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I found Sun Valley’s killer app. His name is Sam.

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I’ve always wanted to go to Sun Valley.

A combination of their branding and my social circles (my parents honeymooned there and I have a neighbor who probably spends more time there than here), we finally booked a room and made it happen last week.

Now, I know that Sun Valley isn’t exactly built for a family with small kids like mine, so we tempered expectations and started to plan a simple, laid-back itinerary.

The Question
Before long, however, I found myself with a question.

We’d crossed a few things off our list (swimming pool, kid-friendly restaurants, city park/playground) but one thing still remained: hiking. Where could we go that would be:

  • Somewhat bike free (so the kids could run).
  • Not too long so I didn’t end up with a toddler on my shoulders for 5 miles.
  • And, ideally, with some sort of payoff in terms of view or destination.

I scoured, I searched, I read, and reread. I found maps and guides but still couldn’t get all the pieces I needed to answer that one question.

The Solution
“Gregg,” you may be saying, “you probably know people at Sun Valley, why not just email them and ask?”

That’s a very good, very valid, question.

The response is fairly simple simple: part of the benefit (to me) of traveling to Sun Valley, is what you might call “research”. It’s about learning and study the resort travel experience. And if I don’t travel like most people do and put myself in a real person’s shoes, I miss 99% of the insight I could have gleaned.

But having a friend on the inside is a beautiful hack, right? If only everyone could have an expert on the inside to…

…hmmm, how about that little box I saw on Sun Valley Resort’s hiking page.

The Result
By this time it was nearly 9:00pm and I was more than ready to close the laptop for the night. And, recognizing that was the exact question I was stuck on, I decided I had nothing to lose. So I sent this email:

Coming to the area this weekend with our 2 and 4 year old and hoping to find a couple 2-3 miles hikes we can do around the resort or town. Ideally something that’s:

    -Not popular with bikes so we can let the kids run
    -Not too long so they can hike most of the way themselves
    -Some sort of payoff like a lake, nice view, etc.

Any ideas?


By 8:00am the next morning, I had this in my inbox from one Sam Cochran.

Hi Gregg,

Directly across the street from the Sun Valley Lodge is the White Cloud Trail system. Although it allows bikes it is not super busy this time of year. You can do a short loop (Sunrise loop) about 1.5 miles that takes you up to a beautiful overlook of the Wood River Valley, affording you views of Adams Gulch, Warm Springs, The Boulder mountains, and our ski area Bald Mountain. If you want to go farther you can make it an out and back. The trail system wraps around the White Clouds Golf course. Please see an overview here.

Any other questions, please e-mail me back or stop in at Pete Lane’s mountain Sports across from the Sun Valley Lodge before your hike. Have a great day.


And just like that, my problem was solved. This is the view we got, by the way, with only a little bit of whining and tired legs.

We talk about killer apps a lot and designing incredible user experiences into our online tools, but at the end of the day sometimes we just need to have someone on the inside to ask.

It could be live chat, a phone number, an email address like this one, or all three. But it’s a great reminder that, yes, technology can solve much of our guests’ needs, but they can’t solve all of them. Service will always require the human element and service, let’s not forget, begins long before the vacation is booked.

Thanks, Sam.

About Gregg & SlopeFillers
I've had more first-time visitors lately, so adding a quick "about" section. I started SlopeFillers in 2010 with the simple goal of sharing great resort marketing strategies. Today I run marketing for resort ecommerce and CRM provider Inntopia, my home mountain is the lovely Nordic Valley, and my favorite marketing campaign remains the Ski Utah TV show that sold me on skiing as a kid in the 90s.

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