Volleyball players seek cheap digs | AspenTimes.com

Volleyball players seek cheap digs

Janet Urquhart

As Aspen’s supply of affordable lodge rooms dwindles, it’s not just economy-minded tourists who are mulling their options. Labor Day weekend brings the 33rd annual Mother Lode Volleyball Classic to Aspen – an event that traditionally draws a crowd of participants and spectators who will be looking for inexpensive rooms. But organizer Leon Fell seeks free rooms.Every year, he secures about 35 free beds for the volunteers who help run the tournament. As lodges change hands and some establishments go away, Fell said his hunt has become more difficult.”We lodge them and they work for five days for no pay because they love the sport,” he said. “What I’m worried about is how we’re going to continue to keep the staff that we need when we’re losing the rooms.”Fell has secured one free room at a hotel where he used to get two, and five free condos that were once donated to the cause have disappeared, now that the properties have changed hands.”That’s a big cutback,” he said.For the 3,500 people who are directly involved in the five-day volleyball tournament and the throngs who show up to watch, moderately priced lodging has gotten harder and harder to find.”We used to fill up the Grand Aspen,” he said. “Even with four people in a room, that didn’t come close to housing half our players.”I do know for the bulk of the players, especially the younger players, if we start losing more moderately priced rooms, we will start losing that crowd.”The old Grand Aspen closed down several year ago and is now being rebuilt as the Hyatt Grand Aspen, a timeshare hotel.The Holland House, now under contract to be sold, used to throw open its doors for the Mother Lode after housing music students each summer. Both the young musicians and the volleyball set are likely out of luck when it comes to future stays at the Holland House. The lodge won’t be open for the coming holiday weekend.The Annabell Inn, however, has stepped up with two free rooms to replace lodging Fell once had at the Holland House and several local restaurants have offered to help feed volunteers, he said.The L’Auberg D’Apsen is available to Mother Lode attendees this year, but may be gone by next year. The Innsbruck Inn, being redeveloped as a fractional project, is currently closed for construction. Volleyball participants can still seek out condos, though, filling units with enough people to bring down the per-person costs, and moderately priced lodges remain.Later this fall, a crush of young hockey players and parents will come to Aspen for three straight weekends during the Aspen Junior Hockey Fall Face-Off. They will pack various lodging establishments, including the Limelite Lodge.If the Limelite’s plan to redevelop a new, moderately priced lodge (along with free-market condos) wins city approval, the Limelite complex – including the Snowflake Inn and Deep Powder – will be unavailable for next year’s Face-Off. The lodge would be closed for two summers and the winter of 2006-07, reopening sometime in late 2007. If the plans aren’t approved, its owners say the Limelite’s days are numbered.Assuming the Limelite closes for redevelopment, various events that rely on its 110 rooms will be scrambling for some 18 months.Everyone from hockey families and volleyball players, to the crews for the HBO’s U.S. Comedy Arts Festival and ESPN’s Winter X Games have stayed there.”That will be a huge hit for us,” said Tim Ware, Face-Off director. “We will be relying on the big boys on the block to come down in their rates.”The Limelite is the most hockey-friendly hotel in town. They’ve been very kind to us.””When the Limelite goes down, it will make things a little bit more difficult,” Fell agreed.But for this year’s volleyball tournament, plenty of Mother Lode players and families are booked as usual at the Limelite, confirmed one of the lodge’s owners.Janet Urquhart’s e-mail address is janet@aspentimes.com