Building from Here: Powder Mountain Chalet

Written by
Leta Baker

Building from Here: Powder Mountain Chalet

Written by
Leta Baker

Building from Here: Powder Mountain Chalet

Written by
Leta Baker

Powder Mountain (AKA “Pow Mow” to the locals) is more than just North America’s largest ski mountain, with 8,000+ acres of skiable terrain and 500+ inches of natural snow each year. It’s also  a progressive community of creators and innovators with a strong conservation focus. Since 2013, the resort has been partially owned by the founders of the Summit Series, which unites entrepreneurs and other leaders in events that inspire and connect around the world. 


There’s nothing typical about Summit Powder Mountain’s residents—or their architecture, which eschews rustic log cabins and Alpine chalets and in favor of “heritage modernism” that prioritizes and harmonizes with the natural surroundings. This made it the perfect spot for an entrepreneurial couple that wanted a modestly sized, carefully detailed modern ski cabin for hosting family and friends. They chose their Powder Mountain plot on a ridge at 8,800 feet of elevation and turned to their trusted friend Jo Nagasaka of Schemata Architects in Tokyo, Japan to design the home. 

Jo and his team developed a streamlined concept and aesthetic. Then their client chose us as their Utah-based partner in bringing it to life. Our proximity to Powder Mountain helped us structurally and materially adapt Schemata’s plan to the extreme climate and altitude we know well and ski often. Though what now looks like a relatively simple design on the outside required a lot of thoughtful decision-making and complex problem-solving along the way.

After all, we were building on the side of a preserved mountain ecosystem with strict environmental standards. Consulting with experts on building for snowy conditions on a steep slope. Sourcing materials through supply-chain challenges. Looking for contractors in a sparsely populated area. Discovering a 200-year-old tree in the corner of the plot and moving the footprint of the house as a result. All while collaborating with fellow architects in Japan and clients in San Francisco. Not to mention building during a global pandemic, which required our team to be more involved than expected. However, there was never any question about the overarching theme.

“Schemata set out to create a simple home from basic materials you could find at Home Depot. But the design used these conventional materials in unconventional ways. Everything was utilitarian and off the rack whenever possible. All unadorned and exposed.”—Won Shim, Project Manager, Lloyd Architects

That meant no paint. No drywall. Just raw building materials as they are. From the outside, you see a warm, wooden box nestled within a cool steel superstructure—elevated above the hillside on stilts to minimize contact with the earth and preserve the native vegetation. The flat roof allows snow to drift and melt off naturally, and  provide extra insulation when it stacks up. Below it, the exposed framing, electrical conduit and mechanical systems create the feeling of a house turned inside out. 

The main floor features four bedrooms, three bathrooms and a mudroom for drying off between ski runs. From there, a metal spiral staircase in the atrium swirls up to an open-plan kitchen with satin-polished stainless-steel countertops. The connected dining and living spaces beside it feature floor-to-ceiling anodized aluminum windows looking out onto a wraparound deck with panoramic views of the valley and beyond. 

Below the surface, radiant heating efficiently spreads warmth through the polished concrete floors. Triple-paned windows, as well as strategically placed insulation behind layers of waterproofed, marine-grade ACX plywood walls also help keep things cozy indoors when it’s chilly outside. 

“Cabin” is a bit of an understatement for this striking minimalist retreat of just under 2,000 square feet. It’s a meticulously crafted, energy-efficient, industrial modern home that stands alone. Made to weather, complement and conserve the elements around it. And invite everyone to enjoy the view.

See more photos of the Powder Mountain Cabin