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For the week of Apr. 19 through Apr. 25, 2000

Two Sun Valleys?

‘There’s a reason each McDonald’s has the same name’

Express Staff Writer

Brand recognition.

If it works for Starbucks, GAP and Barnes and Noble, why shouldn’t it work for ski resorts?

The world might get the answer to that question, if Utah billionaire Earl Holding, owner of Snowbasin, Utah, decides to change that resort’s name to "Sun Valley."

Yes, Sun Valley.

Holding also owns the Sun Valley resort—in Idaho, that is, in case you’re already confused.

According to Holding’s receptionist in Salt Lake City, he was "on another line" for seven hours straight on Thursday. Notorious for shunning the press, he didn’t return a reporter’s telephone messages.

The resorts’ managers said Holding has been considering the idea for years. They agreed Holding’s plan aims at a two-way benefit: A little of Sun Valley’s rich history rubs off on the nascent Snowbasin; and the name "Sun Valley" gets mentioned 101 million times during the internationally televised 2002 Winter Olympic events being held in Snowbasin.


Still, if the two managers’ guarded comments during telephone conversations are any indication, the plan has questionable appeal.

The Sun Valley Co. manager, Wally Huffman, said the idea has "some charm," but he refused to say whether he endorses the idea.

When asked if he thought tourists might be confused by two resorts with the same name, Snowbasin manager Gray Reynolds said, "I haven’t really thought about it. I really haven’t."

For his part, Jack Sibbach, Sun Valley Co.’s chief of marketing, wasn’t shy about responding during a telephone conversation on Monday. He made a plea for individuality.

"We have a community here," he said. "Maybe that’s selfish. Personally, I hope he doesn’t do it."

Meanwhile, Carl Wilgus, Idaho’s administrator of tourism development and a former Sun Valley marketing assistant, wasn’t at a loss for words.

"Cool!" he said. "It has more than charm. It has consumer impact and viability. There’s a reason each McDonald’s has the same name."

Wilgus said a ski resort is an operation just like a restaurant. Then, anticipating the obvious next question, he declared: "But how do you distinguish between the two?"

Who cares?

"It would certainly have the potential of causing some confusion," Sun Valley’s Huffman said, "and therein lies the advantage."

Translation: Let people in Utah think they’re skiing with the ghost of Hemingway and everybody’s happy.


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