Search for lodging

-- +
Under 13
-- +

Five reasons to be bullish on Snowmass


The Aspen Business Journal by Madeleine Osberger.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

SNOWMASS VILLAGE—It’s been the best of times and the worst of times for this resort during the past decade. Fast new lifts and a substantial on-mountain investment vastly improved the ski experience but stalled development in the base area tested the core of local business owners who have struggled to hang on.

Real estate, which appears to be rebounding slowly in Aspen and downvalley, has remained mired in the doldrums well beyond the official end of the Great Recession. Single-family home and condominium prices are relative bargains because of the ample inventory.

But the dark cloud appears to finally be lifting from this resort community that despite its close proximity to Aspen, remains a different animal in many ways. Settlement of the Base Village ownership, back to Related, is considered just one step in Snowmass’ new way forward.

This winter season, guests will see additional quality lodging opportunities, a smart new on-mountain eatery and more après-ski choices. Meanwhile, an agreement to provide extra capacity for snowmaking needs will offer breathing room to the ski area in case of another lean season.

It’s a new day in the Village. Here are five reasons why:

1. The Silvertree Hotel had been left to languish by its past ownership and the bar was set pretty low for a new owner to come in and make a statement. Fortunately, after plunking down $42 million for the slope-side property and the nearby Wildwood Inn, investor David Wasserman (Wasserman Real Estate) and Starwood Capital Group have infused about $55 million into the Snowmass Mall properties and conference center. The impact this property renaissance will bring to the mall businesses should be significant as the Westin Snowmass Resort’s marketing arm offers a wide reach.

When does any construction project open ahead of schedule? In spite- or because of- its tight building window, the Westin will open Nov. 15, one month in advance of its deadline, allowing time for training and addressing glitches prior to the busy holiday season. The Wildwood, which now features a retro ski theme, will make its debut in December.

2. As dry as the topic of water agreements might seem, Snowmass Water & Sanitation’s contract with Aspen Skiing Co. over Ziegler Reservoir will provide the opportunity for consistent snowmaking until March 15. This is the first year that snow guns won’t have to be shuttered on Dec. 31 over fears of draining Snowmass Creek at a time when it’s most vulnerable.

In fact, Ziegler (home of those amazing Ice Age finds) becomes a water management tool because Skico will now be able to make snow when temperatures are the coldest, meaning more efficient use of power to provide optimum output. Water and San will refill the reservoir gradually, using water from the creek when temperatures allow and streamflow is adequate.

3. There are plenty of places to buy a cold beer in Snowmass but the addition of the New Belgium Ranger Station in the renovated Wildwood offers a new twist on the après experience by a born-and-bred Colorado business. Another addition to the nightlife scene is Town Council’s approval of an “entertainment district,” whereby parties may carry open containers within defined areas of the Mall and Base Village. That’s a step forward to increase vitality and help keep mountain users from fleeing to Aspen once the lifts close.

4. There was little nostalgia left for the old Elk Camp restaurant and you’d have to be a hardened cynic to not muster enthusiasm for Skico’s $13 million, two-years-in-the-making handsome new on-mountain eatery.

Not only will the restaurant, located at the top of the gondola, bring some modern elegance to the gentle side of Snowmass. It’s a needed venue for parties, wedding receptions and other festive high-altitude functions that heretofore have been relegated solely to Aspen Mountain’s Sundeck.

5. Stabilization of the Base Village ownership has the ability to impact many facets of the community. Like the Westin project, the recent and complicated buy-back of the commercial properties by Related Companies (through its Snowmass Acquisition Company LLC) shows that major investors are once again willing to sink big bucks into Snowmass. Will that lead the way for smaller investors to step forward and take a risk too?

House hunters will find an ample supply of units – 73 single-family homes for sale as of Oct. 11 – at prices not seen here in years. And the homes and condominiums on the market offer added value in that they are located within the coveted boundaries of the Aspen School District.