Building a hotel on a mountain is not easy, but for the Aspen Skiing Company it’s business as usual. The company’s latest hospitality venture, the Limelight Hotel Snowmass in Snowmass Village, Colo., opened late December 2018 as the third hotel in the Limelight brand, and now the Aspen Skiing Company is setting out to show that practice makes perfect.
The Aspen, Colo.-based owner and operator, known to locals as “Ski Co.,” established the Aspen Mountain ski resort above the town of Aspen, Colo., in 1946. Since then it has gone on to operate three additional ski areas in the region: Aspen Highlands, Buttermilk and Snowmass. The new Limelight Snowmass joins the Limelight Hotel Ketchum in Ketchum, Idaho, and the nearby Limelight Hotel Aspen.
Alinio Azevedo, COO of hospitality at the Aspen Skiing Company, said development on the Limelight Hotel Snowmass began roughly three years ago. After partnering with Denver-based Oz Architecture to design the property’s exterior and New York’s Stonehill Taylor for its interiors, the Aspen Skiing Company purchased the land and the neighboring Snowmass Mountain Club for approximately $50 million and got to work.
“We were initially constrained by the previous entitlement’s stipulations, as they were for condominiums, but it turned out to not be a big deal,” Azevedo said.
The Limelight Snowmass is owned by Chicago’s Crown family, heirs to the founders of building material company Material Services Corporation, who financed the project themselves. Once the hotel began construction, Azevedo said the developers encountered challenges typical of a mountainside construction project: shifting logistics and scarcity of labor.
“There is always the issue of building costs today, but combine these other factors, and in this location, and it costs a lot,” said Azevedo. “That said, we have great partners and they were on time and on schedule.”
Timing is key when dealing with a hotel located in a town such as Snowmass, which depends heavily on seasonal business. However, Azevedo said the Limelight Snowmass has something else in its favor: a location in the middle of condos that have found their way onto the rental market. That means for travelers looking for a traditional hotel for families, the Limelight Snowmass is their newest option in the region.
As it happens, the concept of “family” is a defining element for the resort. According to Azevedo, the Limelight Snowmass was designed to be “the living room of the community,” which influenced how the property was laid out.
“We refer to Snowmass as our family mountain,” said Azevedo. “Hotel rooms at the Limelight Snowmass were designed to be spacious. The hotel also has a dedicated children’s area, and we have video games and other activities but they are integrated with the rest of the property. The family elements are not isolated here.”
Despite the hotel’s seasonal location, Azevedo said Aspen Skiing Company anticipates keeping it open all year long. However, seasonality will remain a major factor in the hotel’s operation going forward, and operating on a mountain comes with its own quirks as well.
“In the ski business, you have peak periods where guests will be looking for service in public areas,” Azevedo said. “Ninety percent of people want to be on the hill at 9:30 a.m. and will be coming back at 3:30 p.m. Everyone staying at the hotel can be expected to be in common areas, at breakfast, etc. at certain times.”
Onward and Outward
With three Limelight hotels under its snowshoes, Azevedo said the Aspen Skiing Company is ready to explore other destinations for the brand. The company is launching a new endeavor, the Little Nell Hotel Group, which will focus on expanding the Little Nell and Limelight Hotel brands outside of established mountain locales as a management and investment entity.
Currently, Little Nell Hotel Group’s portfolio consists of The Little Nell hotel in Aspen, the Limelight Hotel Aspen, Limelight Hotel Snowmass, Limelight Hotel Ketchum, the Aspen Mountain Club and the Snowmass Mountain Club. According to Azevedo, the Little Nell Hotel Group will be focused on expanding into leisure destinations primarily, and will be exploring development opportunities in beach resorts, mountain destinations that are not ski-centric and more.
“This is not a one-off deal; it’s part of a broader plan to expand into the hospitality industry,” Azevedo said. “This is the starting point of a lot of things to come.”
For the near future, however, Azevedo is excited to establish the Limelight Snowmass as a family destination of note in a market where Aspen Skiing Company excels.
“This market is primarily characterized by condos,” Azevedo said. “What makes this property unique is that we are a brand new ski-in, ski-out hotel adjacent to the main gondola going up the mountain, and it was designed for families from day one.”