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Sun Valley Joins Small Boom In Resort Renovations

Sun Valley Resort
Artist's rendition of the completed Sun Valley Lodge.

Ski season is now in full swing, but the lodge at one of the region’s most famous destinations is closed for the season.

The owners of Idaho's Sun Valley Resort are hoping a major renovation will keep them competitive among wealthy travelers. Sun Valley’s reputation as a destination among the jet-setting class goes back decades. But the iconic 1936 lodge hasn’t kept pace with the area’s star-studded image.

So, the owners tearing out everything down to the exterior walls, and turning 148 rooms into 94 more luxurious ones.

“We are making the bathrooms about four times the size. And making more suites with fireplaces in (them),” Sun Valley spokesman Jack Sibbach said. “It’s more of a rebirth than a remodel.” They’re also adding a 20,000-square-foot spa.

Resort industry adviser Greg Cory said now that Americans are traveling more, the entire resort industry is seeing a resurgence in construction.

“All the planners have gotten busier just within the last year,” he said. “Landowners are starting to dust off plans they had six, seven years ago.”

Renovations are in progress or recently completed in Park City, Utah, in Aspen and Vail, Colorado, and in Jackson Hole, Wyoming.

The Sun Valley Lodge is set to re-open in June, just in time for an annual conference that brings modern-day celebrities like the heads of Facebook, Google and Microsoft.

Prices listed on the Sun Valley website show the new suites going for around $400 a night next summer, to as much as $4,000 dollars a night during the 2015-16 ski season.

Cory noted the Sun Valley Resort may have local competition in the future in the high-end market. The Aspen Ski Corp. has been eyeing the area for a new hotel.

One motivator is that United Airlines now has direct flights to nearby Hailey, Idaho, from Denver and San Francisco. A survey by the Fly Sun Valley Alliance shows Seattle, San Francisco, Los Angeles and New York are the top visitor markets, at least by air.

And Cory says those skiers are demanding more out of their experience.

“(There’s) a higher level of expectation in terms of everything from the quality of coffee at the base to the quality of the accommodations,” Cory said.