Jess Berne: Summit Powder Mountain: Open-mindedness, creativity and entrepreneurship
Regarded as the biggest ski resort in the United States and one of the premiere ski destinations in the world, Powder Mountain is an alpine paradise. Located in the small town of Eden, the ski resort sounds like a mischievous deity. These prosperous mountain slopes are home to no less than 178 pistes that, come winter, are covered in fresh powder upon which the lynx feast, and come summer, welcome with open arms a multitude of eccentric characters and their elan. And there are no lack of things to do. It’s here, in over 3,000 hectares of wilderness, made of velvety valley floors and sharp summits, that Summit has chosen to build Summit Powder Mountain, a city dedicated to innovation, entrepreneurship, the arts and altruism. An hour outside of Salt Lake City, Summit Powder Mountain welcomes a community united by shared values and a sense of creativity. “Five years ago, a close friend called me and insisted that I come see what he and a group of young entrepreneurs wanted to build in a spot called Powder Mountain in Utah. I was a bit hesitant to leave New York, but I ended up jumping at the opportunity. Today I work with extremely brilliant people, who share the same vision and desire to build a community from scratch in the mountains.” As Community director and Neighborhood Advisor at Summit Powder Mountain, Jesse Berne’s job is to liaise daily with Summit’s community. The neighbors - the term used to designate members of the community - share a remarkable benevolence towards the environment, an interest in entrepreneurship and collaboration. Jess Bern opened the doors to this singular city that towers proudly over the state of Utah.
You’ve been with Summit for five years, which makes you one of the organization’s most senior women. How did you get to where you are today?
In August 2012, I packed my bags for what I thought would be a month away. Upon arrival at Summit, I was quickly involved in it all. I was the right hand woman to the Summit founders, designing interior spaces, hosting guests, and even using my love of creating to host arts and crafts and candle-making sessions. As the deadline to finalize the purchase of the mountain approached, we literally called out to the Summit community from the mountain tops about our vision—and they responded. Forty trailblazing community members chose to invest with us, receiving a homesite of equal value to their investment, in one of the most pristine and untouched areas of wilderness, in the largest ski resort in North America. With a giant map and some old school thumb tacks, we parceled out land to our founding investors and their families, creating the first blueprint of our alpine town of the future. It ignited my desire to help build our permanent home. I fell in love with how people were connecting with the mountain. I witnessed what it felt like for a group of people who generally don’t sit still to deeply understand what being rooted could feel like. They were home. Today I am focused on community development and place-making, which means that I connect community members to the right place to call home. I’m lucky to spend my days meeting the most inspiring, heart-centered people — all who share a common interest to make an impact, to live life a bit differently and co-create a place that embodies the values they live by. To date, we have pre-sold over 125 homes on the mountain. Construction of our Main Street, and over 20+ homes, is currently underway.
At Powder Mountain, you have managed to gather thoughtful, open-minded, and kind people with whom you want to spend time. Who are the neighbors, and why do you think all these interesting people are getting involved?
The community is a group of thoughtful disrupters. They are entrepreneurs, artists, authors, thought leaders, environmentalists and educators. We now have over 140 families from all over the globe. Our neighbors understand this is more than just an opportunity to build a home here. It’s been obvious from the beginning that Summit Powder Mountain is unlike any other development project. This isn’t about having the biggest home on the hill. Above all, our neighbors consider who their neighbors will be, how the sun is going to rise and illuminate a room, and how we will respect the land we are building upon in everything we do. Summit Powder Mountain is a place where you not only love thy neighbor but you know thy neighbor. A place where gathering with your neighbors is a regular occasion, and where a conversation around the dinner table can become one of your most memorable encounters or be as intellectually engaging as your most important board meeting.
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