Jackson Hole's Newest Billionaire Hideaway: Caldera House
Republished from Forbes Magazine, November 2018
When the developers of Caldera House set out to build it, they knew they would be opening it as a hotel, but they also designed it as the ultimate slope-side getaway for themselves. They certainly had the means and the taste level to do so: The visionary for the project, Wesley Edens, is a cofounder of the Fortress Investment Group and a co-owner of the Milwaukee Bucks (and longtime visitor to Jackson Hole), and his friends and partners in Caldera House are also successful businessmen.
Somehow they managed to get their hands on some prime real estate, adjacent to the tram up to the ski slopes of Jackson Hole Mountain resort. Then they spent six years and more than $100 million on Caldera House’s design, construction and infrastructure. (General manager Pamela Lenci told me the advice they gave her was simply “Make it good.”) The result is the ultimate modern chalet.
Each of the eight suites is more like a self-contained home than a hotel suite, with a lavish kitchen and living and dining areas in addition to the bedrooms. Half of them are 5,000 square feet with four bedrooms each, plus a copper hot tub on the terrace, and the rest are 1,500 square feet with two bedrooms. Each is different—some were designed by the L.A. firm Commune and others by local outfit Carney Logan Burke—but in general, their aesthetic blends Scandinavian style with American craftsmanship, plus a few well-deployed Western touches, like the saddle leather in the elevator or a headboard.
Another well-known “local hero” involved with the project is celebrated chef Paulie O’Connor, who helmed Old Yellowstone Garage for a number of years in a different location before shuttering it. The Caldera House investors helped him bring it back, and now he’s here turning out modern Italian classics using unusual techniques and the best seasonal produce. It’s hard to go wrong with the New York-style pizza or the lasagna.
Some of the other local legends involved in creating the hotel’s “experiences,” like guided hikes or backcountry skiing, include a National Geographic photographer and gold-medal-winning Olympic skier. Edens says his vision for Caldera House was collaborating with homegrown talent instead of importing it, although it helps that there’s a lot of important talent already here.
The clientele, though, may be another story. Although it’s only just now heading into its first real winter season (last year it was in a soft launch), the hotel and especially its membership program has already caught on. As soon as they were announced, memberships for its Alpine Club were immediately snapped up by big names from New York to Silicon Valley. They don’t come cheap—but for a smaller investment, Caldera House is a fine place to live the billionaire life for a short while.