Viceroy at Snowmass forges ahead, economy be damned |

Viceroy at Snowmass forges ahead, economy be damned

Madeleine Osberger
Snowmass Village correspondent
Aspen, CO Colorado

Nicholas Clayton

SNOWMASS VILLAGE – It ‘s both a blessing and a burden to be the first luxury hotel to open its doors in Snowmass Village, especially in this uncertain economy.

But executives from the Kor Hotel Group, who this week visited their newest property, the Viceroy-Snowmass, are both excited and seemingly undeterred by the financial woes befalling Related WestPac, the project’s primary developer.

“We ‘ll be here no matter who owns the hotel,” said Nicholas Clayton, Kor Hotel management president.

While Related WestPac and Hypo Bank work toward resolution of the financial mess that has stalled construction of two buildings in the Base Village development and left $110 million worth of its local properties in foreclosure, finish work continues on the anchor hotel that managers hope to open by November or early December.

“We’re very fortunate to be here,” Clayton said. “We are probably representative of the new development of Snowmass, to complement the infrastructure…for that, we get a lot of attention.”

What also garners a lot of attention, he believes, is the look of the Viceroy-Snowmass, which sets it apart from other area lodging properties, including its luxuriously understated neighbor The Timbers Club. Maybe it’s the porte cochere or the 88-foot bar, the silk and leather sconces in the bathrooms or Chinese drum accent pieces colored a bright orange.

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Originally branded as a Westin hotel when Intrawest and Aspen Skiing Co. were involved with the Base Village development, former Related WestPac President Pat Smith had a real affection for the early Viceroy hotels in Santa Monica and Palm Springs and even hosted a site tour for elected officials and the media in May 2007.

Two years later at the Viceroy-Snowmass, nearly 200 workers spend their days nailing aspen tree saplings to the doors of a private dining room and installing a hydrotherapy tub in the spa. Clayton described the style of the 173-room property as “avant-garde. You walk in and say, ‘wow! ‘”

Two-hundred is also about the number of employees the hotel will need to be fully staffed when it opens. A job fair could be held as early as mid-September for positions that will likely be much coveted in the current job market.

In some ways, the hotel seems very 2007 – back when opulence still reigned. The phrase “organic feel” is invoked numerous times by Kor managers; that style sensibility emanates from Jean-Michel Gathy of the Malaysia-based architectural company, Denniston International, as well as TV personality, designer Kelly Wearstler.

Lip service was also paid to Snowmass ‘ status as a family resort and skiing as a family industry by Michael Paneri, Kor senior vice president of hotel development. That will be borne out in a children’s ski program that will tie in with Skico’s lesson plans.

Yet the contemporary clean lines of the Viceroy’s decor – the granite countertops, black and gold tile in the showers, even the bone inserts in the cabinetry – suggest a lodging that also appeals to singles, empty nesters and the otherwise childless – a niche worth filling in Snowmass. So, too, does a bathroom where one can pull a shade for privacy or enjoy an unobstructed view of skiers cruising past the window.

“You can sit in the tub and watch TV or watch skiers,” hotel general manager Jeff David said with a smile.

While Base Village ‘s other luxury hotel, The Little Nell-Snowmass, has an uncertain future, David proudly pointed out the Viceroy brand of Kor will debut three dwellings this year alone.

“That’s a lot of optimism,” David said about Kor, which has already opened Viceroys in Anguilla, British West Indies and Miami in 2009. But is it overconfidence? After all, a recent article in The New York Times about the Four Seasons brand said revenue for that luxury hotel chain is off by about 25 percent this year.