Aspen Skiing Co., city mull more hotel rooms | AspenTimes.com

Aspen Skiing Co., city mull more hotel rooms

Aspen Skiing Co. wants City Council to add a 10th goal its list of priorities: find a way to expand the town's bed base for guests.

Some of Skico's highest ranking executives, including CEO and President Mike Kaplan, updated three city council members about the firm's more pressing issues at a work session Monday. Mayor Steve Skadron and Councilwoman Ann Mullins did not attend.

Kaplan told the council members he is concerned that "we are drifting a bit" when it comes to identifying ways to boost the town's bed base.

"I'm very happy to see the Sky under construction, but that's really a replacement project," Kaplan said in reference to the 104-room W Hotel being built on East Durant Avenue at the base of Aspen Mountain. With a projected opening in 2019, W Hotel will replace the 90-room Sky Hotel, which was razed in the spring.

Earlier this year, the City Council crafted nine goals that will receive its chief attention from August through July 2019. Its top goal is to "help identify, prioritize and take on issues in the housing system."

Not included in the council's goals is addressing what Kaplan said is an inventory that has shrunk from 3,000 beds in 1992 to the current figure of 1,300.

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"The reality is, how are we going to get those 1,700 beds back?" Kaplan said, adding that Skico is "not looking for unfettered growth. … Our models aren't based on us realizing 8 percent annual growth."

Skico has consistently made clear that Aspen needs more guest rooms. It is partner on the proposed Gorsuch Haus hotel development at the base of Aspen Mountain and owns the upscale Little Nell Hotel and the less expensive 100-room Limelight Hotel in Aspen. It also owns a Limelight Hotel in Ketchum, Idaho, and currently is building another one — with 99 guest rooms and 12 condo units — in Snowmass Village.

Kaplan said Aspen would benefit from another three hotels with similar characteristics of the Limelight — from its number of rooms to its nightly rates. However, he did not imply that Skico should be the developer.

Councilman Bert Myrin suggested the city and Skico could team together to take a deeper look at the guest-room inventory not only in Aspen but in the entire Roaring Fork Valley. Short-term rentals also should be considered, Myrin said, noting they also affect the city's housing supply.

Those short-term rentals can be viewed in different ways, said David Corbin, Skico's vice president of planning and development.

The upside is that they can help offset the waning bed base. However, they also compete with hotels, and most of the short-term rentals are in residential neighborhoods or beyond the city's urban-growth boundary, meaning their guests need to rely on non-public transportation and, by doing so, effectively further clog the roads and highways.

"Everything ties together, and we can't really avoid looking at them as interrelated issues," Corbin said.

In addition to the Gorsuch Haus proposal, developers of the Lift One Lodge have received approvals to build the hotel at the base of Aspen Mountain on the Lift 1A side. If approved, Gorsuch Haus would be located above Lift One Lodge. But before the Gorsuch review proceedings continue, key players currently are collaborating on finding a way to replace Lift 1A with another chair lift acceptable to the community.

The old Boomerang Lodge on the 500 block of West Hopkins Avenue also is eyed for redevelopment, with potential buyers of the property seeking the council's permission to build a lodge with 23 guest rooms with 47 lodge keys, along with five free-market residential units and two affordable-housing units.

That matter returns to City Council at its regular meeting Monday.

rcarroll@aspentimes.com