Phase 1 of the White Clouds development at the Sun Valley Resort has all the marks of success: Happy families are moving into their customized homes, and sold signs pepper surrounding lots. Apparently the sky is the limit, so what’s next?
By Ann Zimmerman
With so much happening at White Clouds, we checked in and began by asking the obvious question, why has it been so successful? Certainly, the White Clouds development is the first sale of property at the Sun Valley Resort in 35 years, and that makes it unique. White Cloud residents become part of the resort, and they have easy access to the nearby resort amenities, which sets it apart from other Ketchum properties. One can assume, and the team validates that the resort is also being done the Sun Valley way, meaning high expectations for everyone to do their jobs very well. What else is behind its success, and what can be expected next?
Emphasis on Service
The sales team—Wallace Huffman, Julie Quayle, and Mark Thoreson—is an interesting mix of long-time Sun Valley employees who have climbed through the ranks with great appreciation for the unique qualities of the resort and respect for its owners and the high bar they have set. “We spent our entire careers dedicated to service, and that’s really how the three of us have approached sales and building this development. We are not rock stars; we are hard workers,” says Mark Thoreson. When he considers the question about White Cloud’s success being related to sales skills, he responds, “Somehow, I doubt it is our sales approach. There is low key, but I think ours is closer to no-key! Our motivation is a belief in this project. The sales approach is essentially word-of-mouth, but it seems to work, because we have had several offers on the same unit in a day. The quality of the development sells itself,” Mark concludes.
Wally Huffman agrees that the success of the project lies in its nature. “We are doing something we’ve never done before, and I agree with Mark that we are doing it the Sun Valley way. We have all been ingrained in the resort philosophy, ‘you get what you inspect,’ so we are at the building site every day, and our cell phones are always on. We essentially run the real estate operation like the resort, where our emphasis is on service.”
View to Location
Undeniably, the White Clouds development is on a special piece of property at the northern edge of the resort adjacent to the nine-hole alpine links White Clouds golf course. Nearby is the Clubhouse with its popular restaurant, and the Clubhouse anchors 54 holes of golf at Sun Valley. White Clouds provides its residents the same priority for tee times as guests of the resort. A multi-use trail traces up the hill, and the bike path that doubles in winter as a cross-country skiing track follows the edge of the development by Trail Creek Road to nearby Sun Valley Village with its shops, restaurants, entertainment and access to skiing. “Essentially, the residents of White Clouds are as much a part of the resort and its many activities as they choose to be,” comments Julie Quayle.
But when asked, it’s the views up to the Pioneer Mountains and down across the valley that are especially thrilling the new residents of White Clouds. “We are so pleased they appreciate the views,” says Wally. “In the design, we made views more important than trees by creating a perpetual view corridor. Since Sun Valley owns and manages the property, we can ensure that the views our buyers enjoy the day they move in will be just as clear and unobstructed 50 years from now.”
Convenience and Personal Touches
To Mark Thoreson, the concept of White Clouds works because of convenience. “People want convenience both in building the units and taking care of their homes once they move in, and our concept provides for both. We can make building and furnishing the home so easy and complete that all they have to do is tote in their favorite coffeemaker and they’re home.
Sun Valley has had a long-term successful relationship with Intermountain Construction, and Intermountain Construction’s president Tyler Ogden can be found on the White Clouds jobsite most days.“It’s true,” says Wally. “They want a comfortable home, but not all the work.” Huffman goes on to explain that with the exception of outdoor living, homeowners’ worries stop at the walls, leaving more time to enjoy Sun Valley’s recreation. “White Clouds provides space for outdoor living, connections for hot tubs, and plenty of garage space. Landscaping and snow-removal are taken care of by the development. All units are energyefficient and built to LEED standards, but one of the splurges is an efficient boiler for melting snow from walkways and drives.” According to Huffman, White Clouds’ no-worry approach includes building with fire-resistant materials that include Class A roofs, installing a 400,000-gallon water storage tank, and removing surrounding brush for a fire break, news that would be welcome during a fire year like last season.
The design-build approach means that homeowners have flexibility with the packages to swap out materials through a crediting system. “The best part of the job is being part of how the homeowners have turned the unit into their own home,” comments Tyler. “We price out the changes and credit them with the difference. It’s enjoyable to see the homeowners make the home their own with personalizing touches like central vacuum, exterior showers, home media, and motorized shades and drapes.” The schedule allows only ten to twelve months for design, construction, landscaping. “There’s been a lot of push,” Tyler admits, “but we’ve stayed on schedule.”
More to Come
With Phase 1 proceeding to completion and three single-family units starting construction this spring, the obvious question to Wally Huffman is what’s next? “Parcel D, ten acres along the Ninth Hole, is in planning with Ruscitto/Latham/Blanton Architectura,” remarks Wally with a tinge of excitement. “We are looking at 28 single-family detached townhomes with at least a two-car garage. It will be a neighborhood setting with distinctive home designs—a lot of architectural variation. We anticipate a comfortable size of about 2,500 square-feet for a three bedroom home.” Will it be similar to Phase 1? “Definitely we will plan for low maintenance, energy efficiency, and view protection, and we will offer resort amenities.”
“In addition to Parcel D, we are master planning a second parcel,” mentions Huffman. “While early in the planning stages, we are looking to develop to less than half the allowable density. I think we will hit a home run. We have been listening to our customers and we will be aiming to please.”
That’s as much as we could coax out of Wally Huffman and his crew. There is more development to come, and it will build on the success of Phase 1, where the homes will be well-considered spaces with low maintenance. In addition, Intermountain Construction will stand by to personalize choices until it reaches that no-place-like-home feeling.