What a Decade It’s Been

That word – decade – seems to carry so. much. weight.

When looking forward, it seems an eternity. When looking back, it often feels like it flew. 2004 was the year I made the jump from my first love – journalism – to my second career – public relations. And a decade ago today – December 15, 2004 – the place where I cut my PR teeth opened to the world.


Tamarack Resort, billed as ‘the world’s newest all-season destination’ featuring mountain, meadow and lake, made a big push to snag the spotlight on its opening day and the years after. And for many in Idaho and across the Northwest, the high-speed quad ascent and downhill slide for the resort has played out over the decade in just as big a spotlight.

TamHeadshotTo have a front-seat to a startup like Tamarack is an experience I would never trade. (Well, maybe I would have traded in that sweet sweet ‘blonde in front of a fireplace’ headshot.) For two years I was part of a team of marketing and PR consultants who helped shape and share the message. Then for two more years, I was in-house holding on as Tamarack grew in that hockey-stick shaped way that startups often do.

The Tamarack story was never just about an outdoors playground. It was about rural economies, community development, history, construction, investment and financing, environmental considerations, celebrity, global brands …oh, and golfing, hiking, mountain biking, skiing and boating.


Source: New York Times, Tim Neville

And more than anything, it was about the melting pot of people that came together to try and bring it to life – from lifelong Valley County residents to risk-takers from across the globe. The business owner and communication strategist I am today, and the leader I try to be, is all shaped by the lessons I learned on the Tamarack journey. Lessons from the people who poured their hearts and souls into making something happen in this beautiful part of the world, as well as those who led it astray and whose decisions negatively impacted its success.  And now, those brave ones who have hung on and believed and are helping Tamarack enter its newest chapter.

Among the lessons I’ve gleaned:

  • Those visionaries who bring forth a great idea and inspire people to jump on – aren’t always the best to lead when a startup enters its operational stage.
  • When you build a team and delegate, make sure you’re not just giving them responsibility but also authority to act.
  • While there is comfort in structure, there can be danger in too rigid of a hierarchy. Your team should feel safe in challenging ideas and bringing forth concerns and questions. With the changing dynamics of workplaces, and the generations entering the workforce, hardcore hierarchy won’t cut it.
  • The power of communication – both positive and negative. It was communication that drew the spotlight and kept it shining bright. But great communication is never just external facing. Your people can be your greatest advocates and evangelists if they are kept informed and engaged.
  • The strength of a team that believes in something bigger. In the great words of Simon Sinek, “People don’t buy what you do; they buy why you do it. And what you do simply proves what you believe.” Through the ups and downs of Tamarack, there have been the believers. Those individuals who always thought this journey was about more than a real estate deal or an investment, but had vision and belief in the potential of this place and wanted to share it with the world. To create something that spoke to the beauty of Idaho and the adventure and risk-taking nature of life here.

Yes, I do realize that what happened at Tamarack is also a textbook example of the hubris of that time. Those pre-2008 days when money was being spent and decisions were being made in heady moments. But I also know that good people put blood, sweat and tears into the startup… people whose names and faces we don’t usually hear about when the rapid rise and fall occurs with a startup. In the history of great destinations that are household names to many – there have been quite a few falls and rises.

To those people…who I was honored to call friends and colleagues… a toast to the journey we were all part of, to believing in the ‘why’ of a place and the dream of what it could be, and to the next chapter for Tamarack.


Source: Los Angeles Times, Amanda Jones


Source: USA Today, Gene Sloan


Source: Bloomberg Markets, Anthony Effinger







  1. Chris Kirk says:

    Beautifully put Jessica

    Well done and thanks!

  2. Nicely said Jessica. Cheers!

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