It's hard to imagine that one of North America's snowiest regions remains undeveloped, but in the Pacific Northwest the observation holds true—no mountain villages, no after-hours restaurants or bars, and save for some scattered cabins off access roads, no accommodations within easy striking distance. While some argue that this fosters the mystique of Northwest skiing, many, including evo founder and pro skier Bryce Phillips, feel this is a void worth addressing. That is why this May Phillips will introduce the Pass Life, an innovative ski community at the top of Snoqualmie Pass in Washington.
"If you look around the nation, name a place that close to a city, with that kind of skier traffic, on a [major] road like I-90, that hasn't been developed," says Phillips, 35. "It doesn't exist. That's why it's so strange that this hasn't been done before."
The Pass Life will consist of 50 to 100 condos and lofts with plans for a restaurant, museum, brewery, coffee shop, and other amenities also on tap. Perched on five acres at the base of Summit Central, the development is dense, but Phillips thinks proximity and common areas will promote a true mountain community—and all just an hour from the metropolis of Seattle.
"You quickly realize there's this amazing place…and there's nowhere to go, there's no center," explains Phillips. "As you know with skiing, a major percentage is the camaraderie and the celebration after you're done for the day…and that's something we want to be a catalyst for."
But the Pass Life was just a thought bubble until a stroke of serendipity. A private group owned the multi-acre parcel for 21 years, and hadn't once put it on the market according to Phillips. Prepared to make an offer, he received a call from his agent while mountain biking—the land had come up for sale. "Not only that, it came on the market for the exact dollar that I was going to offer," says Phillips. "I was freaking out."
The land went to contract in 2007, but the market crash kept Phillips from closing until 2011. After getting SEPA entitlement (aka the environmental 'O.K.') from the Washington government, Phillips, a band of like-minded local businessmen, and a team of handpicked builders and engineers broke ground in the fall of 2012.
The buzz was huge, with 11 of the 12 lofts in Phase 1 purchased internally before going public.
"To have a true home on the mountain is incredible," says Brian Hall, senior sales rep at Marker and one of the first loft owners. "I'm excited to bring my kid up in that environment and have them around snow all the time. It's something that I never got the chance to do growing up."
With Phase 1 to 12 lofts, a restaurant, museum, and brewery—scheduled for completion in December—Phillips is already looking forward to building more of the efficient, environmentally conscious living spaces in Phase 2. The lofts offer high ceilings, massive windows, and gas-fired radiant heat, while appealing to mountain dwellers with ski, snowboard, and bike racks and options for a four-person Jacuzzi. And, as opposed to the multi-million dollar units that line most ski resorts, a two-bedroom unit comes in at $327,000.
But Phillips doesn't want attractive real estate to distract from the ski-centric community he dreamed up seven years ago. "Don't lead with the spreadsheet. Lead with the right direction, the right focus, and then make sure it lines up with delivering in a viable way," he explains. "That's been the spirit of the project all along, and hopefully that's what shines through in the end."
For an exclusive look at the Pass Life, go to thepasslife.com. Username: passlife; password: lofts.