Summit and Northern Utah — The Next Railroad Boom Comes To Ogden

Summit_logoA little over a year ago I received an email from my friend Shervin Pishevar, a great guy and well connected VC in California. His email was an introduction to Elliott Bisnow, founder of The Summit Group, and was in regards to the organization’s recent interest in Utah. I’d heard and read rumors about Summit buying Powder Mountain, so when I received this email out of the blue I was excited to get up there and learn more.

From the moment I started emailing with Elliott, it was obvious he was a very gracious person. Super nice, very humble and accommodating, and all about hanging out and getting to know each other. He immediately invited me up Eden to learn more in person and show me what they were working on. This was early in 2012. I wanted to immediately tell everyone everything I had seen! The plan, the people, the difference all of this would make to everything in Northern Utah. However, the time wasn’t right to do that as they were still quietly putting together a lot of the details associated with such a large and complex deal.

I’ve kept in touch with Elliott and tried to help Summit in any way possible. I’m glad I could in a few small ways (introductions in Utah, etc.) — but I mostly just kept in touch and looked for opportunities to support what they were doing. Fast forward a bit to December of 2012 and the Summit team publicly announced that they had taken over operations at Powder Mountain and that closing on the purchase would soon follow.

Not too long after this public announcement, Elliott invited me to come spend some time at Powder Mountain. I’d been unable to make it before, so I was glad that this time I could make the timing work. I’m home now after spending the past two days up there.

And all I can say is WOW.

This is after having been there a few times. This is after having a decent inside track on what they were planning. This is after having been around the Summit Series crew a few times. None of that really prepared me for what their vision and goals are for PowMow.

Basically, it blew away all of my expectations and made me even more excited (if that was possible) for what they are doing and the impact it will have on Northern Utah. One of the best ways to share what they are doing is a video created by Summit. Click on it below.

In addition to this video, here are a few of my highlights:

They are building some really beautiful and unique new homes amongst a village set atop the mountains of PowMow. These are natural style homes, with a modern flare — but normal size (around 4,000 square feet maximum). They are super cool and will look really beautiful in this setting. One thing I cannot share yet are who some of the homeowners and founding members of this development are. Let me say this though — they are some of the biggest and most well known and impressive entrepreneurs and thought leaders IN THE WORLD. Think big, real big, and these are the types of people that are going to have a home and spend time up here.

But that’s not what Summit is all about (the richest and most famous). In fact, there is a very specific and dedicated effort to make sure that there will be a lot of opportunities for other talented people who might be early in their careers or don’t have the means (think artists and new startup entrepreneurs). Some of the shared cabins will only be 500 square feet and rentable by these types of people. Where else would you find billionaire entrepreneurs joining a founding group that will welcome in 500 square foot rentable cabins for young artists?

Only here, at Powder Mountain.

There are so many other activities they have planned. More access to more snow is tops on the list. When their plans are complete, Powder Mountain will have more skiable terrain than any other ski resort in North America.

Let me say that again: more skiable terrain, with more annual combined snowfall, than any other ski resort IN NORTH AMERICA.

That means Whistler, resorts in Colorado, all of the other Utah resorts — you name it, when these guys are done, this will be the top dog. Add to that a kite boarding area, incredible food and music from world famous chefs and musicians, combined with an outdoor enthusiasts dream list of activities (fishing, kayaking, cycling, golfing, snowboarding, skiing, rock climbing, ice climbing, hang gliding, mountain biking — you name it) all in great temperatures, with very affordable prices and small groups of people doing any one activity that I just listed. And within one hour of an International airport! Also, the Ogden airport is adding regional jet service locations often. You can fly on a commercial jet to Phoenix for $49 one way right now. Plans are in the works for Las Vegas and California locations as well. When those are done, you’ll be able to fly incredibly affordably to Ogden from multiple destinations and be on the slopes in 25 minutes. Again, no other resort in America will be able to offer this much skiing this close to an airport.

Score another point for Summit.

In addition to all of the plans surrounding the property, amenities and activities, the Summit Series annual event is the stuff legendary stories come from. Here is a video of their 2011 event, Summit at Sea:

You might have noticed Richard Branson and Russell Simmons at this Summit. If you look at others you’ll see President Clinton and Ev Williams. These are some of the regular guests and participants in the annual Summit events.

Historically, this event took place each year at a new location around the world. Well, not anymore!

This annual event will now take place up here, in Utah at Powder Mountain. Think of it like our 2002 Winter Olympics, only smaller of course — but for entrepreneurship and innovation. I truly don’t think we’ve ever had this many talented, successful and high profile entrepreneurs in Utah at the same time for one event.

So what does it all mean? In my opinion (and let me stress — this is just my opinion), this is what could happen as a result of what I’ve seen:

1 – Northern Utah, specifically Ogden, will have more startups than ever before. World class entrepreneurs will be flowing thru Powder Mountain and Summit each year. Some of them will want to connect with our Startup Ogden community. Some of them already are. I’m hearing from these people — the connections are starting to happen. Some of them want be involved. They want to hang out at our Startup Ogden building. They will want to mentor and help. They will want to hire talent. They will want to open a branch here so they can have business expenses associated with their trips to Summit and PowMow. I’m not naive enough to think this will happen in mass quantities, but it will happen, and it will happen more often over time.

2 – There will be significant economic benefit to the area. There will be many new jobs associated with all of the things they are doing. In addition to jobs, all of these guests (and eventually owners) will spend money in the area. Food, gear, recreation — you name it. They’ll need it and they’ll have the money to buy it.

3 – You’ll see some companies open a location here. Maybe a few will even move here. They’ll fall in love with the area, the business climate, the talent pool and the Summit development and they will move their business here as a result. Again, not many, but a few — and a few more over time. Utah as a state is consistently ranked as one of the best places to do business. Add that to all of the other good reasons to be here and some people will make the move.

4 – Entrepreneurs, thought leaders, innovators, world leaders and technologists will, over time, recognize that the coolest and most unique people are not just in Salt Lake City. They are not just in Park City. They are not just in Utah County. They are up at Powder Mountain, too. In fact, I think some of them will now only come to Utah because of Summit and Powder Mountain. The magnet and draw that this will become will create a massive shift in attention for where the technology and startup activities of Utah reside. My prediction is that it will take awhile, but you’ll see Ogden become a legitimate peer location to Salt Lake and Provo. They are all wonderful places with terrific talent and other benefits that Ogden can’t and won’t match. However, having said that, they will never have what I think Summit brings — a consistent, year round flow of the worlds most talented people living and working in the general area for extended periods of time. The Summit events in one of the worlds newest and coolest outdoor resorts makes for a combo that is truly unique to anywhere in America, not just Utah.

So what’s next? The Summit team has a massive vision. It is a really big project. That will take time. I bet they will have a few stumbles and make a few mistakes. But I don’t think they will have any big stumbles or make any big mistakes. I just really believe in their vision and how they are going about it. They have a terrifically talented team, too. I’m bullish on Powder Mountain and Summit and will continue to be.

All of the things I’ve described above will take place over years, even decades. However, in the meantime, you are going to see a lot of really cool and unique opportunities for startups and entrepreneurs to get involved in Summit activities. Startup Ogden, my main focus for the past two years, will be and is intimately involved in all of this. If you are a startup and/or an entrepreneur, you are going to want to come hang out at Startup Ogden (opens in late August). It will be $50 a month to get 24/7 access to our 12,000 square foot co-working space. The amenities and facilities will be world class. Open space, fiber internet speeds, fun furnishings, live music, bike racks, showers and lockers, world class mentors — and the serendipitous interaction with various Summit guests that will be unique to Utah in a very special way. Not to mention growing communities like Hack Ogden, Startup Weekend and other local events that will make for a fun and busy schedule of cool things to do.

You’ll love hanging out and working there. I think we will have a lot of tie-ins with Summit and with that, opportunities to participate and help this new community that is being built. Ogden is already one of the most diverse areas of Utah. With the addition of Summit at Powder Mountain, and their visitors, that diversity will only increase. Everyone knows Ogden is not without it’s problems and challenges, but I’m here to tell you things are going to get better, not worse.

So come on up. Take a risk and get involved early and often. If you do I think you’ll be a part of one of the coolest entrepreneurial and outdoor communities anywhere in the world. I’m all in. I’ll be here forever, and will work on this for almost as long. We need leaders, we need entrepreneurs and innovators with some guts to come up (or stay) and get ready for all that is going to happen in the coming years. You can join us part time or full time. But if you live in Utah, don’t let this once in a lifetime opportunity pass you by.

I promise you, it’s a lot of fun and only getting more so with every passing day.

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About Alex Lawrence

Alex has been a successful entrepreneur for 20+ years. His current venture Lendio ranks #34 on the Inc. 500 list. Alex earned a BS degree at the University of Utah and his MBA at Weber State University, where he is Vice Provost and Director of the Entrepreneurship Program. If you want to talk with Alex about business and entrepreneurship (or other questions), email him (alex AT startupflavor DOT com), or you can find him on Twitter @_AlexLawrence.
  • WOW! Very exciting!

    • alex_lawrence

      Very exciting indeed, Clayton! Come over and hang out when we get the building open in late August.

  • This is very exciting news! Thanks for the update Alex.

    • alex_lawrence

      It is super exciting, Joel. Excited to have the building open in August so we can all work together more often.

  • So awesome. It’s a great time to be in Ogden.

    • alex_lawrence

      Indeed it is, Zarin!

  • This all looks and sounds amazing. Wondering how to get involved?

    • alex_lawrence

      It is, Mark! Great time to live and work in the Ogden area. There are two places you can connect with us right now. One is http://www.hackogden.org (meets every Wednesday). The other is our next Startup Weekend (www.saltlakecity.startupweekend.org). The Startup Ogden building will open in late August and then that will be a place that a ton of activity and connections can be made. But until then, come to one or both of the above to start getting connected.

  • The Grateful PowManian

    uhhh, hey Alex, what does “…Combined Anual Snowfall…” mean? combined with what? And although I would never dispute that PowMow is one of the top resorts in the WORLD – their average annual snowfall is not THE MOST in North America. But I’m sure I don’t have to tell you that since you have lived here for so long.

    As far as the stat, “…more skiable terrain…” – yep – Pow Country, Cobabe, Lighting, James oh man, endless amounts of shredable grin making territory.

    • alex_lawrence

      I believe it means when you add up all of their terrain that will be accessible by lifts — but they have a graphic for it that shows the totals. Shows them as #1 in North America.

  • In December 2012, my husband and I learned of Summit Group’s plans to buy out Powder Mountain. At first we didn’t know what to think of it. My husband was upset about it and thought they would ruin Powder Mountain. Yet I was actually pretty excited that an entrepreneur focused group was going to be moving in to take over the mountain we loved but still preserve its current magic. In my eyes, Summit Group would open local opportunities for my start-up.

    Summit Group talks of high hopes for the mountain, community, and entrepreneurs in their articles and videos. Everything they present sounds very attractive for an entrepreneur. I learned that they held conventions for entrepreneurs and so I inquired about attending one of them. I did not note to them at the time of inquiry about my start-up, specifically, nor did I indicate any motive to achieve financing through or from them. On Dec 7, 2012, I received an e-mail from them stating,

    “Hi Elizabeth,

    We’re always excited to learn about fellow entrepreneurs, innovators and
    thought leaders, so thanks for taking the time to share a bit about yourself.

    Due to the limited size of our events we’re not always able to accommodate
    everyone. If there’s an opportunity to include you in the future, we’ll be sure
    to get in touch.

    All the best,
    The Summit Team”

    Questions ran through my head. Why didn’t they ask me about who I am? Why didn’t they want to know more about what I could provide to them and the local community? Why didn’t they want to know why I would even be interested in their ventures? This brief, dismissive note was all I received. I decided to give it a second shot and to explain in my form precisely why I was interested. I talked about our dreams to move out to Ogden and headquarter the business there, the exact timelines, etc. To this day, I have not received a response to that second inquiry.

    It’s been 4 months.

    • alex_lawrence

      Liz — they are neck deep in the closing of a huge transaction, risking all they have and more, so I think maybe you should cut them some slack? I think it is safe to say their hands are a bit full at the moment. As for you moving to Ogden with your business, come on out! We’d love to have you join us in our effort to build a community. Email me anytime if you plan to come visit, I’d enjoy meeting you and learning about your startup.

      • Thanks for your response, Alex. So you’re saying that all 70 people listed on http://www.summit.co/about-us/ are 100% involved in this transaction enough that they aren’t responding to valid interested candidates? I assume then that they’re not planning any events? So when can I expect that they will resume hosting events. Rumor has it they’re throwing a lot of social events in Eden at the house they are renting – late into the night. Seems some of that energy could go toward their main objective…

  • Cynthia

    I have one word to describe Summit. Charlatans…nothing more. They have lived on my street for 2 years so I have first hand experience with them as my neighbor. Alex, He wants to hang out and get to know you because you are in the same line of business as he is, to make money. Want to know how much he wants to know his neighbors and community? I’ve never met him and couldn’t pick him out of a group of 2! The only community he wants to be part of is his own.

    • alex_lawrence

      Hi Cynthia — welcome to my blog. I usually try not to judge people and label them until AFTER I’ve gotten to know them a bit. I realize that, according to you, this has been difficult. But didn’t they have a public dinner last night that the community was invited to at Harley and Bucks (I think that is what it is called)? Haven’t they had some public, open meetings as well? If you can’t pick Elliott out of a crowd, maybe it’s because you haven’t been to any of these events. Doesn’t mean they can’t do better, but sounds like you can as well. Be the example, take the high road. They are the new owners of Powder Mountain — until (and if) they do something otherwise, I’m going to cheer them on and hope they are successful up there.

      • ybatal

        amen, Alex!

  • ybatal

    So excited about this whole idea, as a vacation home owner in the areaGo Summit ! I get the sense they wont make it into DIsney world /Vail type of resort.
    I believe in these big dreams and are pulling for their success. The pristine uncrowded area is what drew us there. Same as it ever was! Congrats Summit.. we are pulling for you!

  • Liz Dean


    What are your thoughts on the “Summit Outside” and the fact that they didn’t invite valid entrepreneurs outside of their “friend” circle? http://thenextweb.com/entrepreneur/2013/07/25/summit-outside-recap/

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