SkiCo buys Thunder River Lodge in Carbondale for employee housing |

SkiCo buys Thunder River Lodge in Carbondale for employee housing

CARBONDALE, Colo. – The Aspen Skiing Co. (SkiCo) sealed a deal with Artie and Maureen Rothman Nov. 16 to purchase the Thunder River Lodge, a 21-room motel located on the west side of State Highway 133 near the entrance to Carbondale.With the move, Carbondale loses one of its few lodges, and the most affordable one at that. But the SkiCo gains something that arguably benefits the whole valley – employee housing.”We’re trying to do a rebuild in (Aspen), and we’re running into problems. We needed more beds and more options,” said Jim Laing, vice president of human resources for SkiCo. “Housing has gotten more and more scarce upvalley and midvalley, so we’re exploring all the options.”Laing said the SkiCo is always looking to create more affordable housing for employees, especially for the positions that are harder to fill. He called the Thunder River Lodge a turn-key opportunity with employees moving in this week.”It’s the right thing to do, and we’re very fortunate that our ownership feels the same way, because it’s a very expensive proposition,” Laing said. “It usually falls on the government to do it, but we’re not waiting, were charging ahead.”Laing said there are still many open positions available at SkiCo, and one of the first questions prospective employees ask is about housing.”The rooms are well below market rates in attempt to make it affordable,” he said. “We try to help out our first-year seasonal employees by offering them a package of a job and housing. We’re trying to improve the quality of life for employees so they only have to have one job and they can enjoy what they came here for.” Laing said the lodge will house about 40 seasonal employees this winter, but may turn into more longer-term housing depending on the need. The SkiCo currently has about 300 subsidized “beds” to offer employees. Laing said the company hopes to double that in the next few years.The Thunder River Lodge is located in unincorporated Garfield County and is zoned commercial/ general, which is pretty wide open for multi-family housing opportunities, said county planner Fred Jarman. He said the location is ideal for employee housing from a planning perspective because it is right across from a bus stop, has bike path access and is near a grocery store and other amenities. Carbondale Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Randi Lowenthal isn’t against employee housing but said Carbondale needs more lodging opportunities for visitors.”I’m not happy. I would love to see us add some hotel rooms. I think Carbondale could handle another medium-level hotel and a boutique hotel,” she said. “We don’t have a lot of choices right now.”Artie Rothman has lived in the valley for 36 years and bought the Thunder River Lodge in 1994. The lodge was built in 1967.He said a local ranching family told him a few years ago it just wasn’t viable to raise cows on land worth so much more for homes. Similarly, he said landowners operating hotels can’t ignore obvious financial opportunities. “It’s difficult anywhere to run a lodge,” said Rothman, who was looking to convert the property into small apartments to sell off at somewhat affordable rates before SkiCo discussed buying the property.”It’s rather crazy to stay in this seven-day-a-week, high-energy job when your property is worth so much more as something else,” he added. “You can only ignore that stuff for so long – whether it’s cows or hotels. I hate to see that with the ranches, but you can’t fault that rancher.”With the sale, Carbondale lost a hotel that served the more budget-minded traveler, and more recently, construction workers working on the many projects from Carbondale to Aspen, said Rothman, who considered his operation a success. If something needs to be preserved, he said, the community needs to help figure out a way for it to survive in the current market.”We were a relatively low-end establishment already dealing with high taxes. The ridiculous state tax rules mean we pay three times more in commercial than residential,” Rothman, referring to Colorado’s Gallagher Amendment, which assesses taxes on commercial property at a much higher rate than residential.”I’ve been talking about this for a long time; we have these very repressive tax laws that were created by residential developers – so if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em,” he said.Post Independent, Glenwood Springs, Colorado, Colo. CO

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