A Look Back

The moment you step through the door at Alta’s Goldminer’s Daughter Lodge, you know you have found something special. You may not be able to immediately put your finger on what it is, but it is there. A few months ago, we went through documents and documents from the last 50 years to try and capture the magic of this 50+ year-old lodge. We had so much fun putting that together; we decided to capture more memories from some of the old-timers at the lodge.

I recently sat down with Ross Olson, co-owner of the Lodge, to learn more about how he ended up in Alta.

Ross was born and raised in Minnesota. In the mid 70’s, he was attending a vocational program focused on quality and quantity food preparation designed to provide an education in food preparation for hotel kitchens. In 1975, he found himself seeking employment at the Goldminer’s Daughter Lodge despite never being to Utah or knowing how to ski. His instructor knew Elfriede Shane, original owner of the lodge, and encouraged him to write to her and inquire about employment.

Ross did just that and shortly thereafter received and submitted an application for employment and subsequently visited Alta for an interview. Initially Ross interviewed with Jim (Elfriede’s husband and lodge owner) who offered him a monthly salary of $600. Ross insisted he needed to confirm employment with Elfriede, and while Jim disagreed Ross did indeed discuss the employment offer with her. Unfortunately for Ross, she quickly disregarded Jim’s original employment offer while informing him that his starting salary would be $250 a month, plus room and board. Despite the decrease in pay, Ross accepted a position as a kitchen assistant for the upcoming season.

His second season at the Lodge, 1976-77 Alta didn’t open until the 5th of January due to no snowfall. Jim and Elfriede did all they could to keep their employees working through the drought. Ross went back to Minnesota for Christmas and on January 3 he received a call to get back to Alta. The lodge opened on January 5 and ended up having a 500” snow year. That season, Ross was promoted to Executive Chef after the existing chef wasn’t asked to come back.

After two seasons and an argument with Elfriede on how they were treating employees Ross decided he would not come back to the lodge for a third. Halfway through that season, he received a call from Elfriede asking if he would come teach some of the employees how to bake. The plan was to stay a week, but no one showed up for baking lessons. He ended up staying for a month and doing the baking. The following year, he came back and worked as a baker for Frank Menendez, who he playfully remembers as a proper English gentleman; I’m guessing there are some stories behind that one.

In 1985, Elfriede & Jim decided they wanted to have co-managers to manage the day-to-day operations at lodge. They wanted Ross to be one of them, but he didn’t want to share that responsibility. After politely declining their offer, an hour later they called him back and asked him to be the sole GM to which he accepted. He served as the General Manager until he and Jenn purchased the lodge in 2000.

You may be asking yourself, how does a non-skier from Minnesota go from a kitchen assistant, to Executive Chef, to temporary baker, to baker, to general manager, and then end up as the owner? If you’ve met Ross, you know his work ethic is incomparable. Jim and Elfriede had obviously watched Ross as he worked for them for over 25 years and saw a bit of themselves in him. The future ownership and management of the lodge was always something Jim and Elfriede saw as incredibly important to maintaining the integrity of the lodge they had built from the ground up. I’d venture to say, choosing the right people to follow in their footsteps weighed heavily on them as they began to consider taking a step away from the lodge. We’ll save the story of the transition of ownership for another blog post, but that, my friends, is the story of how Ross Olson ended up as the jack of all trades and co-owner of the Goldminer’s Daughter Lodge.

a stunning mansion with lush grounds
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