Sun Valley through the years: the ‘first U.S. ski resort’

Sun Valley is in the middle of its 75th operational year, and celebrations of its status as America’s first ski resort have been ongoing throughout the season. If you ever wanted an additional reason to visit, you might consider going from March 27 to April 3. This is when the Ski and Snowboard Hall of Fame will be inducting six new members in conjunction with Ski Heritage Week, and the package prices are an incredibly good deal. How about $75 per person per night for lodging plus a lift ticket?

In my own recent visit to Sun Valley, I was able to explore some of its past, as well as some of the future, with Jack Sibbach, the resort’s marketing guru.  The resort has undertaken studies to describe where it has been as a means of planning for where it should be going. Here is how that discussion laid out.

Sun Valley 1.0. 1936-1964. Averell Harriman.  Remote luxury:  a place for escape.
Descriptors: Grand, exclusive, opulent, celebrity, romantic, original, Shangri-la.
There are few places you can visit that make you feel like you are a world apart from the everyday. Maybe it’s the breathtaking views, the big skies, the endless activities, the welcoming culture, the luxurious amenities, or the pampered service — but there’s something different, something special about being here. It’s a visceral experience, one that engages all the senses.

Sun Valley 2.0. 1964-1977.  Bill Janss. Pure mountain experience: an authentic place.

Descriptors: Local, social, active, party, ski, welcoming, pure, soulful.
There’s nothing like pure mountain culture. No pretense, an active life, lots of play. There are only a few places where this lifestyle is still celebrated as much as it is in Sun Valley. It is a place of refuge and a rite of passage for generations of skiers who want to experience everything the mountains have to offer. It is a place where growth and culture have not stripped away the true mountain experience, but instead have enhanced it. It is the original mountain town.

Sun Valley 3.0.  1977-Present. Earl Holding.  Family destination: a place to connect.

Descriptors: Familiar, innocent, lasting, meaningful, open, comfortable.

People live dismantled lives; the very things that provide meaning and purpose are the same things that exhaust and distract us.  We can get so caught up in the daily grind that it becomes difficult to see the big picture. We can find ourselves so overloaded by our responsibilities that we spend less time enjoying the company of people we love.  That is why Sun Valley has been designed to be shared.  From its grand lodges to the limitless activities and events, a place has been created for people to connect with each other.

Sun Valley 4.0. The future. Where social traditions begin.

Descriptors: Stories, timeless, discovery, shared experiences, inclusive, true, sensory.

Whatever happened to traditions, to the events and experiences that have been passed down from generation to generation? It wasn’t that long ago that families structured their vacations, weekends and free time around social traditions.  There is a feeling that society has replaced these traditions with instant gratification and possessions over meaningful connections and experiences.

Perhaps it is time to rethink how we spend our time together and what we pass on to the people we love. That’s why Sun Valley is the home to many and varied personalities, events and traditions. The resort promotes building relationships and creating experiences that can be timeless.  Because when you embrace traditions (old and new alike), you build a place with soul, and that can create customers for life.

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