- Sun Valley, Idaho is a popular jet-set ski destination and home to the exclusive Allen & Company Sun Valley Conference.
- Notable figures including Mark Zuckerberg, Bob Iger, and Tim Cook have attended the conference, while celebrities like Arnold Schwarzenegger and Clint Eastwood have been known to hit the ski slopes.
- Located in a county with just 22,000 full-time residents, Sun Valley joins other small-town areas like the Hamptons and Cape Cod that are being severely disrupted by city dwellers fleeing the virus.
- Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.
Wealthy people aren’t just flocking to the Hamptons, Cape Cod, and Berkshire County to escape the coronavirus pandemic. They’re also heading to Sun Valley, Idaho – a popular jet-set ski destination and home to the exclusive Allen & Company Sun Valley Conference.
But even as they head west, their presence is still causing the same problems that impact the small-town cities of the northeast: food shortages, medical supply shortages, and a rising fear that these part-time residents and visitors could be bringing in the coronavirus from the cities they’re leaving behind.
Blaine County, where Sun Valley is located, is dealing with over 450 reported cases of the coronavirus among its 22,000 residents. The outbreak in the county, as noted by Amanda Holpuch of The Guardian, has overwhelmed the local medical system, with one local hospital partially shutting down earlier in the month as healthcare workers became infected with the virus themselves.
Keep reading for a closer look at Sun Valley and the larger Blaine County area.
Sun Valley is under three hours by car from Boise, Idaho.
Sun Valley is known as a jet-set ski destination and for being the site of the annual Allen & Company Sun Valley Conference, which Business Insider once called “summer camp for billionaires.”
Each summer, billionaires and media moguls meet in Sun Valley for a week-long conference, which has spawned business deals such as Comcast’s acquisition of a majority stake in NBCUniversal in 2011 and Jeff Bezos’ purchase of the Washington Post in 2013.
Sun Valley has been the site of the conference since 1983.
The conference is held for one week every July. Business leaders from Bob Iger and Oprah to Jeff Bezos and Tim Cook are regularly in attendance.
As Business Insider’s Taylor Nicole Rogers previously reported, the cheapest booking for just one night at the Sun Valley Lodge costs $US495 a night, with the most expensive room going for $US1,600 a night. The resort also has bowling lanes, an ice-skating rink, a full-service spa, various on-site restaurants, and an event space.
But Sun Valley is known for its wealthy and famous visitors year-round. The ski destination has been a hotspot among celebrities for nearly a century.
Since then, celebrities have flocked to the area. Ernest Hemingway finished his novel “For Whom the Bells Toll” in Sun Valley in 1939; actors Clark Gable and Marilyn Monroe were also visitors to the ski valley. Arnold Schwarzenegger has a ski run named after him and has been spotted hitting Sun Valley’s slopes with Clint Eastwood.
Sun Valley is also known for having a vibrant art and festival scene.
In the past few months, many wealthy people have flocked to Sun Valley to escape from big cities amid the coronavirus pandemic, causing a disruption in local life.
Adventure Journal reported that ski resort areas actually tend to “show higher infection rates than more densely populated cities nearby.”
And this isn’t just an issue in the US. Take, for instance,Ischgl, a popular Austrian ski resort that’s considered “ground zero” of Europe’s coronavirus pandemic. It’s currently under investigation for spreading the coronavirus across six countries and allegedly trying to cover it up, Business Insider’s Hillary Hoffower previously reported.
As of April 13, Blaine County had over 450 reported cases of the coronavirus among its 22,000 residents, with five reported deaths. The Washington Post’s Griff Witte reported on April 1 that the share of people testing positive for the virus was greater even than the per-capita infection rate of New York City, which is currently considered the epicentre of the pandemic in the United States.
Some pointed the finger at the annual Black Summit of the National Brotherhood of Skiers, blaming it for a surge of cases in the Blaine County area. The summit saw nearly 700 people arrive in Sun Valley, according to the Wall Street Journal. Hundreds of them have since tested positive for the virus.
The annual Black Summit of the National Brotherhood of Skiers, the largest black ski and snowboard association in the world, took place in the Blaine County city of Ketchum and nearby Sun Valley from March 1 to March 7. At the time, the virus’ presence was reported in the US, but cases hadn’t reached the level they’re at now and formal lockdown measures hadn’t yet been implemented to slow the virus’ spread.
The Wall Street Journal reported that since the conference, numerous members of the National Brotherhood of Skiers have tested positive, others have been hospitalized, and at least two have died.
Some residents suggested that this could be one of the reasons the county is seeing such a spike in cases, though representatives of the NBS have denied that summit attendees are the ones who brought the coronavirus to Sun Valley.
“I don’t know how we got it,” Henri Rivers, the president of NBS, told the Wall Street Journal. “I know we didn’t bring it.”
Wall Street Journal
On March 12, the city of Ketchum, which is just outside of Sun Valley, reported its first positive case of the coronavirus. Sun Valley closed its resort on March 15.
Dan Frosch and Ian Lovett for the Wall Street Journal reported that on March 12, the small hospital in Ketchum, a small city in Blaine County, reported its first positive case of the coronavirus, per the county’s emergency medical services director.
From there, the spread continued, and as hospital workers began to treat the patients, many of them contracted the virus and fell ill themselves.
As the outbreak continues in Idaho, over 50 hospital workers have tested positive in the state’s Central Health District, reported Michael Ames for the New Yorker. More than half of them work for the St. Luke’s Hospital system in Blaine County.
Wall Street Journal
Now, local officials are begging people to stay away from the Sun Valley area to prevent further spread of the coronavirus.
In Ketchum, the city’s small hospital had to be partially shut down because more than half of its emergency doctors needed to be quarantined. As a result, those in need of critical care are being sent to other hospitals hours away, reported Michael Ames for the New Yorker.
But a medical care shortage isn’t the only issue impacting the area. As Business Insider previously reported, popular retreats among the ultra-wealthy (such as the Hamptons, Cape Cod, and Nantucket) are dealing with not just a medical shortage, but also a food supply shortage – and Ketchum is also having this problem.
A representative for Ketchum’s local grocery store told the New Yorker that it was now preparing for nearly 100 delivery and pickup orders a day noting that 10 orders a day is typically considered a lot for them.
“To everyone coming here to ‘ride out the storm,’ please stay in for two weeks before you immerse yourself in our town,” one local told the Mountain Express. “Please don’t buy a 3-month supply of groceries, leaving little for the rest of us. Don’t be a plague of locusts.”
But the mayor of Ketchum says there’s no use in passing the blame around.
“There’s no use in finger-pointing about where this came from. We’ve just got to get on with it and manage it the best we can,” Neil Bradshaw, the mayor of Ketchum, told Buzzfeed. “We’re officially working with two groups on an antibody study. We’re so bad that we’re perfect for it – the perfect sample size for the rest of the country. That’s felt good, because it’s something that we can do. We can try to lead the charge for our county, for our state, and for the nation in finding a solution.”