Snowmass officials have short-term rentals on the mind |

Snowmass officials have short-term rentals on the mind

Town staff, electeds wonder about vacation rental impact on housing for locals

Skiers and snowboarders approach the Village Express chairlift on Saturday, Jan. 16, 2021, at the base of Snowmass Ski Area. Most of the short-term rentals in the village are slopeside condos similar to to the ones pictured in the background here.
Austin Colbert/The Snowmass Sun

Snowmass Village’s electeds have had short-term rentals on the mind lately, in part because of talks and ballot measures in other mountain communities about glut in the ski town vacation rental market and co-occurring shortage of affordable housing.

“People were able to rent places reasonably, a bunch of people shared — the whole ski bum story — and what we’re hearing is you can’t do that anymore,” Councilman Tom Fridstein said during a discussion on the topic at a Nov. 15 Town Council meeting. “I’m not talking about necessarily here, but (about) what we hear among organizations we’re part of.”

The consensus elsewhere is that homeowners are realizing they could make beaucoup bucks on the short-term market rather than lease it out to a long-term tenant as they might have done in the past.

“There seems to be a sense that the short-term rental situation is impacting the ability for local employees to find housing,” Councilman Bob Sirkus said. “It’s certainly not going to be the only reason, but it’s just another reason.”

Communities like Steamboat Springs and Summit County have enacted moratoriums on short-term rental licenses this year. But are short-term rentals actually becoming a problem in Snowmass, where many of the short-term rentals have almost always been that way? It’s hard to say.

“I don’t have data, it’s more anecdotal,” said Housing Director Betsy Crum. “I would say in the time I’ve been here, I’ve seen a significant increase in, especially in the last 18 months, of people coming in saying that the unit rented is no longer available, but it’s largely anecdotal … (and) no one comes in my office any longer saying, you know, ‘I’m renting with four guys over in Woodrun and I want to get my own place.’ That just doesn’t exist.”

Neither town staff nor council members really have enough hard-number information to reach a conclusion at this point; multiple officials said they’d like to collect and analyze more stats.

The town knows based on 2018 data that there were nearly 1,700 short-term rentals in the town and that the “vast majority” of units that crop up on sites like AirBnB or VRBO are slopeside complexes on either side of Fanny Hill, according to an agenda summary for the discussion. But more recent stats that would reflect change over the past three years aren’t yet available.

“It’s difficult when you’re more of a traditional town like Durango and with traditional neighborhoods … it’s a very different approach than someplace like Snowmass Village that’s slopeside,” Town Manager Clint Kinney said.

The Timberline in Snowmass Village is among the slopeside condo complexes where units serve as short-term rentals, pictured here on Tuesday, Nov. 16, 2021. (Kelsey Brunner/The Snowmass Sun)

“And so finding that right balance is something we’d look to you guys to say, ‘All right, what is the balance we’re looking for?’” Kinney added, “Because every skier that stays at Seasons Four is somebody in a restaurant, and those are things that we actively seek to get here, but how do we find that balance between creating community and tourism?”

Officials floated a few different ideas for ways the town could gather more data: sales tax and permitting stats could show how the short-term market is doing, and calling up homeowner’s associations might shine a light on short-term inventory and policies in different neighborhoods. The town is also due for a “transient inventory study” in 2022; it usually happens every few years, Tourism Director Rose Abello said.

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