Toughest Music Fest piece might be the housing |

Toughest Music Fest piece might be the housing

Janet Urquhart

Virtually all of the roughly 1,100 students, teachers and support staff who will call Aspen home for the Music Festival and School’s 2006 season have a place to stay. But it wasn’t easy.And some of them won’t technically make Aspen their summer home. The festival is placing some of its staff in Snowmass Village for the first time, in response to the area’s increasingly challenging housing crunch.Ski season arrivals found the market tight last winter, and the situation hasn’t eased for this summer’s largest single influx of seasonal residents – those associated with the nine-week music festival, which gets under way June 21.Housing is tough for everyone, but the music festival needs more than any other single entity right now.”It’s a larger issue than just us. It’s a big problem, but in the summer, it’s our problem,” concedes Jim Berdahl, general manager for the festival and school. “We prefer to look at this as a challenge – we have solved the problem this year.”The festival’s administrative staff includes one full-time, year-round individual whose job is arranging housing – an effort that is augmented as the season approaches, when several staffers are charged with arranging housing for 350 faculty and support staff members. In addition, the festival tries to help those among the 750 students who seek assistance in arranging housing. Some students opt to find their own housing, while others look to the festival’s accommodations.A few students still need housing, according to festival officials. Anyone who can offer a room should contact Sandy at 925-3254, ext. 131.While there are housing complexes available for some of the students, it has become progressively more difficult, and more expensive, to arrange faculty housing, according to Berdahl. It’s something the festival will address as it plans – and budgets – for the 2007 season.Homes that the festival has used to house faculty members in the past are being redeveloped, or the rents are rising. The festival has two seasonal housing complexes at its disposal – Burlingame and Marolt Ranch. In addition, new owners of the Holland House are letting the festival put up students there. The lodge has traditionally housed music students each summer, but it is slated for redevelopment and may not be there next year.”I don’t count on the Holland House next year. It was a bonus for us this year,” Berdahl said. “The new owners of the Holland House have been extremely accommodating in making that property available to us.”The expected disappearance of the Holland House will “tighten the screws a couple of notches,” Berdahl said, but this year, it was the housing for support staff that pushed the festival into new territory.More students than usual sought out the festival’s housing this year – possibly in response to the tight market – pushing out some seasonal staffers who used to share the Burlingame apartment complex with students. In addition, the festival lost roughly 25 beds it previously had at its disposal at Aspen Highlands.As a result, a significant number of seasonal staff members will stay outside town.”This year, for the first time, we have had to go as far afield as Snowmass,” Berdahl said. The Roaring Fork Transportation Authority has been accommodating in arranging bus passes for those individuals – something else the festival hasn’t had to worry about before, he added.What the future holds is anyone’s guess, but Berdahl doesn’t expect the housing situation to get any easier. He prefers to view housing as a challenge, though, as opposed to a hurdle.”It’s a challenge that we come to every year. We’ve risen to it again this year,” he said.Janet Urquhart’s e-mail address is

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