Ben Brewer, Deseret News
EDEN, Weber County — When Elliott Bisnow co-founded the Summit Group in 2008, he had a long-term vision "to create an epicenter of innovation around a residential community on the southern side of Powder Mountain."
At the time, it was just a notion. But today, that vision is becoming a reality.
Summit — a startup of young, ultra-passionate entrepreneurs — announced Monday that it is officially taking over management of Powder Mountain. The estimated cost of the purchase is $40 million.
Located in Eden, Powder Mountain is home to the largest skiable acreage in North America with more than 10,000 acres of terrain. Despite the new management, the resort will remain open to the public and Summit plans to preserve the beloved natural appeal and character of the mountain that has been developed over 41 years.
"What we want to keep small is the charm, the character, the number of people who ski here," Bisnow explained. "The restaurants — we want them to be intimate. But the part that we do think 'bigger is better' is having a lot of land."
He said plans are in the works to also lease up to 5,000 additional acres to provide an even greater area for skiers and snowboarders to explore and experience nature.
"The Ogden Valley has enormous natural gifts, and Powder Mountain is its brightest jewel — unspoiled, iconic and capable of summoning the imagination of the most productive people in the fields of business, nonprofits, academia and the arts," Bisnow told the Deseret News.
Thayer Walker, partner and chief reconnaissance officer, said the first order of business of the new management will be to upgrade the current facilities to improve the visitor experience, including providing fresh, healthy food offerings at affordable prices.
On the southern side of the mountain, Summit will establish a sustainably designed residential community called Summit Eden, which will become home base for the organization, the community and its distinctive leadership and cultural events, he said.
However, maintaining the integrity of the old-school charm that has made Powder Mountain a local favorite will also be a top priority, Walker said. To that end, Summit will avoid any major expansion plans and keep the current four chair lifts and three rope tows as the main terrain accesses, though some terrain will also be accessible by Snowcat, he noted.
Summit's mission is to "catalyze business opportunity, address global issues, support creative achievement and create community in an effort to make our world a more joyful place," a news release states.
In 2008, Bisnow, then 23, convened 19 young entrepreneurs for a three-day event in Park City, designed to help the business leaders create pathways to achieve their personal, professional and altruistic goals. Six months later, the group of 19 grew to 60 people.
Since then, the Summit Series has evolved into an annual gathering of the world's leading entrepreneurs, artists, nonprofit leaders, scientists and other change-makers. Past attendees have included business mogul Sir Richard Branson, former President Bill Clinton, PayPal cofounder Peter Thiel, Hulu founder and GE executive Beth Comstock, along with Grammy-winning musicians The Roots.
Since its inception, Summit Series events have helped raise millions of dollars for business and social ventures.
Following Summit at Sea in the Bahamas in 2011, the Summit community partnered with The Nature Conservancy to raise nearly $1 million to create a marine protected area the size of Manhattan in the island chain where the event was held, Bisnow said.
The organization intends to take the same approach with Summit Eden, said Greg Mauro, managing partner of development.
Mauro, who lives in Eden, introduced Summit to the idea of purchasing Powder Mountain, fearing the resort could end up in the wrong hands and become exploited.
"Instead of looking to create another corporate ski resort, we want to preserve the legendary open runs and untracked powder that have garnered No. 1 rankings in snow, adventure and value," Mauro said. "Instead of overpowering nature, we're looking at how we can preserve an environment of open spaces, uncompromising vistas and year-round adventure."
Mauro said their goal is to "create a place that has a positive impact not just on the residents of Summit Eden and the Ogden Valley, but the state of Utah and the world."
Contributing: Amy Joi O'Donoghue