Sun Valley Resort

Sun Valley Resort winter

Sun Valley Resort has continued the tradition of exceeding its guests' expectations

with innovative concepts and food for more than 80 years.

By Bianca Herron

Sun Valley Resort was founded in 1936 as America’s first destination ski resort. Located in Sun Valley, Idaho, the four-season destination has consistently been ranked above other resorts for its wide array of activities including world-class skiing, snowboarding, ice skating, hiking, biking, golfing, fishing, shooting, concerts, shopping, and top-notch dining.

Sun Valley boasts 20 restaurants, as well as three golf courses, The Sun Valley Lodge and Sun Valley Inn, many condominiums and its renowned movie theater, the Opera House.

“We were built by Union Pacific Railway, and they ran a train here from Los Angeles,” Director of Food and Beverage Jim Snyder says. “Sun Valley became famous for the many movie stars that visited it.”

He notes that the musical film “Sun Valley Serenade” starring Glenn Miller, Sonja Henie and John Payne was filmed at the resort in 1941.

Keeping Tradition

After 81 years in the industry, Sun Valley attributes its success to not straying from tradition. Snyder, who has 40 years of experience in the food and beverage industry, understands the importance of keeping the resort’s history alive.

“For me, the key goal is to not do things that will break away from the tradition while still developing products that appeal to new guests to the resort,” Snyder says. “The level of service our guests are accustomed to is at as very high level.”

This is why Snyder, who joined Sun Valley one year ago, is focused on building a team environment among the company’s employees.

Sun Valley Resort“The first thing I did was try to listen and understand,” he says. “I spent time with locals, interviewing people here to find out what Sun Valley meant to them. There wasn’t much to fix, but rather it was more about polishing Sun Valley. Everything was already great.”

Additionally, Snyder serves as a mentor to many of Sun Valley’s younger managers. “I think it’s most important to teach the next generation about the ski and hospitality industry and how to service it,” he says, noting that he trains the managers and, in turn, they train Sun Valley’s employees.

“When it comes to management, we find that retention is the most important thing,” Snyder notes. “We say that we’re in the retention business and not the recruiting business. So once we hire someone, we try to ensure we keep him or her employed with us for a long time.”

He explains Sun Valley has a few guiding philosophies, but the most important is that everyone is responsible for Sun Valley’s success. “I talk about that all the time,” Snyder says. “In food and beverage there are many different moving parts, so you have to practice the philosophy that everyone plays a role and is important.”

Another key philosophy of Snyder’s is that although it’s nice to be important, it’s more important to be nice. He adds Sun Valley has no tolerance for “any fear-based management.”

“It’s about making an emotional connection with employees, who in turn, make that connection with our guests,” Snyder explains. “Every guest should experience a warm and friendly greeting, a thank you and an invitation to return once they leave Sun Valley.”

Staying Innovative

Sun Valley Resort summer

Sun Valley has 20 restaurants including Gretchen’s Restaurant, The Konditorei, The Chocolate Foundry and five large mountain lodges. The resort is currently building The Village Station, an upscale family dining restaurant and remodeling the Ram restaurant, one of the most iconic venues in the ski industry.

“The Village Station venue is going to be fantastic for the resort,” Snyder says. “Its theme gives a nod back to the days of the Union Pacific Railway. People may not remember how Sun Valley started, so we’re trying to embrace that part of our history thematically in the restaurant.”

The new restaurant will be located adjacent to The Ram, Sun Valley’s renowned restaurant that opened in 1937. “The Ram is currently undergoing a major renovation with a new exhibition kitchen,” Snyder explains. “Both concepts will be very beautiful spaces, and will be completed in December.” Three executive chefs work together with Snyder to develop Sun Valley’s menus. “We always pay attention to what the guests are enjoying so as to not remove things that they want,” he notes. “However, we also pay attention to what they aren’t ordering as much and remove those items.”

With The Village Station, Sun Valley aims to add a touch of something new. “Many of our restaurants are more upscale, but this one will be more of a family space,” Snyder says. “The menu will be family friendly, featuring hand pressed burgers, pizzas, fresh pastas and salads. That’s what many families enjoy, so we’re working on those items to make them delicious and from scratch. “Ultimately, we’re going to have fantastic food because we’re studying different items daily,” Snyder continues. “Every week we’re studying different foods until we get what we want right. In the coming week, for example, we’re focusing on salads.”

The goal is to keep Sun Valley’s guests satisfied and coming back for more, Snyder adds. “We practice this philosophy that restaurants are like a three-legged stool,” he says, explaining the three legs are service, food quality and ambiance.

“We want to ensure that all three legs match,” Snyder concludes. “If you have a great ambiance but lousy food and service, you’ll have a wobbly stool. If you have great food and service but a horrible ambiance, you’ll have a wobbly stool. Our job is to always ensure that Sun Valley’s restaurants have three legs that are equal.”

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