Despite Iconic Lodge Closure, Sun Valley Area Had More Visitors Than Normal This Winter

Jun 17, 2015

For decades railroads advertised their Sun Valley lines all over the country. Boston Public Library has some of these classic advertising posters in its collection.
Credit Boston Public Library / Flickr Creative Commons

After being shuttered for nine months for remodeling, the iconic Sun Valley Lodge reopened this week to great fanfare. But while the areas's most famous hotel was closed over the winter,  local businesses saw one of their best winters in a few years.

Hailey’s chamber of commerce, some small businesses in downtown Ketchum and the marketing organization Visit Sun Valley all say it was a great season.

“We had some good early snow so that definitely set us up well for a strong winter,” Visit Sun Valley President Arlene Schieven says. “It was a very strong season and we had increases in every single month of the winter.”

Schieven says according to counts of hotel rooms rented, Ketchum and Sun Valley saw a 35 percent increase in visitors in November, 12 percent more in December compared to the year before and 16 percent more in January.  

In fact eight of the nine months the lodge was closed  more people visited the resort area than during the same month the previous year. Schieven doesn’t want to imply that the closure had anything to do with more tourists coming to the area. She says it’s just that in the winter there are plenty of rooms available, and people who might have otherwise stayed at the lodge found other accommodations.

She says there are other reasons for the increase in visitors this winter besides the early snow.

“We have more direct flight service to Sun Valley now than we have had in the last few years,” Schieven says. “And that is definitely having an impact. We’ve also had an increase in the amount of marketing dollars that we’ve had [to spend].”

Schieven says if the lodge had been closed in the summer, businesses might have seen a bit of a dip. Despite being famous for skiing, she says, summer is actually the top tourist season in the Wood River Valley.

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