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Sun Valley Serenade

September 2, 2014

My wife and I closed another hotel this weekend. 

Well, I guess the Sun Valley Lodge was going to shut down for 9-month renovation, whether we stayed or not, but we were among the last guests to see the Lodge in its current incarnation.

The spa and apartment units

The spa and apartment units

The 124-room, 78-year old symbol of high-end fun in the snow will be converted into a 96-room playground for the rich and famous.

Big changes planned inside

Big changes planned inside

The Lodge will renovate every room, except one, expanding them to accommodate fireplaces, and updated bathrooms which will include Jacuzzi tubs and modern amenities.

The truth is the renovation is long overdue. While the Lodge, which bills itself as America’s first destination ski resort, is the priciest in the Ketchum-Sun Valley area, it fares poorly when compared to many budget priced hotel rooms. Where rooms are larger, and bathroom space for two people often included double sinks.

The Lodge was built in 1935 by the Union Pacific Railroad and has only had three owners. It’s only relatively recently that the current owner Carol Holding, who owned Sinclair Oil  with her late husband Earl, made the resort and the surrounding area into a year-round destination.

The Holdings also own a number of other five-star resort properties in the Western United States

Before Mr. Holding, began marketing the location to events such as the annual Allen and Co. technology and media conference, most of the private jets at the Blaine County airport, only came during ski season. Now it’s not unusual to see folks like Arnold Schwarzenegger, Mariel Hemmingway, or tech moguls wandering downtown Ketchum year round.

A Labor Day visitor

A Labor Day visitor

California’s former governor was there over the recent Labor Day weekend, with his current young honey, but that’s a story for another post.

For the last four months the Lodge has been the site of a major addition to accommodate a new spa and fitness center as well as several 4-bedroom apartment units designed for families or wedding parties.

You can find more details about the renovation at the Lodge website but you won’t be able to stay there until June of 2015 – just in time for the Allen and Company gathering.

A true sign of the year-round nature of the Lodge business, is the fact that they are closing for the what used to be high-season for The Valley ski industry.

Until next summer, you can stay at the Sun Valley Inn, the sister hotel barely 100 yards away, or at any of the many condominiums managed by the Lodge.

In general, locals are thrilled and seem genuinely happy that a new generation of the Holding family is taking an active interest in managing the mini-empire. Carol Holding, is in her 80’s, and has been largely a ceremonial leader since her husband died in 2013 but her son, Stephen, has apparently taken over and as the press release says, wants to guarantee another 75 years of ownership.

Ernest and Mary Hemingway

Ernest and Mary Hemingway

By the way, that lone room that will not be renovated? You guessed it – room 206, which hosted Ernest Hemingway and his lover in 1939, as ‘Papa’ finished “For Whom the Bell Tolls.” Current hotel employees say the room has never been fully renovated and includes the original claw-foot tub- and can still be rented – although the plumbing apparently clogs frequently.

But the isolated cabin, where Hemingway lived during his Sun Valley years, and where he died, is on private land and not open to the public.

If my wife and I probably win the lottery by next year-  we’ll be  able to afford the rates at the new Lodge, since  the area is truly a beautiful destination any time of the year and we look forward to returning for the annual Sun Valley Wellness Festival next May.

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Today’s Rose – plus

October 16, 2010

Filed under: Gardening,Photos — Tags: — admin @ 12:54 pm

Weather has been warm in Northern CA and my roses have been enjoying a late flourish. As the weather cools and New Englanders can look at fall foliage we get to enjoy color in our own way.

Today’s rose:  and  two bonus orchids

Sexy Rexy

An orchid pas de deux

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Today’s Rose-Summer Passion

October 7, 2010

Filed under: Gardening — admin @ 10:53 am

That’s all,  just today’s favorite. It’s fall and there are fewer blooms but they still bring beauty to my world. Enjoy… it’s called Summer Passion.

Summer Passion

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Gardening as Coaching

September 27, 2010

Filed under: Coaching,Gardening — admin @ 7:13 am

My neighbor planted a new rhododendron in his front yard recently. It’s probably not a big deal to most of you but to a gardener like me I couldn’t help but notice that it was exactly the wrong type of plant for the location.

Without going all green on you I would just note that a rhododendron has shallow roots that don’t like to dry out. So if you’re looking for  a maintenance free garden, planting one in the bright sun where it will need to be watered almost daily during the summer,  is just a recipe for disaster.

It’s a lot like coaching, every client is different and requires a different coaching method. In a similar vein most coaches have their favorite tool just like gardeners, but you have to know when it doesn’t fit the task at hand.

For plants you have to know how much sun , water and what kind of soil is appropriate. For coaching clients you have to know how your client communicates, how they want to be treated and what they expect from the coach.

Some clients have to talk through issues while others need to write a journal and others just want to listen to alternatives. Finding what communication method is right and what filters affect their view of the world might be the toughest job a coach has.

Unfortunately, unlike gardening, you can’t just look up your client in a gardening book and find out how they need to be handled. But if you are patient and listen you have a pretty good chance of opening up the lines of communication and helping your client thrive. Just like your plans.

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Picking a Favorite Flower

September 26, 2010

Filed under: Gardening — admin @ 8:15 pm

Gardeners, like parents, are not supposed to have favorites. After all, I don’t want to offend all the other plants – they might stop growing.

OK, maybe they wouldn’t stop, but I just know something bad would happen. My garden happens to have a section for perennials (those that bloom every year) a section for my 100 rose plants and a shade garden for rhododendrons and, later in the year, tuberous begonias.

Alpine Sunset

The rhododendrons bloom first in the spring – starting in January in California. Around Mothers’ Day the roses kick in, exploding like fireworks on the Fourth of July and then the perennials begin to bloom, each leisurely taking center stage when their turn comes.

The last act is always the begonias because they need warmth, which in this part of northern California we don’t get until later in the season. Just about when the folks in the northeast are watching the leaves turn.

In its season each plant is my favorite. When all 100 roses bloom together, it’s impossible to pick a favorite, every day another one is a its peak. This year the begonias had a tough time since it never got warm enough to get them off to a good start. But the roses began with their usual flourish and have continued. This week my favorites (don’t tell them) are Alpine Sunset and Sonia.

There are only a few blooms on each but they are just perfect examples of their species. I can’t wait to see who’s next.

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Seasonal Writing

August 10, 2010

Filed under: Book Review,Gardening,Uncategorized — admin @ 3:54 pm

When I finished reading Michael Pollan’s “Second Nature” I wished there were more seasons.

Pollan, who is now famous for telling Americans what they should eat, began his book-writing career with a work on gardening, and like many others he used Winter, Spring, Summer and Fall to keep things organized.

I just wish there were some extra seasons so he would have written more. I’m probably biased since I enjoy digging in the dirt and my career in journalism matches Pollan’s.

If you have read any of Pollan’s other works you will recognize the meticulous research which backs up his simple but eloquent style. The book traces his own life in gardening from his grandfather who loved to garden, to his father who had no use for even mowing his front lawn, to Pollan’s own love affair with a farm he owned in Central Connecticut over twenty years ago.

Along the way we learn where the American passion for green lawns began, where weeds come from and why there are so many rose varieties.

My favorite chapter is Pollan’s analysis of the seed and flower catalogs that every gardener gets. Pollan has more than a little fun explaining catalog hierarchy.

Pollan also dispenses a fair number of gardening tips although they’re often hidden among the philosophical underpinnings of compost.

About my only criticism, from a California perspective, is that some of the gardening advice doesn’t really apply to the conditions we have here, but if you have a green thumb or just an interest in why things grow, “:Second Nature’ is worth a read.

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Time for a Little Dirt

July 29, 2010

Filed under: Gardening,Uncategorized — admin @ 2:22 pm

It was interesting this week to read the New York Times article pointing out the steps botanical gardens around the country are taking trying to lure visitors. It seems the public has lost interest in gardening.

I say it was interesting, because I’m just finishing up Michael Pollan’s first book “Second Nature.” I’ll do a formal book review when I’m done but I have to say that Mr. Pollan and I probably don’t need anything extra to coax us into visiting anyplace that defines itself as botanical.

Pollan is better known these days as an expert on what we should or should not eat, but “Second Nature” displays his roots as an avid horticulturalist. No pun intended.

I have over 100 rose plants in my back yard and while my gardening area would qualify as tiny, by most standards, I’ve also managed to squeeze in a section devoted to rhododendrons, as well as a small corner filled with perennials. This doesn’t count the front where day lillies and iris hold court.

Most popular question I get asked is, which is my favorite. I give the same answer you’d give about your children – they all are. Each has its day when it’s just perfect and each can be frustrating a hell.

I don’t mind admitting that I have a green thumb, always have and always will. I’m told I get it from my grandfather, but all I know is that everywhere I’ve ever lived flowers and vegetables have followed. I make no apologies for spending a Saturday in my garden while the rest of my neighbors hire people to make their yard look nice.

Others see gardening as a chore, I find it relaxing and immensely rewarding – even if no one notices.

I browse my local garden center, just like my wife shops at Nordstrom’s. Some days I’ll find something to bring home and other days I just look. You can always find room for a new plant.

I’m sure I’ll have some future posts about my roses or even my orchids but for now it’s back to the garden.

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