Alex von Bidder is a seasoned leader with a rich history at the famed Four Seasons Restaurant in New York and an extensive background in hospitality. From trustee roles at Tibet House, lecturing at Cornell University, co-founding the New York Mankind Project community, mentoring, coaching, and championing diversity, Alex is an outstanding individual known for his integrity and authenticity.
We spent a morning exploring The Ranch, which provided me with the chance to gain insights into his life and connection to The Ranch.
Where were you raised?
I spent my first six years in a mountain village called Grindelwald, known for being at the foot of the challenging Eiger mountain, famously depicted in the Clint Eastwood movie “The Eiger Sanction.” My father served as the local tourist office director, promoting the village as a destination for skiing in winter along with tennis and hiking in the summertime. It was a delightful experience to return to Grindelwald last fall, reconnecting with family and witnessing the gratitude the village still holds for my father’s contributions to filling hotel rooms in the 1950s.
What’s your title at The Ranch?
I hold the title of Chairperson of the Advisory Council. My role involves convening the council biannually to assess and oversee the business comprehensively. We listen to presentations from the general manager and department heads, guiding various aspects, including legal issues, construction matters, staffing concerns, and The Residences.
What sparked your interest in the hospitality industry? Did those early impressions of your father help shape your direction?
Indeed, my interest in hospitality stems from my father’s role and the Swiss culture’s emphasis on the importance of tourism to the national economy. Switzerland’s excellent hotel schools and apprenticeship programs further fueled my passion. Early childhood experiences like memorable meals at fine hotels and visiting a lavish home with hospitality professionals left a lasting impression. Witnessing the inner workings of upscale establishments and private homes ignited my fascination with learning and providing exceptional guest experiences.
Can you share any specific experiences or challenges from your tenure at the Four Seasons restaurant in New York and how they influenced your relationship with The Ranch?
During my time at the Four Seasons restaurant in New York, I got to know Deborah Szekely, co-founder of Rancho La Puerta, through her visits. Her unique approach as a customer, always eager to meet the chefs and share feedback and compliment them, was a fun connection. This experience highlighted the importance of personalized hospitality—a principle I carry into my role at The Ranch. As George Washington aptly put it, “The taste of the roast depends on the greeting of the host.” Every meal is an artful experience with a distinct purpose beyond nourishment.
How does wellness integrate into your life?
When I need clarity and am unsure, I take a yoga class to ground myself and gain clarity. Yoga helps separate me from daily thoughts and allows me to go inward and step beyond fear.
While working on our Board’s statement of purpose and mission, I discovered a raven feather on a pathway to a gym here. I have a deep connection with birds and feathers and myths about birds. I asked myself, “Is this a message from the Ravens that live here?” The Ravens know this place far better than I do. The message I got was: “You know what needs to be done. You know what needs to be said. Just speak it! And so, I did:
“The mission of the Board of Directors of Rancho La Puerta is to ensure that The Ranch succeeds as a sacred place of healing and transformation.”
Could you elaborate on transforming the Board of Directors’ mission for Rancho La Puerta?
Initially, the mission focused on ensuring The Ranch’s success as a place of healing. However, a pivotal moment involving a change of one word from “succeeds” to “thrives” altered the mission. Now, the Board is dedicated to ensuring that Rancho La Puerta thrives while remaining a sacred place of healing and transformation. The emphasis is not solely on operations or profits but on fostering a thriving environment that acknowledges the land’s sacred nature and Mount Kuchumaa.
How does the Board work towards connecting people with the sacred aspects of Rancho La Puerta?
The Board recognizes the sacred nature of place and aims to facilitate a connection between individuals and the environment. This connection is nurtured through various means, such as meditation, yoga, hiking, and recreational activities. And through our many talks and the opportunity to support the wider community made possible by “La Fundación de La Puerta,” The Ranches’ outreach and educational program.
Our guests come to us for many reasons: to restore, celebrate, and reconnect with themselves on a deeper level. So, creating and making space is part of the mission, and for us as a board, it is to support that. Finding time for these practices in our daily lives can be challenging. That’s one of the reasons why people choose to visit The Ranch. It allows them to step back from their routine, breathe, and immerse themselves in a relaxed space. A week-long stay at The Ranch will enable them to gain clarity, especially when grappling with personal challenges, emotional distress, or grief. It becomes a time for them to find solace and peace and discover insights that resolve their struggles.
Our job is to ensure that people have what they need and provide what individuals seek to disconnect from busy lives, help find a healthier lifestyle, establish a fitness discipline, and heal from ailments. The Board’s role is to support these needs by ensuring the availability of the right resources, equipment, education and addressing challenges like border issues, environmental health, and water conservation.
How does Rancho La Puerta contribute to environmental sustainability and longevity?
Rancho La Puerta is committed to sustainability over its 83-year history. The focus extends beyond annual profits to a dedication to preserving the land, healing the water, and supporting President Sara Livia’s vision of nourishing and maintaining the land. The intention is to create a lasting impact, and the Board actively addresses challenges related to the health of the planet, water conservation, and maintaining a connection to the land. The commitment to this vision reflects a devotion to the longevity and continued growth of Rancho La Puerta as an oasis where people, the community, and the land coexist harmoniously.
Thank you, Alex.