Can Reed Hastings Disrupt Skiing?

On a Monday morning in early March, Reed Hastings, the billionaire co-founder and former chief executive of Netflix, clicked into the bindings on his snowboard and started off down one of the slopes at Powder Mountain, a ski area in Utah’s northeast corner. He quickly veered off the groomed trail into some well-spaced trees, and as he made turns over bumpy snow, you could hear his edges scratch against patches of ice.

“Not as good as I was hoping,” he said at the bottom. “But still not bad.”

Despite the less-than-ideal conditions, Mr. Hastings, 63, seemed to be enjoying the perks that come with his new gig: ski area owner. “I used to snowboard about 10 times a year,” he said. “Now getting out is part of the job.”

Last September, Mr. Hastings, bought a controlling interest in Powder Mountain for an undisclosed sum, inheriting more than $100 million in debt.

A skier dropping off a ridge into an area that backcountry skiers dubbed “Don’t Mention It,” or DMI, because they wanted to keep it secret. It will become part of Powder’s public terrain. Credit…Powder Mountain/Ian Matteson

Not long after, he announced that he was adopting a business model never before tried in the ski industry: He would make 2,000 acres of the mountain’s terrain private, accessible only to people who owned homes in an enclave atop the mountain and who paid a membership fee expected to run between $30,000 and $100,000 per year. The rest of the ski area would remain open to the public, underwritten by the private operation.

The move, he said, was a way to compete with the multimountain passes like Ikon and Epic, without drawing the crowds that come with them. “All of the independent ski areas are looking for ways to survive,” he said. “Going boutique, higher end, private, is probably where they need to go.”

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