Saturday, July 20, 2019
Sun Valley Completes New Housing for Its ‘Most Important Guests’
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The four-level Aspen and Alpine buildings boast 90 percent efficient condensing boilers and water heaters.
 
Tuesday, June 25, 2019
 

STORY AND PHOTOS BY KAREN BOSSICK

Fourteen words on the wall behind the cashier’s desk at The Place serve as the driving force behind three just-completed projects for Sun Valley employees.

“Earl and I have always said that our employees are our most important guests,” says the quote attributed to Carol Holding, who purchased Sun Valley Resort with her husband Earl in 1977.

That sentiment helped provide the blueprint for two new buildings designed to house as many as 588 employees and the makeover of the employee cafeteria in Sun Valley Village with food on par with other Sun Valley restaurants.

 
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The fitness facility is open 24 hours a day seven days a week.
 

“It shows Sun Valley Resort is committed to its most valuable investment, which is its employees,” said Jim Snyder, director of food and beverage for the resort.

Workers are still finishing up landscaping and some other outdoor touches, such as an employee soccer field and basketball court on a 16-acre parcel near the Horseman’s Center.

But the dorm-style Aspen dorm opened there in December 2018 at the end of a paved walkway leading from Sun Valley Village. And the Alpine building just opened its doors.

“It’s amazing how much Sun Valley has spent on housing,” said Justin Highhouse, manager of culture and development for the resort. “Providing new housing like this will go a long way when it comes to  employee satisfaction.”

 
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Residents can avail themselves of a common kitchen.
 

The Aspen building boasts 111 rooms. There are 91 four-resident rooms and 20 two-resident rooms, allowing for 348-464 residents at any given time.

Currently, 280 employees live there with the number expected to increase in winter when Sun Valley Resort employs 1,863 employees at its peak. The resort employs 1,500 during summer.

Multi-purpose lounges covered with attractive vinyl wallpaper and carpet laid in replaceable squares  offer a quiet space to plug into high-speed wireless internet or watch flat-screen TVs.

“Our biggest complaint with the old dorm was that there were not enough outlets,” said Highhouse “This building supports Wi-Fi for each resident.”

 
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The patio between the Aspen and Alpine buildings is expected to become a bustling place once landscaping and other amenities are in place.
 

The basement in the Aspen building holds a fitness center with free weights, treadmills, stationary bikes, Stairmasters, yoga mats, medicine balls and other state-of-the-art equipment.

An adjacent laundry that’s free for residents provides 10 wash machines and double the number of driers since it takes longer to dry clothes than wash them. There’s ski storage and even trash receptacles hidden behind a door in the middle of the hallways so residents don’t have to take their trash outside during winter.

The resort provides vacuums and cleaning supplies for residents, as well.

The Alpine offers 62 apartment-style rooms with one to two beds per rooms. It can accommodate up to 124 employees, including families.

 
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Sun Valley representatives checked out employee housing at other resorts ad they designed theirs, which includes lounges with Wi-Fi and flat screen TVs.
 

It is considered a quieter building for year-round employees, whereas the Aspen is considered the more energetic seasonal building.

“Until recently, we didn’t allow drinking in the dorms. With the new buildings, we realized that employees may want to have a glass of wine in the privacy of their own room,” said Highhouse.

Both buildings boast energy conservation features, such as thermally-insulted low-e windows, interior window treatments to prevent heat gain or loss, high-efficiency hydronic VRF heating and cooling systems, variable speed drives on fan and pump motors, high-performance LED light fixtures, stairwell lights that dim when there’s no detected activity and vacancy off sensors in dorm rooms,

The buildings boast 195 solar photovoltaic panels expected to generate 103,000 kWh per year, saving Sun Valley Company about $7,200 per year at current rates. The company anticipates the system will pay for itself in nine years.

 Exterior buildings and pathway light are automatically controlled with timers and sensors.

While there are no in-room kitchens, employees can grill on commercial barbecues outside. And Highhouse is putting together a library of books containing microwave recipes, as well as microwave cooking workshops.

“You’d be amazed at what you can cook in a microwave,” he said.

Highhouse is also putting together group hikes, karaoke, open mic nights and other activities to foster friendships among the residents. And he hopes to strengthen employees’ connections to the community with events like a fair where local organizations like NAMI-WRV can apprise employees of what they do.

Rooms rent for $15 a day or $210 for every two weeks, with utilities included.

“Affordable housing is a huge challenge in resort towns. So, we appreciate that the Holdings have invested in this,” Highhouse said. “Just recently 10 of the units our employees were staying at in town were taken off the market so they moved in here. You don’t typically find housing of this quality and affordability in other resorts so we hope it will allow us to attract more domestic workers.”

Karri Adams a Sun Valley employee from California, works at the newly refurbished employee cafeteria. She, too, is grateful for the attention given to the employee housing and cafeteria.

The Place offers more food choices than it did before, she says. And her room at the new dorm is larger than the one in the old Moritz Hospital, which was built in 1961 and is slated to be torn down in October.

In fact, she and others note, the new employee dorm rooms are larger than many college dorm rooms.

“The new dorm is like living in an apartment,” she said. “I have one other roommate, instead of two. And I can open the windows and control the heating and air conditioning to suit me.

“They’ve given us a mini fridge/freezer, a closet and dresser and a nice wall mirror—you can’t go wrong with a wall mirror! And there are tons of sign-up sheets for everything from game night to movie night and even a microwave class!”

 

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