Skico seeking a few cheap beds |

Skico seeking a few cheap beds

Sarah S. Chung

The Aspen Skiing Co., which recently bemoaned the continuing loss of cheaper rooms that local lodges once offered, has pledged to lead a charge to find ways to fill that gap.

In fact, the Skico is willing to buy a lodge or hotel in order to offer “economy” rooms “if the right opportunity came along,” according to Kitty Boone, marketing director.

Although Skico officials say they are still “trying to get our arms around” the impact of the area’s eroding short-term lodging base, they believe every business in the community should be concerned.

At the moment, the Skico offers nothing at the lower end of the lodging market through facilities it owns. The Skico-owned Little Nell is one of the higher-priced hotels in town. The Snowmass Lodge and Club, which the Skico owns, and Aspen Meadows, which it manages, both offer rooms in the “moderately-priced” range, which includes rooms from $150 to $250 per night.

The Skico has no immediate plans to construct a lodge or hotel. And the number of beds in the Aspen/Snowmass area will decrease when the company turns its Snowmass Lodge and Club into timeshare units.

Though the Skico has no concrete plans at the moment to battle the disappearing number of beds, Boone feels strongly that maintaining the current number of beds should be at the forefront of people’s minds.

“As head of marketing I’ve made it a priority to be aware of the situation and to make as many people think about the issue as possible, both inside and outside Skico,” Boone said. “We’ll be looking forward to working with the community to find the right solutions.”

According to Aspen Central Reservations, there has been a 28 percent drop in the number of “economy” (less than $150 per night) lodging units. As a result, some 1,183 customers have been turned away this season alone, according to ACR. There has not been a significant loss of customers in either the “moderate” or “deluxe” ($250 and up) lodging brackets, ACR said.

Boone said the Skico hasn’t yet developed a plan for rebuilding the number of economy beds in town because officials have just begun to notice the problem. She added that “if the right opportunity came along” the Skico would definitely consider buying an economy lodge or hotel.

“It’s just coming to our attention how serious this is,” she said. “The stats we’re looking at have been in my hands all of a month.”

The severity of the situation, according to Boone, is starting to sink into the collective consciousness of the entire Aspen business community.

“There have been some healthy discussions and the community is definitely becoming aware,” Boone said. “But first we need to make sure all the numbers in the different studies reconcile and once they do, what they really mean.”

The Skico has actually in recent years experienced a drop in occupancy at its moderately priced Snowmass Lodge and Club. Plans are under way to redevelop the lodge into a timeshare-type facility. If approved, the current 148-unit lodge will be transformed into 30 “fractionally owned” condominiums.

Up to 210 members of the proposed Snowmass Residents’ Club would pay from $189,000 to $264,000 to reserve 28 days a year, split between the ski and golf seasons. Additional days would be available on a first-come, first-served basis.

After less than a month on the market, 105 people have applied for membership, said Bill Orwig, marketing director for the Snowmass Residents’ Club.

According to Don Schuster, general manager of the Snowmass Lodge and Club, the new development is expected to average a year-round occupancy of 70 to 75 percent as opposed to the 55 percent it now experiences.

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