Wednesday, February 8, 2006

Resort: 'Sorry' Wall Street - Journal writer had bad stay

Sun Valley reacts to columnist's allegations

Express Staff Writer

"We're sorry she had a bad experience here, but that is very uncommon. We strive to have 100 percent satisfaction." - Jack Sibbach, Sun Valley Co. spokesman

After the Friday, Feb. 3, edition of The Wall Street Journal hit the streets last week, the Wood River Valley was abuzz with reaction to a column called the "The Finicky Traveler," by Laura Landro.

Titled "Eclipse at Sun Valley," the first-person piece offers an account of Landro's recent trip with her husband to stay at the famed Sun Valley Resort, noted as a onetime favorite of Hollywood stars such as Clark Gable and Gary Cooper.

Without mincing words, the column lambastes the resort, alleging that the service was poor, the décor dull, and the dining less than exemplary. It said the resort's Tyrolean village is "tired." It credits Sun Valley for offering excellent day lodges for skiers but pokes fun at the clientele, seemingly old and lacking in vitality. Inferring that the prices might be too high—Landro said she paid $439 a night for a parlor suite in the Sun Valley Inn—it compares Sun Valley to other resorts in the West, including The Fairmont Chateau Whistler, a posh lodge in British Columbia that is said to charge $694 per night.

"We're sorry she had a bad experience here, but that is very uncommon," said Sun Valley spokesman Jack Sibbach. "We strive to have 100 percent satisfaction."

Sibbach said Sun Valley will not issue a response directly to The Wall Street Journal but is responding to questions from Sun Valley customers.

"We are offering references to guests," he said. "And we have had guests who have called and said they will write to The Wall Street Journal in our support."

As for whether the Journal column is an aberration in ongoing press coverage of Sun Valley, Sibbach said it is.

"Most of the things written about us are very positive," he said. "We're not perfect. We know it. But we strive to be perfect."

Sibbach said Sun Valley officials are particularly displeased with one conspicuous error in the column. Landro says Gretchen's restaurant in the Sun Valley Lodge is "dominated" by a portrait of Carol Holding—wife of Sun Valley Co. owner Earl Holding—which she claims she stared at for 20 minutes while waiting to be served.

In fact, Sibbach noted, the portrait is of Gretchen Fraser, a gold medalist in alpine skiing in the 1948 Olympics who became an ambassador for Sun Valley.

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