Summit home construction, large and small, is under way on Powder Mountain

Wednesday , July 26, 2017 - 5:15 AM

CATHY MCKITRICK, Standard-Examiner Staff

EDEN — Since Summit purchased Powder Mountain in April 2013, the youthful collective has had to buckle down to the tedious task of high-altitude development, demanding work due to shorter construction seasons and more stringent geological demands.

But now — with installation of the community’s small network of roads, bridges and utilities completed — portions of Summit’s phase 1 development are starting to sprout above ground.

For the past three years, Olga Mariasina has coordinated real estate transactions for Summit and said she’s seen significant growth during that time.

“It’s really cool to see everything start to come together after so much hard work,” Mariasina said. “We’re finally going vertical on the mountain with all the homes being built.”

However, the village atop Powder Mountain is not intended to rival Park City, Deer Valley or Vail, Colorado. To venture capitalist Greg Mauro who chairs the Summit Institute, their emerging community is more than a destination. The opening slide of his recent Ogden TEDx talk states: “A Town as a Startup. What if you could build a town with purpose — from scratch.”

Rather than populating the mountain with mansions and materialism, Mauro prefers to cultivate a crop of ecologically-minded innovators.

Gayle Troberman, chief market officer for iHeartMedia, along with her spouse Sue Turner — a recently retired high school teacher — bought into Summit’s idea early and put money down on a small parcel near the corner of Summit Pass and Heartwood Drive.

“What drew me to this, and what I still love about Summit is the endless belief in making things you want to happen — happen,” Troberman said during a recent gathering at Summit’s mountaintop Sky Lodge. “They had this amazing vision, and when they got serious about inviting other people to participate and be a part of it ... I knew it would be a crazy and unpredictable ride, but the spirit in the community here is an amazing, special, unique thing.”

And now their long-awaited Ridge Nest — cozy living space of approximately 1,600 square feet — sports a foundation and walls.

“For three years we signed papers, wrote a check and thought some day there will be this thing up here. And now fiction is becoming reality,” Troberman said. 

But that reality involves more than the structure that will soon serve as the couple’s third home.   

“Wherever I come to a Summit experience, big or small, two things always happen,” Troberman said. “I meet someone I’ll be friends with the rest of my life, and I do something I’ve never done before. That’s a high bar, something you couldn’t get just going to a hotel for a ski weekend.”

Summit’s website describes a mountaintop town “focused on innovation, entrepreneurship, arts, and altruism.” Home to Powder Mountain Ski Resort since 1972, the mountain now also serves as home base for Summit Series, a Washington D.C.-based event and conference-hosting business launched in 2008 by Elliott Bisnow.

In the fall of 2013, Summit secured a $17.7 million special assessment bond with the help of Weber County commissioners, funding needed to drill a well, build roads and bridges, and install utilities.

RELATED: Summit Series' Ambitious Plans Take Shape

Near the Troberman-Turner house on Heartwood Drive, Bisnow’s Ridge Nest is almost finished. And traveling east on Summit Pass, the walls of Founders Fund and PayPal Co-Founder Ken Howery’s multi-level estate home are visible, hinting at the sleek structure Architect Marmol Radziner designed for the 2.2 acre view lot.

Near Howery’s house, groundbreaking commenced on another large home for fitness guru Mike Geary. 

Weber County’s planning website indicates a flurry of activity detailing Summit’s progress. Plans for a 4-story mixed-use structure for the heart of Summit’s new village area are now making their way through the design review process. That building, at 5752 Copper Crest, will feature 32 residential units in 23,000 square feet plus 15,000 square feet in retail and dining options.

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A majestic 10-plex is also in the works near 8443 Copper Crest Rd. These single-family town homes will occupy about 9,909 square feet “under one undulating roof,” and its low-profile design is meant to minimize obstruction of mountaintop views.

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A similar 10-plex near 5731 Copper Crest Rd. is also working its way through Weber County’s planning process, along with a four-level recreation/event center at 8569 E. Spring Park. With two levels below grade and two above, the structure will include a gym, bowling alley, spa, game room, locker rooms, kitchen, event space plus an outdoor pool and terraces.

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According to reports submitted by Summit Mountain Holding Group each quarter related to its special assessment bond, 61 lots have sold so far.

Designers John Plunkett and Barbara Kuhr — two of Summit’s initial founding members — hope to break ground on their 2,800-square foot house on Heartwood Drive by fall.

The couple founded Wired Magazine in the 1990s, and more recently transformed interiors of a handful of Park City miner’s shacks into modern homes. They reside in one of them, and Kuhr said it’s more than a century old.

Plunkett described their basic design philosophy on developing in the West as “do no harm.”

“The house we’re going to build on Powder Mountain is about the size of someone’s garage in Deer Valley.” Plunkett said, with Kuhr noting it would tuck into the hillside.

While technological advances have helped ease the task of building at 8,000 to 9,000 feet, Plunkett said high-altitude construction still carries its own set of challenges: “Everything that’s quick and easy to build down at the Great Salt Lake level is just that much harder once you come up here.”

Contact reporter Cathy McKitrick at 801-625-4214 or cmckitrick@standard.net. Follow her on Twitter at @catmck. 

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