Sunday, May 19, 2019
Warm Springs Lodge Rises from the Ashes
Workers install pavers as night falls.
Sunday, November 11, 2018


As soon as the flames were out, Jim Snyder sloshed through several inches of water to survey the damage done to the iconic Warm Springs Lodge.

 “We watched as it burnt for a long time,” said Snyder, who oversees 19 restaurants for Sun Valley Resort. “And it quickly became apparent that water had caused much of the damage--they used two million gallons of water trying to get the fire out.

Workers moved immediately to pump the water out, Snyder said.

A flat screen TV sits in front of the new 18-seat bar.

“Then we had to bring giant fans in to dry it out, and that took a few weeks. And, about the time we got that done, it started raining and snowing again and, without the roof, everything got wet and we had to repeat the process all over again.”

That’s behind Snyder and Sun Valley Resort now.

Now construction workers are on overdrive, installing copper hoods with easier-to-read digital signage and preparing to unpack boxes containing new ski lockers. Some are braving the evening chill to replace red patio pavers that had been broken by heavy fire engines driving over them. And others are busy installing shiny new granite counters in the restaurant as they push to have the lodge reopened by Christmas.

Snyder says what was an unfortunate tragedy has become an opportunity to improve on an already beautiful venue.

Jim Snyder ended up getting new refrigerators in the dry storage room where the fire burned its hottest.

“We’re very excited about the new lodge,” said Snyder. “When it first opened, we had people come from all over to check it out, and the lodge became a model for other ski resorts all over the country. Now I think people will want to come and check it out again.”

The new version of the Warm Springs Lodge will feature an expanded dining room and serving area.

Sun Valley Resort has taken out a side door and moved the SnowSports desk. And this new configuration has allowed it to add more than a hundred new seats to the dining area, boosting seat capacity from 164 skiers and boarders to 282.

That’ll be a boon especially during ski races.

Copper hoods above the restaurant counter will feature easy-to-read digital signing.

A small bar that was tucked away on the side of the dining room has been expanded to 18 seats and moved in front of the large picture window offering unparalleled views of skiers and boarders coming down Warm Springs.

The island counter in the middle of the restaurant has been deleted.

The wood-fired pizza corner will be coupled with a small salad addition for those who want salad with their pizza. There will be a carvery, a pho station and another salad station featuring a variety of salads, including a new chicken and avocado salad and, perhaps, the Mother Earth Salad that proved so popular at Seattle Ridge Lodge last winter.

And the restaurant will feature a new coffee nook dubbed Konditorei Warm Springs, which will feature Lizzy’s award-winning coffee and the top selling items at the Konditorei in Sun Valley Village baked on location. That includes ham and cheese croissants, quiche and chocolate croissants.

Kelli Lusk stands next to the salad and pizza nook.

 “There was nowhere in Warm Springs before to get a coffee,” said Snyder. “This means people will be able to come here for their espresso at 8 in the morning, rather than having to go elsewhere.”

And, yes, servers will still ring the big Swiss cowbell when a fresh batch of chocolate chip cookies come out of the oven.

“The rope burnt in the fire, but we were able to salvage the bell and replace the rope,” Snyder said. “And remember how dark it used to be in here? It’s much lighter now because of a new lighting system.”

A small Sun Valley SnowSports ski school office has been relocated on the west side of the building with access to the outside. A new ticket window office sits next to it.

The retail space will sport a giant screen showing powder shots. And there will be a basket check for purses and other valuables. A family bathroom will augment the men’s and women’s restrooms.

Guests will have the option of entering through the retail space on the northwest corner or through the door nearest the mountain.

The elegant Warm Springs Lodge, constructed of logs, river rock and glass, turned heads in the ski world when it opened at the base of Warm Springs in the fall of 1992.

It had to be renamed Warm Springs Day Lodge because so many people wanted to know where they could reserve rooms for the night, said Kelli Lusk, communications manager for Sun Valley Resort.

But many feared its glory days might have ended the alarm sounded at 11:20 p.m. the night of April 18--just three days after the 2017-18 ski season had ended.

More than 60 firefighters from departments throughout the Wood River Valley responded as the elegant ski lodge burned ovenight and through the morning the next day, sending flames 30 feet into the air.

Investigators eventually determined that the fire began in four plastic garbage cans that had been placed against a log wall on the east side of the building. Five sprinkler heads on an eave directly above the fire failed to activate as flames spread up the wall.

The sprinkler system in the dry storage room also failed to operate, allowing the fire to spread to the cold roof where, then-Fire Chief Mike Elle said, it was almost impossible to fight.

The fire caused more than $1 million of damage, buckling the roof and chimneys of the elegant lodge, blowing out windows and leaving roof lines looking as if they had ripped off in other places.

Fortunately, Snyder said, the bulk of the damage was to the roof, allowing the resort to repair, rather than rebuild, the lodge.

“The old growth lumber survived,” Snyder said, surveying the light-colored beams in the ceiling. “Of course, we had to sandblast the soot off, but that’s why we could rebuild so quickly.


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