The Harriman Era
With the Great Depression dragging down big swaths of the American economy, Averell Harriman, chairman of the Union Pacific Railroad, saw a way to save his railroad: increase passenger rail traffic, particularly out West. And to do that he needed a draw, which he decided would be a destination resort. To that end, he purchased the 4,000-acre Brass ranch in 1936 and built the Sun Valley Lodge on the property. By 1939, he had developed skiing on Bald Mountain, with three single chairs carrying skiers to the top of the mountain and the famed Roundhouse Restaurant offering food, drink and shelter mid-mountain.
The Janss Era
Bill Janss, a member of the 1940 Olympic Ski Team, purchased Sun Valley Resort from the Union Pacific Railroad in 1964. With his passion for skiing, Janss made a great effort to develop the ski runs on Baldy. By the end of his tenure in 1977, Janss had added 29 ski runs and seven chairlifts to the mountain. Importantly, he installed the Plaza lift (no longer in service) and what became known as the Mayday chair, which were instrumental in opening up the Warm Springs side of the mountain and the Bowls area, respectively.
Bill Janss, realizing that much of the infrastructure of Bald Mountain would require an investment that he couldn’t make, sold the resort to Earl and Carol Holding in 1977 for $12 million. As Janss hoped, the Holdings committed to big improvements on Bald Mountain. They added elegant day lodges at River Run, Warm Springs and Seattle Ridge. (They also built an expansive lodge on Dollar Mountain in 2004). In addition, they built the world’s most sophisticated snowmaking system, adding lines every year, and replaced several lifts with new high-speed quad chairs. In 2009, the Holdings put in the Roundhouse Gondola, which has enabled night-time and non-skier access to the historic Roundhouse Restaurant.