Change isn’t easy for some people. Bryce Phillips knows this, so when the 36-year-old broke ground on a mixed-use real estate project at the untouched base of Summit West in September 2012, he braced himself for the backlash. “I thought I’d wake up one morning to picketers in my lawn,” he says. But reaction to the Pass Life—his forthcoming residential development in Snoqualmie Pass that will include a restaurant, brewery, and upwards of 70 lofts—surprised him. “I’ve just been taken back by how many people are supportive of what we’re doing.”
That support was nice, especially considering that this is his first foray into construction. Phillips has spent the last 15 years chucking himself off cliffs as a sponsored big-mountain skier, a passion that bled over into his professional life. In 2001, at the height of his skiing career, he bought a bunch of the previous year’s skis at the end of the season, then sold them online out of his Wallingford living room. Having gotten in early and virtually cornered the market, he turned a profit almost immediately, and his sales grew 1,000 percent in the first three years. That little side project became Evo, now one of the largest online snow sports retailers in the world.
The transition to developing property was slightly rockier. Phillips actually signed a contract on the five-acre parcel of land that would become the Pass Life all the way back in 2007, right after it went on the market. But when the economy crashed, he lost his funding and the deal fell through. He got another shot in 2011, and this time he closed. Phillips says the financial downturn made him streamline his vision for the development, but if the initial phase of lofts set for move-in this December are any indication, he didn’t have to rein in Seattle-based Johnston Architects too much. The first 12 units are sleek, modern takes on the classic chalet, with crazy-high ceilings and a 4-Star Built Green sustainability rating.
In other words, the project was no small undertaking. So it’s worth noting that after a four-year hiatus from the CEO role at Evo, Phillips just returned in July. Which was not long after he and his wife had their first son. But Alpental is his backyard ski resort—it’s where he hopes to teach that little guy to ski—so he almost felt a responsibility to be the one to develop it. “This place had the body without the heart,” he says. “Someone needed to build a center.”
This article appeared in the November 2013 issue of Seattle Met.