SUN VALLEY — This historic ski resort has a long list of storied traditions, not the least of which includes its origins as America’s first destination ski resort created by Union Pacific Railroad.
Now, its new railroad-inspired restaurant is on the fast track as construction workers nailed down the finishing touches on the Village Station before it opened Saturday.
“I can bet in the next 48 hours this’ll be done,” said Mike Fitzpatrick, Sun Valley’s director of marketing as he watched an army of workers cleaning construction dust off window panes and screwing in electrical insulation-inspired lights.
The new restaurant is built on the site of the former Bald Mountain Pizza in Sun Valley Village. At one time, that site served as a barn to shelter horses that would come into the village through a drive-in that used to sit under the clock tower of the Challenger Inn, now the Sun Valley Inn.
They would turn around right in front of where the new restaurant sits, said Fitzpatrick.
Sun Valley Resort officials expect the Village Station to become Grand Central Station for guests and locals seeking a menu of hearty burgers, pizza and pasta in a casual atmosphere with craft beers on tap and four large-screen TVs for sports fans.
“We expect it to become a game changer,” said Kelli Lusk, Sun Valley’s public relations manager.
Those stepping inside will come face to face with a bar that evokes the feel of stepping into a train station. Décor is inspired by the first chairlift that Sun Valley introduced to the world in 1936 when it opened.
A Solari board, inspired by the train station boards that announced departures and arrivals, will rotate through messages telling diners about events going on in Sun Valley.
And a Takeout Station will allow hungry patrons to order chicken piccata, lasagna, pizza and other grab-and-go dinners if they don’t want a sit-down dinner.
“Getting the new menu ready has taken a lot of time but I think it will be a killer,” said Jim Snyder, Sun Valley’s head of food and beverage.
The Village Station is part of a larger construction project in a resort that seems to have a never-ending list of projects going on to keep it on the cutting edge of the resort world.
The floor at the venerable Ram Bar and Restaurant next door to the Village Station has been refurbished for the first time since it was laid in 1937. And its heavy oak doors, which had been covered with several layers of paint, have been blasted with walnut shells to restore them to their original finish.
The entire kitchen has been moved out front where diners will be able to watch chefs work underneath custom made copper hoods.
“Bringing the cooking closer to the guests will enhance the experience,” Fitzpatrick observed.
Construction is also finishing up on the Sun Valley Inn, which sits next to The Ram.
The men’s and women’s restrooms across the hall from the Inn’s Limelight Room and other conference rooms have been enlarged, offering more stalls. The old reception desk has been turned into a meeting room and check-in moved to a desk to the side of the entryway.
And 25 rooms on the Inn’s north wing have been turned into 21 suites sporting large flat-screen TVs and elegant bathrooms with marble countertops and floors, attractive wood features and elegant trim around the mirrors. A few of the rooms even have balconies looking out onto Baldy.
The rooms will be pressed into service right away as Sun valley Resort’s guest roster fills up for the Christmas holidays. It doesn’t hurt that Sun Valley’s newest nonstop flight from Chicago makes its inaugural landing at Friedman Memorial Airport on Dec. 23.
The flight joins nonstop flights from Oakland, Los Angeles, Portland, Denver, Seattle and Salt Lake City.
“We’re letting people know we have snow—not many resorts have snow right now,” said Fitzpatrick. “We’re opening Seattle Ridge on Bald Mountain this weekend—right on schedule. And, of course, we have so many other things to do here, including ice skating, movies, and Nordic skiing up north. We’re going into the holiday season full bore.”