Cascade Hotel moving up-market |

Cascade Hotel moving up-market

This artist's rendering shows the planned new entry to the Cascade Hotel in Vail. That new entry will provide covered entry for vehicles up to tour-bus size.

What’s the plan?

• The hotel will be closed from April through start of next ski season.

• Renovations will add an in-house spa, fitness center and salon.

• Rooms will be upgraded.

• The project will turn four existing rooms into two-room suites.

VAIL — When the Vail Cascade Resort & Spa changed ownership in late December, the new owners had already spent months drawing up plans for the place. Those plans will come to life starting in April.

The new owners, Los Angeles-based Laurus Corporation, announced a $35 million renovation plan for the hotel at about the same time they purchased the property for just less than $90 million.

Laurus CEO Phil Cyburt said the idea for the renovation is to take the Vail Cascade up-market, something what will require changes in everything from the company handling reservations and marketing to in-room bathroom fixtures to the addition of new spa and fitness areas in the hotel itself.

Since those changes include converting some guest rooms to space for new amenities, the Vail Town Council has to pass an amendment to the hotel’s initial land-use approval package. The council Tuesday passed that amendment on first reading, with a second, and final, reading set for April 5.

Cyburt said he’s been skiing Vail for years, and is looking forward to having a business presence in town. That presence has ambitious goals.

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In the course of looking at what the property could become, Cyburt and other Laurus executives now believe there’s a place in the Vail market for another high-end hotel, particularly one with the amount of conference space at the Vail Cascade.

That means the Vail Cascade will soon be competing for business from what Cyburt called “national brand conferences.” That includes financial and other firms.

Looking at ‘luxury’

It takes an existing brand — with established reservation and marketing arms — to get the attention of big-name companies. That’s why Laurus decided to associate the Vail Cascade with The Luxury Collection, a division of Starwood Hotels & Resorts. The hotel will continue to be operated and managed by Destination Hotels.

“We stepped back and looked around Vail, and the luxury brands here had a limited supply (of conference space),” Cyburt said. “We believed this hotel could compete at that level.”

Joining The Luxury Collection comes with a number of requirements, Cyburt said. One of those requirements is an on-site spa and fitness center, open to guests only. The existing Aria Athletic Club & Spa will be open to guests and members, and will also see significant renovations, Cyburt said.

In addition to the room upgrades, there are plans to re-do the lobby and bar area, to better use that space. The current indoor tennis court space will be converted to indoor parking.

Getting all of this done in a matter of months is a big job.

Time will tell if Laurus’ investments pay off — Cascade Village has long been seen as somewhat remote from Vail’s resort villages.

Cyburt said he and his company are confident in these moves, and said the company plans to make improvements to the base of the ski lift at the hotel. Most of the improvements will come when the company builds an already-approved condo project known as Cornerstone.

All this work will come with more than a monetary expense. Shutting down the Vail Cascade is going to mean about 90 full-time employees will be out of work.

Cyburt said Laurus is “trying to find a place for them to land,” in other jobs, whether in or out of the valley. And, during the closure, Laurus will help pay medical coverage for those workers. Cyburt said it’s important to have as many hotel employees as possible return for the re-opening.

‘Quality over quantity’

Before voting 5-0 to approve the renovation plan — Greg Moffet recused himself with a conflict of interest and Dick Cleveland was absent — Vail Town Council members said they like the looks of what’s coming.

“I appreciate that the investors are looking to bring a new audience to Vail,” council member Jenn Bruno said.

And, while Vail has lost a number of lodging rooms during the past few years — due in large part to the loss of the old Roost Lodge — council members said they’re comfortable with losing seven rooms for this project.

In fact, Dominic Mauriello, a local planner who has been working with Laurus on the renovation, said the final product will actually add about 50 beds to the hotel, in the form of sofa sleepers and roll-away beds in larger rooms.

“This goes to the quality over quantity argument we’ve been hearing,” Mayor Dave Chapin said, adding that he favors the move toward quality.

In an interview before the town council meeting, Cyburt said that it’s time for some changes at the Vail Cascade, which opened in 1986.

“But we don’t want to take the charm out of it,” Cyburt said. “The Cascade has a loyal following.”

Vail Daily Business Editor Scott Miller can be reached at 970-748-2930, or @scottnmiller.

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