The majority owner of Utah's Powder Mountain has announced a new direction in which a portion of the ski and snowboard terrain will be available only to resort homeowners -- a one-of-a-kind arrangement in the American West.
Reed Hastings, co-founder of Netflix who took over control of Powder Mountain (8,464 a., 3,346 vert.) this year, said that income from real estate sales that helps pay for mountain operations has slowed enough that he decided to pivot to a "sustainable path for staying uncrowded and independent."
A major part of that plan is to set aside three existing chairlifts -- Mary's and Village, plus a new high-speed in the Raintree sector -- for homeowner-only skiing and riding. The move is aimed at jump-starting the resort's real estate portfolio, which has long targeted the ultra-wealthy who treasure their privacy.
Public access with remain for the vast majority of the mountain's 8,000-plus acres that can be had via chairlifts, snowcats, shuttle buses and hiking. Daily ticket sales will remained capped, with an Indy Pass add-on as Powder's only multi-mountain pass.
Since opening in 1971, iconoclast "Pow Mo" has been a secret powder stash above Ogden that harnessed all manner of transport -- from modern to archaic -- to get powder hounds into the largest inbounds acreage of any resort in the U.S. It was the first Utah mountain to allow snowboarding, and has had minimal grooming and snowmaking.
It sits on private land, which allows development -- including this singular private-public access -- without federal review. Skiers and riders enter Powder at one of three base areas along the top ridge. The main base, Summit Village, includes overnight lodging, residential sites and retail. The village's name mirrors former owners from Summit Institute, who envisioned a social and philanthropic think-tank retreat -- a "Davos for millennials" -- conveniently located between two towns with literary antecedents: Eden and Paradise.
Since they took over in 2013, the billionaire-dominated ownership hosted intellectual gatherings, put in a couple of new lifts and carved out housing lots. But that vision soured lately so, at least for the time being, Hastings has focused more on the mountain's original mission: operating a huge, powder-stash ski and snowboard mountain and resort in northern Utah.
Located above Albuquerque, Sandi Peak has been closed since 2021, due to meager snowfall and a labor shortages, according to the previous operators.
Mountain Capital Partners announced it will take over operation of the 300-acre mountain with its 1,700 vertical-foot, two fixed-grip chairs and modest base area. Sandia Peak will join the Power Pass family that has been Mountain Capital's multi-mountain season pass since 2012.
The new operators did not announce any other changes for the time being, but New Mexicans and visitors should expect on-mountain upgrades -- such as snowmaking and grooming -- as is the company's wont when it buys a new property. The mountain currently has about 30% coverage of snow guns.
The nation's third-longest tramway opened in 1966 to bring sightseers and skiers to the 10,378-foot-high Sandia Crest. The tramway and a ridgetop restaurant will remain in the hands of previous operators. An access road comes up the east side -- about 40 minutes' drive from the downtown of the Duke City.
Getting enough snowfall to open has always been a tricky proposition for Sandia Peak operators. Winter storms tend to hug the northern mountain ranges and bypass Sandia. Also the mountain rises out of the high desert where snowfall is skimpy, at best. Since 2014, only three seasons have had more than 10 days when the snow fell -- topped by 2019-2020 when a 51-inch base built up.
Sandia Peak becomes the third New Mexico holding for the Durango-based partnership, joining Sipapu near Taos and Pajarito above Los Alamos. Similarly small day-trip resorts in its portfolio include Colorado's Ski Hesperus, Utah's Nordic Valley, Nevada's Lee Canyon, and Oregon's Willamette Pass.
Others under the Power Pass are flagship Purgatory outside Durango, Arizona Snowbowl above Flagstaff, Brian Head in southern Utah, and Valle Nevado in Chile, and a bike park in Austin, Texas.
Sandia Peak has nurtured New Mexico skiers since 1936, when the Albuquerque Ski Club put up a rope tow and opened it La Madera -- the first ski area in the state. In 1958, a partnership led by international hot-air balloonist Ben Abruzzo bought ski area. The Arbuzzo family still operates Ski Santa Fe, about an hour north of Albuquerque.