Inn at Aspen gets a modern renovation
The Inn at Aspen is vaulting into the 21st century this ski season after operating nearly 50 years at the base of Buttermilk.
The property owners of the 122 units, which are condominiumized, are funding a multimillion-dollar renovation that started with guest rooms last year. This year, the focus is on the lobby, bar and restaurant, conference rooms and slopeside patio and entrance. The $5 million renovation is scheduled to be completed Nov. 28, according to Thomas Ernst, executive general manager for Aspen, Breckenridge and Keystone for Wyndham Vacation Rentals. Wyndham has been manager of the vacation rentals at Inn at Aspen since August 2011, when it bought the company that formerly managed the units.
The renovation is long overdue, said Bill Anderson, vice president of Wyndham Vacation Rentals’ western U.S. operations.
“It will take it out of the ’70s, basically,” Anderson said. He later quipped that guests can finally count on having hot water and hot food. Steve McKenney, of European Caterers in Aspen, will be chef and operator of the new Irish pub-style restaurant, McKenney’s, at the Inn.
The property was developed in the mid-1960s as a Holiday Inn and later evolved into the Inn at Aspen, a name that has stuck for decades. Wyndham has no intention of changing the name. The property was condominiumized in the mid-1990s. Having a diverse ownership group played a major role in the property going too long without being upgraded.
The time was ripe for renovating when Aspen Skiing Co. announced plans for a $10 million upgrade of facilities at the base of Buttermilk. The centerpiece of the work is a new children’s center called The Hideout. Ernst said the homeowners’ association and Wyndham officials worked closely with Skico on coordinating work at the base. The result will be much more connectivity and pedestrian-friendly capabilities, Ernst said.
Wyndham wants the Inn at Aspen to be much more of a vacation destination than it’s been in the past. About 25 to 30 percent of its business is currently multi-day trips from guests coming to ski Buttermilk and other ski areas or partake in specific summer activities, Ernst said. But a lot of guests are transient business from people passing through town and staying a night or two. Transient business requires competing on price.
“The good news is we’re always full,” Ernst said. The bad news is the property has a low room rate.
The goal is to boost destination up to 60 to 80 percent of overall business, he said. Families, in particular, will be targeted.
New prices haven’t been set, but Ernst said the Inn would have “upper-moderate pricing.”
The Inn plays a major role in housing flight crews from United Airlines and from private aircraft. ESPN also essentially takes over the property for a major portion of January for workers staging the Winter X Games. Those guests will continue to be accommodated. The owners of the units typically stay less than one week per year.
Along with transforming into a destination property, Inn at Aspen wants to enhance its role as a major host of events. Significant effort and money is being devoted to acoustics and the sound system in a room just off the bar and restaurant. Live music will be regularly featured and a roughly 40-by-40-foot stage will be set up in the room.
Anderson and Ernst said the outside pavilion, which features attractive timbers at the slope-side entrance and at the patio as well as a huge fire pit, will make the restaurant and bar more inviting to skiers and snowboarders at Buttermilk. The pavilion is clearly visible from the bottom terminal of the Summit Express, the primary chairlift out of the Buttermilk base.
Some work will remain after this year’s phase is completed later this month. About 20 rooms will need to be refurbished, according to Joe Zuena, general manager of the Aspen property. The pool area and outer skin of the entire property will be renovated in 2015.
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