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Produced & Maintained by Idaho Mountain Express, Box 1013, Ketchum, ID 83340-1013 
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Copyright © 2003 Express Publishing Inc.
All Rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part in any form or medium without express written permission of Express Publishing Inc. is prohibited. 

Wednesday, June 2, 2004


‘Earl does it right’

Sun Valley Lodge reopens after major remodel

Express Staff Writer

As guests queued up to check in last Friday at the Sun Valley Lodge, an atypical buzz dominated the air.

Maria Rangel, a housekeeper at Sun Valley Lodge, puts the finishing touches on a newly remodeled room on the lodge’s first floor. The lodge reopened Friday, May 28, after a brief closure. Express photos by Willy Cook

Bellhops hurriedly carted piles of luggage through the hallways. Throngs of housekeepers polished the light fixtures and turned down the beds. Even the company brass was out and about, greeting new arrivals and testing water sprinklers at the hotel entrance.

Was this merely the kickoff of the 2004 summer tourist season?

No, the momentous occasion was the grand reopening of the historic 1936 lodge after a major remodel estimated to cost in the millions of dollars.

Part of a surge of new investment by Sun Valley Resort owner Earl Holding into company properties, the project includes a remodel of all 148 guest rooms.

The large-scale project forced company managers to close large sections of the lodge for parts of April and May.

Upon first glance, the first waves of guests checking in Friday, May 28, were impressed by the upgrades to the myriad of rooms in the lodge.

"Earl does it right," one client said after inspecting his updated room on the building’s first floor.

Jack Sibbach, Sun Valley Resort director of marketing and public relations, said approximately half of the lodge’s guest rooms were completely refashioned in April and May.

All told, 65 rooms were made available to guests over the Memorial Day weekend.

Work to remodel the remainder of the rooms is ongoing, Sibbach said. An additional 40 rooms are expected to be completed by June 11.

"By the end of June, we should have all 148 rooms remodeled," Sibbach said.

The project at the lodge—Sun Valley Resort’s flagship property—could help reestablish Sun Valley as one of the premier vacation destinations in the Rocky Mountain West.

A steady stream of guests flowed into the Sun Valley Lodge Friday, May 28. Over Memorial Day weekend, Sun Valley Resort filled 65 remodeled rooms that were made available at the lodge. Express photos by Willy Cook

While Sun Valley has for decades appealed to travelers seeking luxury among a pristine mountain setting, new resort developments in Colorado and other mountainous states are actively seeking to compete for tourist dollars. Last year, a new $225 million Four Seasons Resort opened at Jackson Hole ski area, one of Sun Valley’s primary competitors.

"It’s something that we had to do to keep our existing business and attract new business," Sibbach said.

Indeed, the Sun Valley Lodge remodel project is substantial enough to be used as a selling point for the resort.

In the guest rooms, new carpets, bedding, draperies and valences are displayed in five different color motifs. New beds, couches and custom-made French armoires have replaced much of the older furniture. Flat, plasma-screen Panasonic televisions hang on the walls, which are adorned with new, colored coverings.

Out of view, new air-conditioning and heating systems—as well as high-speed Internet connections—are being linked to every room in the building.

At the grand entrance to the lodge, heated pavers and new landscaping have been installed. The entry’s decorative duck pond has been expanded and adorned with a rock waterfall feature.

Sun Valley Co. has not publicly revealed the cost of the remodel, but the project has been estimated to range into the millions.

The last time Sun Valley Co. completed a major interior remodel at the Sun Valley Lodge was in 1985, when the lobby was redone.

Sibbach said the project has not prompted an immediate hike in room rates at the lodge. Rooms generally range in price from $179 to $489, with rates fluctuating depending on the season, day of the week and quality of the room.

The major remodel project this year follows a multi-million-dollar makeover of the Sun Valley Inn and Limelight Room conference center, commenced in 2002 and completed in 2003.

In addition, Sun Valley Co. is embarking on several new projects that were outlined this spring in the company’s long-term master development plan.

Construction on a new $8 million guest lodge at the base of the Dollar Mountain ski area has already commenced.

Company officials have said the next major project will likely be construction of a new 100- to 150-room hotel and underground parking garage at the site of the existing Sun Valley Village parking lot.


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The Idaho Mountain Express is distributed free to residents and guests throughout the Sun Valley, Idaho resort area community. Subscribers to the Idaho Mountain Express will read these stories and others in this week's issue.