History of Innovation

Sun Valley has a rich history of economic rebirth and innovation. From a mining boom town in the late 1800’s to the country’s largest sheep producing and shipping region in the 1920’s and 1930’s, Sun Valley has always found a way to be on the national and world map.

In 1936 Chairman Averell Harriman chose Sun Valley to build the county’s first destination ski resort. The iconic Sun Valley Lodge was built in less than one year. Soon Mr. Harriman realized it was essential to develop a method of lifting skiers 2,000 feet above the valley floor. A young Union Pacific bridge designer named James Curran had the crazy idea that he could replace the fruit hooks on the company’s wire-based system that loaded bananas onto ships in Honduras with chairs and trade out the bananas for skiers! Before end of 1936 the world’s first chair lift was installed in Sun Valley.

Scott USA was born in Sun Valley when engineer and ski racer Ed Scott developed the first tapered aluminum ski pole. For more than 20 years, the technical innovation and product development ethos of Scott nurtured and impacted individuals and business across our community. With its evolution and growth into an international brand, Scott remains a testament to the potential for success of an Idaho lifestyle companies.

Smith Sport Optics’ roots in Sun Valley are attributable to Robert Smith, a dentist and skier who developed the first double-lens ski goggle in his quest for supreme visibility on the snow. Goggle fogging became a thing of the past and Smith is now another example of multi-national product developer and manufacturer with its DNA shaped by the Sun Valley region.

The innovative spirit of companies like Scott and Smith are alive and well in Sun Valley today with dozens of young companies developing the next generation of outdoor products and new economy businesses.

What Will You Invent?