground. The deal for Powder Mountain closed in April for the reported price tag of $40 million. Summit says it's not a bad price for such a well-preserved pocket of natural beauty. Located in Eden, about an hour north of Salt Lake City, the largely untouched Powder Mountain is a skier's paradise, boasting 500 inches of snow a year in a largely rural environment.

For decades, Powder Mountain was owned by sheep farmers who barely put up ski lifts on the mountain, much less a resort. Skiers and snowboards do enjoy Powder Mountain, but it's been a well-kept backcountry secret that's not as easy to get to as other Utah attractions. You can only get to Powder Mountain by winding through two-lane roads and canyons. No fancy amenities are available. On peak days, the number of people who ski Powder Mountain don't even make up a tenth of the skiers who take to Telluride. Locals like it that way.

"They're scared of it being Aspen or Vail and getting priced out of this unique rural environment," says Mike Caldwell, mayor of Ogden, the closest city to Powder Mountain.

Summit's development plans call for 500 single family homesites, a village core of comparable scale, and boutique lodging and amenities. While that may be more than some locals would like, Caldwell says the mountain's most recent owner, a consortium called Western American Holdings, planned for much more. Bloomberg Businessweek reported that the former owners "had plans for thousands of housing units and motel rooms spilling over both sides of Powder Mountain in two counties." Caldwell says efforts by the equity group to incorporate the mountain community into a town to open up development so riled the locals that they got the Utah Legislature involved. Then the real estate market went bust.

"I think [the equity group] got tired of the fight, and I don't think the model quite hit what they were hoping to see, and so they were happy to back away and let a different group come in," Caldwell says. Calls to representatives of Western American Holdings were not returned.

Rosenthal says the Summit team loves the natural setting and aims to do sustainable, limited development to maintain the mountain's peaceful feel.

"We're certainly not traditional developers. Return on community is our No. 1 intention, followed by the return on investment [for] the people that backed this project," Rosenthal says. "We were inspired by the core concepts of the Sundance Film Festival and the Aspen Institute. You can build place around a shared ethos. We look to build the coolest little mountain town in the world."

Count plenty of cool kids among the mountain's 50 investors: PayPal co-founder Peter Thiel, Olympic-level snowboarder Danny Davis, the founders of Wired magazine and pop music hit maker Dr. Luke, responsible for songs like "Since U Been Gone" and "I Kissed A Girl," each pitched in anywhere between $500,000 and $2 million to invest in the mountain purchase. In return, they can opt to build a mountain home.

"I believe in them," says Lukasz Gottwald, who goes by Dr. Luke. "I do have other real estate in other places, but this is a unique opportunity and a unique place. I hope that when my house is done ... I can ski and snowboard straight out of it, on this beautiful mountain."

The slopes will stay open to the public to enjoy. On a clear day, you can see four states from the peak of Powder Mountain, and a limitless horizon line. Nature seems to send a message.

"I don't think anybody in our community has felt like they've achieved what they're going to in the world and now they're done. We are looking to continue to create great things in the world as we move forward," Rosenthal says.
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