We know the people of Alta and Goldminer’s Daughter Lodge are one of a kind, and the stories of how they ended up in Alta and at the Lodge are just as unique and interesting. We’ve told you a little bit about Trainer, Ross, Jonathan and Liz, as well as the stories of a few of our guests. We have big plans to keep these stories coming and are excited to unveil those plans in the coming months, but for now we are eager to tell you the story of co-owner Jennifer Life.
Jenn was born in Michigan and spent time in West Virginia before heading to Hofstra University in Long Island on a basketball scholarship. After spending a semester in the “Semester at Sea” program, Jenn realized she loved to sail and set her sights on spending more time sailing (it was either that or stay in Long Island and study for the MCATs). In the summer of 1990 after completing a bachelors degree in Biology, Jenn was working as a deckhand off the coast of Camden, Maine. One of the guests on the boat was friends with Elfriede, and convinced Jenn that she should spend the winter in Alta, Utah learning to ski and working at the Goldminer’s Daughter Lodge.
At this point, Jenn thought of Utah as “one of those Western states,” and didn’t really know what to expect. She had never skied before, but decided it would be a good idea to learn and it provided something to do between sailing seasons. After calling the lodge to request an application, she completed the paperwork and was eventually hired as a housekeeper site unseen.
Upon arriving in Alta for the 1990-1991 winter season, Jenn committed to learning how to ski, which meant heading out with friends and following them down the mountain hoping for the best. As we all know, that may not be the best way to learn to ski, which Jenn quickly realized after a poorly timed turn ended with a few broken ribs. After a bedridden day, Elfriede told Jenn she had to work or move on. Jenn painfully reported to duty and spent the day folding sheets and ultimately proving her worth.
Once Elfriede realized Jenn wasn’t faking it, she moved her to a cashier position in the rental shop and allowed her to continue the season in a less mobile position. Jenn spent the next season as a cashier in the ski shop and spent a few seasons as a cook in the dining room.
As time moved on, Jenn continued to report to the lodge year after year, and consequently took on more and more responsibility each year. By the mid-90s, she and Ross had gotten to know each other and realized their strengths complemented each other well. After several years, they presented Jim and Elfriede a proposal to purchase the lodge; their proposal was accepted.
Elfriede was incredibly involved in the transition, and sat with Jenn day after day to ensure Jenn and Ross understood how to run the lodge. Elfriede’s patience combined with Jenn’s natural business sense allowed Jenn & Ross to smoothly transition the ownership of the lodge. Jenn and Ross both worked at the lodge for many years, something they have never forgotten. They strive to find a balance for employees, guests and themselves in the management of the lodge. Jenn’s life has changed quite a bit since that first winter in 1990, but the guests of the lodge remain incredibly meaningful.
Early on while working at the lodge, Jenn commuted from Alta to the University of Utah to study Fine Art and received a bachelors of Fine Art. You may be surprised to learn that Jenn painted the majority of the artwork seen in the lodge. Originally, Jenn wanted to study illustration in order to illustrate the children’s books she had written. After being denied admittance to the illustration program, she moved to Fine Arts, which ended up being the perfect fit for a free spirit.
About eight years ago on a heli-ski trip in Canada, Jenn met her now husband. Austrian born Gerhard Guggenberger taught skiing in Sun Valley for many years. Now Jenn, Gerhard and their kids live at the lodge full-time during the winter allowing Jenn to remain involved in the day-to-day lodge operations.
Each year as November nears, Jenn remembers the excitement of being a first year employee at the lodge. She enjoys seeing her friends return to the lodge year after year and looks forward to meeting new friends and guests at the lodge.
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