Why Sun Valley?

redbarbAt the end of the railroad tracks that led to the founding of the Sun Valley resort, the Wood River Valley is a haven in the mountains of central Idaho—a destination for enjoyment of its natural beauty and for inspiration and learning. Surrounded by five mountain ranges, the Wood River Valley is home to the country’s first destination ski resort, internationally recognized arts and theatre, award-winning educational institutions pioneering the teaching of grit*, a wholly community-funded library, a Nordic Skiing Olympic Training Center and world-renowned rivers and trails. Sun Valley’s location, culture, natural resources and the people who call it home are what make it special.

At the same time, the Wood River Valley faces looming threats from wildfires and earthquakes, water scarcity, energy unreliability, and erratic weather patterns including changes in snowfall. The very aspects that make the Sun Valley area so special—its relative isolation, its high-desert climate and its heavy economic reliance on the recreation sector–also leave the region vulnerable from an economic, energy and environmental standpoint:

  • Tourism visits and vacation home purchases are luxury items, highly elastic, falling off rapidly during economic downturns; tourism preferences are also changing in response to evolving values (economic);
  • The relative isolation of the community makes transportation availability particularly important for tourism, food, health care and other goods and services (economic);
  • The limited energy sources due to location and long-term under-investment leave the community highly vulnerable to power outages (energy);
  • The local economy relies heavily on the quality of its environment and weather (including snowfall) for its recreation-driven economy (environmental);
  • Water is scarce in the high-desert ecosystem yet water is vital to local agriculture, river recreation and snowmaking (environmental);
  • The proximity of buildings to dry sagebrush and vulnerable forests (e.g., due to climate-change driven drought and beetle kill standing dead trees) make fires a major threat (environmental).

These factors can negatively impact business revenues, visitor numbers, the ability to attract residents and investment, and overall quality of life. The August 2013 Beaver Creek Fire directly cost the economy over $40 million, a nearly 23% loss for the year. (Source: Sun Valley Economic Development.) At the October 2014 Sun Valley Economic Summit, participants identified resilience as a critical priority to protect and enhance the region’s well-being. The residents, businesses and organizations of the Wood River Valley are dedicated to the area’s prosperity and well-being and recognize that resilience is critical to both.

From the Native Americans, miners and ranchers of Sun Valley’s early days to the Union Pacific engineers who built the world’s first chairlift to those who challenge themselves in its mountains and rivers today, Sun Valley is about history and tradition, grit* and perseverance, well-being and happiness. The risks, values and assets of Sun Valley make it the perfect home for an institute dedicated to resilience.


*Professor Angela Duckworth popularized the concept of Grit in 2013: “People with grit are people who can overcome stress and use failure as a means to achieve their ultimate goals.”