Why Buy A House When You Can Buy A Mountain? Big names in business, entertainment and philanthropy pitched in to help buy a Utah ski mountain for a reported $40 million. They want to turn it into the next cool hub for culture and new ideas. "We look to build the coolest little mountain town in the world," says one of the buyers.

Why Buy A House When You Can Buy A Mountain?

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Now here's a real estate deal you don't hear about that often: A team of young entrepreneurs just bought a mountain; an entire mountain for an estimated price tag of $40 million.

NPR's Elise Hu went to rural Utah to find out who the entrepreneurs are and what they're going to do with the mountain.

ELISE HU, BYLINE: It turns out you can get to Eden. Wind through canyons and over a river to arrive in Eden, Utah, an idyllic community an hour north of Salt Lake City.


HU: Hop in a stripped down, open top Suburban that sits on 45-inch tires to climb your way up Eden's big bragging point: Powder Mountain. At nearly 10,000 acres it's the among the largest ski mountains in North America, and it's mostly untouched.

JEFF ROSENTHAL: Where are we now, like at 8,200 right now - or 8,200 feet.

HU: That's 28 year old Jeff Rosenthal. And some his age search for work that piques their passions, Rosenthal and his friends purchased this peak.

ROSENTHAL: When we made those first phone calls, everybody's like, what? But that being said, you know, they know that we aren't kidding.

HU: They weren't. Rosenthal co-founded Summit. It's a company that until now has specialized in putting on invite-only event experiences, gathering bold-faced names in business, entertainment and philanthropy. By buying a mountain, they're going beyond building conferences. They're building a permanent place for people with ideas.

ROSENTHAL: Very many of the founders and some of the most innovative and written about tech companies and online companies are all part of Summit.

HU: It's like Davos for millennials. Past events mixed art and adventure.

ROSENTHAL: If you were at our Summit at sea events - for instance - you could have gone tagging tiger sharks with University of Miami scientists and your friends. If you were at our DC 10 event, you could have gone off 20-foot waterfalls with some gold-medal-winning kayakers.

Now these thrill-seekers have a year-round playground that gets 500 inches of snow annually. 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.

MAYOR MIKE CALDWELL: That community is called Eden for a reason. It is a really unique, rural community.

HU: Mike Caldwell is mayor of Ogden, the closest actual town to Powder Mountain. The mayor says neighbors don't want to lose the peaceful feel here.

CALDWELL: They're scared of it being Aspen or Vail and getting priced out of this unique rural environment.

HU: Does that scare you?

CALDWELL: That scares me a bit, yeah, sure.

HU: Plans call for 500 home sites, a retail village and rotating residences for artists. Caldwell says the mountain's previous owner - a private equity group - planned for much more. So much development that locals got the Utah Legislature involved to slow down the equity group.

CALDWELL: I think they 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.

HU: Summit was happy to come in and local resistance quieted. Co-founder, Jeff Rosenthal.

ROSENTHAL: We're certainly not traditional developers. Return on community is our number one intention, followed by return on investment for the people that backed this project.

HU: Investors pitched in $500,000 and $2 million each. In return, they can opt to build a mountain home. Summit says they're all helping build a community.

ROSENTHAL: We were inspired by the core concepts of the Sundance Film Festival and the Aspen Institute. You can build place around a shared ethos - and we look to build the coolest little mountain town in the world.

HU: Count plenty of cool kids among the mountain's 50 or so investors: PayPal founder, Peter Thiel; Olympic snowboarder, Danny Davis; The founders of Wired Magazine; and pop music hit maker, Dr. Luke.

DR. LUKE: I believe in them, you know?

HU: If you don't know him by name, you know the songs he's produced.


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 it's like, you know, I can ski and snowboard straight out of it, on this beautiful mountain.

HU: Back at 8,200 feet on the beautiful mountain...


HU: ...construction's underway on an events lodge overlooking what seems like everything. Summit's Thayer Walker plays Sherpa.

THAYER WALKER: Beyond that is Wyoming. And then out there is Idaho. So from this point, actually on a clear day, like today, you can see four states.

HU: Looking out over a limitless horizon line, nature seems to send a message.

ROSENTHAL: 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.

HU: Boundless ambition, to match their mountain.

Elise Hu, NPR News.



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