Aspen’s newest luxury hotel, the W Aspen, opens its doors
Thursday’s opening of the W Aspen marks the first time in 25 years that the town has had a new luxury hotel.
Approved in 2015 to replace the Sky Hotel, the new W Aspen is an 88-room hotel, along with 11 free-market residences that are currently for sale for fractional ownership.
The property is the W brand’s second “Mountain Escape,” following the W Verbier in the Swiss Alps.
Greg Durrer, general manager of the W Aspen, said the word “escape” is the W brand’s way to describe an alpine resort.
“The W brand has a different word for just about everything,” he said Wednesday in the hotel’s “Living Room,” which serves as the central point of the “Mountain Escape” experience.
For locals, the central point of the property, located at the base of Aspen Mountain, will likely be the W’s “WET Deck” — an 8,000-square-foot rooftop area that’s open to the public.
It includes a heated pool, hot tubs, cabanas, couches, fire pits, DJ booth, dance floor, a U-shaped bar and 360-degree views.
W Aspen and The Sky Residences at W Aspen are owned by Northridge Capital of Washington, D.C., the owner for 16 years of the former Sky Hotel.
The property was co-developed by Northridge and local partner Sarpa Development.
Northridge’s owner and president, Dave Jackson, was on site this week helping with the final details before Thursday’s grand opening.
In the world of the W brand, the finishing touches are called “styling,” and there is plenty of it throughout the 128,000-square-foot property.
Part of Marriott International Inc., the W Aspen is a big move for W Hotels Worldwide’s global reach, Jackson noted.
The property’s demographic are young professionals who are connected globally by social media, who have disposable incomes and who will spend money and travel the world for the W experience.
When Jackson’s group bought the Aspen Club Lodge, which then became the Sky Hotel run by Kimpton Hotel & Restaurant Group, it was envisioned as moderately priced lodging for affluent young people.
“They don’t fit into The Little Nell” category, Jackson said of Aspen’s five-star hotel.
When Northridge put out the request for proposals to would-be hotel operators, the W brand won out over nine others.
“What drew us to the W was the continuation of the Sky clientele, the young and young at heart,” Jackson said. “Plus its global reach … and the ability to project that out was really appealing.”
Durrer said the W Aspen’s introductory rate is between $300 and $500 a night.
Those prices will fluctuate as the seasons change, he noted.
Reservations are strong going into the first quarter of 2020, according to Durrer, and the property is attracting national and international attention within the industry.
The demographic of buyers for the condos, called the Sky Residences at the W Aspen, are a bit different than the hotel guest, but align with multi-generations, said R.J. Gallagher Jr. of Forte Aspen, the firm that is selling the fractional interests.
“We have buyers from the 40ish to the 80ish,” he said Wednesday.
Buyers are young families, empty nesters, international travelers, movers and shakers and entrepreneurs, coming from as far away as Australia and Hong Kong and as close as in state, according to Gallagher.
Just shy of 40% of the fractionals have been sold, with over 50% of them being the three-bedroom condos.
Sales prices range from just over $551,000 for an interest in a two-bedroom suite, to $797,000 for a three-bedroom.
Each 1/10th ownership interest provides five weeks of use by each owner. The four weeks are guaranteed throughout the year — two in the winter and two in the summer.
The fifth week will be either dedicated to the winter or summer season, depending upon ownership preference and availability.
People are buying into the W Aspen through word of mouth from friends and family and business relationships.
“It’s creating community and that’s the value of the W brand,” Gallagher said. “It’s a rarified property in Aspen. … It’s a lifestyle. It’s beyond bricks and mortar.”
Inside the walls of the W Aspen, the town’s rich history is displayed in subtle and not-so subtle ways — from the red light district that once thrived on Durant Street, to the Ute Native Americans and the silver miners of the late 19th century to the swinging counterculture of the ’60s and ’70s.
It was all created by interior design firm Nemaworkshop and Aspen-based architects Rowland + Broughton, along with W Brand’s design team.
Accent pillows in the Living Room and guest rooms are inspired by local artists Herbert Bayer and Thomas Benton and pay homage to the historical residents of Durant Street, named the “Soiled Doves of Durant.”
During the ski season, W Aspen will have a ski and snowboard shop operated by Aspen Skiing Co.’s Four Mountain Sports.
These so-called “Strategy Rooms” will rent and sell the hotel’s first-edition series of snowboards, which were designed in partnership with Aspen-based High Society Freeride and created by Denver-based Never Summer.
The hotel employs between 120 and 140 people, Durrer said.
They will be on hand Thursday when the doors open at noon. A ribbon-cutting ceremony begins at 3:30 p.m.
“The buzz and excitement for the debut of W Aspen has been building for some time and we could not be readier to bring the infectious energy, spirit and programming of W to this iconic American town,” Durrer said. “We know that W Aspen will not only serve as a year-round destination for travelers but that it will bring a bold new point of view to the local social scene and become the latest player in the legacy of this incredible cultural mecca.”
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Aspen Skiing Co. didn’t let the shortened ski season in 2019-20 slow it down this summer. The company is replacing the Big Burn Chairlift at Snowmass and adding snowmaking at Snowmass and Aspen Mountain.