Wednesday, January 25, 2006

The legacy of Earl and Carol Holding

When Earl Holding bought Sun Valley Company in May 1977, he and his wife, Carol, said little about their plans for the nation's first destination ski resort.

That was unusual in a community that had grown accustomed to hearing developers promote the latest greatest plans for the latest greatest subdivision.

Instead of talking about repairing or improving the drought-damaged resort, Mr. Holding did something better.

He did it.

Improvements unfolded slowly. He had truckloads of evergreens planted around the resort's perimeter. He personally planted spreading flower gardens. The landscaping surprised a community trained by experience to expect more interest in carpets of condos, not pods of petunias. It heralded more good things to come.

Sun Valley Company's investment in snowmaking ensured Thanksgiving openings and kept the whole valley in business during some really sketchy snow years. More investment kept Baldy on the cutting edge of the ski business with high-speed quad lifts that thinned lines and brought grooming that is unmatched anywhere.

When Mr. Holding discovered that others had surpassed Baldy's amenities, he spared no expense in building three lavish lodges, arguably the best in the world. The Holdings embraced history as well by keeping the historic Roundhouse in operation. They embraced children, families and beginning skiers by continuing operations on Dollar Mountain and opening Carol's Lodge last year. They restored the Sun Valley Lodge and The Inn to something greater than their historic selves and made them into the warm and comfortable places they are today.

Improvements extended to food as well. Mr. Holding banned cold rubber chicken, and fine fare became the order of the day.

Mr. Holding also embraced the future by welcoming snowboarders to Baldy when other resorts were banning them.

He packed summers with international-caliber Ice Shows. The resort grounds hosted horses, wagons and participants in Ketchum's enormous Wagon Days Parade. The grounds became home to a nationally recognized Arts and Crafts Fair, and, more recently, to the Sun Valley Symphony.

Without Earl and Carol Holding, things could have been much, much different.

Sun Valley could have become a dog-eared, struggling, second-rate resort. Or, it could have been destroyed by bottom-line-driven over-development.

None of that happened because the Holdings clearly love the place.

Sun Valley will carry its historic charm forward for the enjoyment of generations to come. The valley will thank Earl and Carol Holding for this legacy in a celebration dinner on Friday.

A well-deserved thank-you it is.

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