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Building a Restaurant on Top of a Mountain

Author: South Valley Chamber
Published: January 8, 2018

More than 25 years ago, owners of Snowbird Ski Resort, envisioned a beautiful facility at the top of the tram line that would not only feed and warm skiers but offer unparalleled mountaintop views.

After working with the U.S. Forest Service and numerous other interested parties, work on the building began when the mountain thawed last spring.  “Everyone is really happy to see a restaurant up there,” says Jerry Giles, director of village operations at Snowbird. “It’s been 25 years in the making. Between getting the financing together, permits, planning — this has been a long time coming.”

Logistics are a challenge on the most routine of construction projects, but put that project on the top of Hidden Peak up Little Cottonwood Canyon and the challenge is, well, elevated — literally and figuratively.

Layton Construction found a creative way to overcome transportation challenges. The company hired the owner — Snowbird — as a subcontractor to deliver the steel beams and other construction materials needed at the top of the mountain. The maintenance crew at Snowbird was experienced in traversing the adverse conditions and had the articulated trucking equipment needed to do the job.

“Without the expertise and skill of their drivers, we couldn’t have done this job,” says Dan Mickelson, project manager for Layton. “Snowbird drove up every piece of needed equipment except the concrete pumps and concrete trucks. They are a principal and key subcontractor.”

Driving the concrete mixers thousands of feet up narrow roads fell to concrete subcontractor Alta View Concrete.

“The road is a pretty good road, but it has a lot of switchbacks and you need experienced drivers,” Jerry says.

Crews also had to be patient. With rain or snow, they had to wait for the roads to dry or melt before continuing up the mountain.

The designs of the project were specified to meet the environmental and construction needs. GSBS Architects were quick to answer questions, make adjustments and be a vital part of the team.

For example, the Snowbird building was designed to require fewer welds than alternative design options, making construction easier on the top of a mountain.

Also, the mountain building has a non-reflective glass (a U.S. Forest Service requirement for permitting) and is rated to withstand frequent winds of 140 miles per hour.  “There’s also a unique snowmelt system that will be a great benefit to the building when it’s completed,” says Tang Yang, an architect with GSBS Architects in Salt Lake City.

Layton’s communication model played out on top of the mountain as well.  “The team works really well together,” Yang says. “This is a challenging job in a tight time frame. We tried to be responsive to each other’s needs and questions.”

Snowbird’s involvement as a key subcontractor brought an unusual — and beneficial — feel to the team.  “I’ve never worked on a project where the owner has been such a part of things,” Mickelson says.

The Summit at Snowbird in Snowbird, Utah, boasts fantastic fare and the unique opportunity to look down at the Wasatch Mountains. Building at 11,000 feet is always a challenge, but no one ever complained about the view.

Start Date
May 2014

Construction Completion Date
November 2015

Total Square Footage

Preparation Points: Snowbird

  • Drove Black Jack Road several times with key subcontractors in Summer 2013 to ensure the road was passable with all the different equipment.
  • Used excavation equipment to repair the road following the snow/run-off season and used equipment throughout the summer to maintain road.
  • Snowbird built additional hold-downs and anchor points on their haul trucks to carry steel beams up to 50-feet long up the road.
  • Snowbird drivers visited the steel plant to inspect the steel and plan for transport.
  • Project managers inspected snow levels and peak conditions in Spring 2014 to plan exact start dates.
  • Laid out site and demolition in a way that allowed public trail and mountain vista access