Back in May, Summit Series—a sort of upmarket Burning Man, or Sun Valley for less important people, depending on your vantage point—raised $40 million from investors like Peter Thiel and Tim Ferriss to buy its very own "Narnian" mountain in Utah. The event organizers are currently hosting their first invitation-only conference there, a four-day hippie-ish affair dubbed Summit Outside.
Besides the FOMO-inducing table for 800 with scenic views, there was also a "swimming hole" where bikini-clad guests lounged in the sun. But not everyone was thrilled with the accommodations, especially considering the price tag. As one frequent guest, who has been attending Summit Series events for years, told Valleywag about the new setting:
"I felt very ripped off. I think there was a large percentage of people who felt similarly. Some people paid $4,000 to sleep in a tent. Others paid $6,000 to sleep in a ghetto RV. Others went for free, which sucks for the people that paid, when they find that out."At past conferences, which have featured guests like Richard Branson and President Bill Clinton, Summit Series spliced more business-oriented panels or philanthropic efforts into its party hardy "Club TED" gatherings. Like the time they took a break from a Miami cruise ship to tag sharks. This year's event, the participant told us, "was a music festival not a conference."
It's not a great idea to leave guests disappointed when, we hear, Summit Series is still trying to raise money for plots of land on Powder Mountain. Previous plots have reportedly sold for between $500,000 to $2 million a piece.
"There were only cold showers, gross bathrooms, and the sleeping arrangements were full on camping, not glamping. If this was what was said upfront, who cares, but I feel like they created expectations of luxury, and it was far from that. Additionally, the staff was flying around on golf carts and 4x4s but all the attendees walked everywhere."
Others guests disagreed. "Summit is 100% worth the ticket price," one attendee emailed Valleywag from Utah.
"I don't drink most kool-aid, but this is the exception—it's such a ridiculously well-organized event and I've made so many business contacts (and friends) through it. The accommodations really weren't THAT sparse...we were in nice, spacious tents that had real beds in them and a housekeeping service came in every day, hotel-style."
Perhaps that conference-goer was willing to overlook this year's slightly more chaotic affair—run by Summit staffers rathe than resort hospitality—because they snagged one of the lower-priced $2,000 tickets, which went fast.Judging by the #SO13 tag, most guests, like Caroline McCarthy and Courtney Boyd Meyers—former reporters who had previously covered Summit Series for CNET and The Next Web, respectively—seemed to be happily Instagramming away.
We reached out to Thayer Walker, Summit's "chief reconnaissance officer," to see if anyone besides the conference speakers got in for free. As the disgruntled tipster told Valleywag:
"I assume some of the 'hot' girls who were there didn't pay 5k too."
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