Report: Aspen bed base continues to erode | AspenTimes.com

Report: Aspen bed base continues to erode

Andre Salvail
The Aspen Times
Aspen CO Colorado

ASPEN – A lodging-inventory update conducted by the Mountain Travel Research Program suggests that Aspen’s bed base continues to decline.

“It shows the continued, slow erosion of the bed base within the city of Aspen from 2009 to 2012,” a city Community Development Department memorandum released Thursday states. “Of particular concern is the loss of hotel/lodge beds and continued lack of economy lodging in the city.”

The update, commissioned by Aspen Skiing Co., shows that the overall bed base decreased by 0.5 percent from 2009 to 2012. Also during the three-year period, the Aspen hotel-lodge inventory fell by 0.2 percent, and condo inventory dropped by 4.5 percent. Those categories include fractional-ownership units available for rent.

Meanwhile, the inventory of single-family home rentals has risen 31 percent, which partially can be attributed to the economic downturn, motivating homeowners to seek income from their properties.

“The study shows that 95 percent of the homes available for rent are classified as deluxe accommodations, and the remaining 5 percent are classified as moderate,” the memo states. “Therefore, the private rental market does not address the need for more economy options in the city’s bed base.”

Though the recent losses of lodge rooms could be viewed as slight, the issue of creating more “hot beds” still remains on the front burner for Skico and the city. The lack of a growing bed base means lodging prices will remain high and puts Aspen at a competitive disadvantage with other mountain resorts that have taken steps to add rooms for visitors.

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David Corbin, Skico vice president of planning and development, said that while the update does not offer encouraging news, the bed-base decline in the 1990s news, the bed-base decline in the 1990s was much worse.

“We think there’s still a need or demand to improve or upgrade or expand lodging opportunities in Aspen and Snowmass,” he said. “More critically, we are concerned that we don’t see further erosion in it.”

The company believes that another hospitality market study is necessary to examine what types of new properties would be the best fit for the community.

“I think we believe that properties like the Limelight Lodge, which we now own, are really good for Aspen,” he said. “They have limited service, relatively low numbers of employees compared to super-high-service hotels, and moderate prices but with pleasant and upgraded rooms. Aspen could use more of those kinds of beds. There is a lot of guest demand for that. It doesn’t have to be five-star.”

Skico is not opposed to economy-style hotel properties, but local market conditions won’t allow them, he said.

“It’s hard to do economically because of cost of construction here and price of land,” Corbin said. “That said, we like the idea of having entry-level products so that a younger generation of skiers, not yet affluent, could come and enjoy Aspen and begin to make it their lifelong destination. We support that but acknowledge that it’s difficult to do.”

Mayor Mick Ireland pointed out that Aspen used to be a haven for small, affordable lodges, but many have disappeared from the landscape in the past two decades.

“We need to do something as long as it’s not outrageously difficult,” he said. “It’s always good to have a diverse bed base to attract all kinds of people. Some people like that experience, but some people like to stay in ‘the battleship.'”

Lodging is likely to be a topic at the council’s upcoming retreat, set for Monday and Tuesday at the Aspen Alps, Ireland said.

The memo also notes that Aspen “continues to lead in total pillows” compared with Snowmass Village. Aspen has 10,085 beds for visitors, while Snowmass counts 8,772.

asalvail@aspentimes.com

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