Aspen lodging prices sending visitors downvalley
ASPEN Aspens loss of affordable lodging is downvalleys gain as visitors increasingly are looking to Basalt, Carbondale and Glenwood Springs for reasonably priced hotel rooms.With only a little more than 7,000 pillows available in Aspen, tourists can save hundreds of dollars by going farther down the road to find accommodations.Im basing this on intuition but the traffic patterns seem to be nightmarish at times and presumably, there are people who are commuting upvalley who wanted to stay in Aspen or Snowmass but couldnt, said Bill Tomcich, president of Stay Aspen Snowmass, the resorts central reservations system.The average nightly room rate in Aspen has increased 14 percent over last year and 26 percent from two years ago, according to Tomcich.Everyone cant believe how expensive Aspen has gotten, he said, adding lodge owners are capitalizing on the situation by increasing their prices. Its the simple laws of supply and demand.According to the recently published Rocky Mountain Lodging Report, Aspen in 2007 had the highest average daily rate in the state at $366.10. Glenwood Springs was $106.08 and was second in the state in its lodging occupancy levels at 69.7 percent.Nightly rates remain reasonable at lodges in Basalt and Carbondale, hovering between $100 and $180 a night, depending on availability.The more budget, economy-minded visitor is pretty much our business, said Coral Dillon, general manager of the Comfort Inn & Suites in Carbondale. We get some overflow from Aspen, but we get a lot of repeat business too.Standard rooms at the Comfort Inn are between $140 and $150, but when special events, like the Winter X Games, take place in Aspen that rate increases to about $180.Robyn Lawry, manager at the Taylor Creek Cabins located up the Fryingpan River, has seen a spike in business as well.Were doing really well, Lawry said, adding she charges $160 a night for a cabin that sleeps up to four people. Theres been an increase this year over last year.And with Basalt and Carbondale coming into their own as destination communities with restaurants and nightlife, visitors are finding added value in staying there.I feel Basalt has a lot to offer, said Valerie Britt-Kalberg, manager of the Green Drake. The outside influence is not something I pay attention to but Im sure its partly because of the pricing up there.Britt-Kalberg said the Green Drake offers a total of 26 rooms that range in price from $89 to $215. Those are packaged with discounted lift tickets.Given the prices upvalley, its a good alternative, she said.Spill over from Aspen is noticeable at the Best Western Aspenalt Lodge located in Basalt, where rooms range between $100 and $130 a night, said general manager Chris Szczelini.There is only a limited amount of people that can stay up there, he said.Tomcich said out of 200,000 unique visits to stayaspensnowmass.com, only 149 rooms have been booked.For every telephone call we get we have 20 people hammering our website looking for lodging, he said. We are turning away business because we cant accommodate people.Visitors are finding it difficult to maneuver through the booking engine of the website because there is no information provided about why there are no rooms available. Tomcich acknowledged that the website doesnt give potential guests a full picture of Aspens dire lodging situation.Its like trying to find a needle in a haystack, Tomcich said, adding he and his staff are working on getting more information on the website. Were not giving them bites at all and we need to bombard them with information on limited availability and minimum night stays.Tomcich this winter has been the worst in terms of a lack of lodging as more rooms were taken out of the inventory with the Little Red Ski Haus and the Boomerang Lodge closing.I think we really hit rock bottom this year, he said, adding the situation will improve for the 2008-09 season with the Limelight Lodge anticipated to be open this fall with 125 rooms and other hotels opening in Snowmass Base Village. By next winter, we should be out of this.
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