Cheap hotel rooms disappearing in Vail
VAIL – Juan Fregoso looked up at the green and beige facade of the vintage ’70s ski lodge and said he’s sorry to see it go.”We’re the last affordable place in Vail,” said Fregoso, manager of the Roost Lodge. “Everywhere else is $100 more than us.”The Roost Lodge, in West Vail, is supposed to be torn down this spring to make way for a Marriott Residence Inn hotel, plus condos.On Friday, the “vacancy” neon light was glowing pink, and rooms were going for $99. In comparison, a last-minute reservation for two at the Sonnenalp Resort would cost $365. The same at the Lodge at Vail would set you back $519.Although there were no guests around at the Roost – it was midday, and the next wave of visitors hadn’t check in yet – Fregoso said the lodge has been busy and profitable this winter. There were a few cars with empty ski racks in the parking lot.He listed the kinds of people who stay there: Front Rangers, college students on ski trips, hunters and construction workers.”They want to come around and stay for a little bit and not spend an arm and a leg,” he said.They will probably go downvalley after the Roost closes, Fregoso said.”That’s the big question I’ve been getting for the last year,” he said. “‘Where are we going to go? Where are we going to stay?'”While Vail is losing the Roost Lodge, lots of high-end hotels are opening in the new few years, including the Four Seasons, the Vail Plaza Hotel, the Arrabelle at Vail Square and the recently completed Tivoli Lodge.
Michael Robinson, president of the Vail Valley Partnership, a regional chamber of commerce, acknowledged that Vail is “going more upscale” with the addition of expensive hotels.But as long as people keep filling the rooms and paying the rates, Vail is on the right track, he said.”The more money we can bring into the destination that will be spent at hotels, restaurants, retail and spas, the better the whole economy for the region is going to be,” he said.Still, Vail needs to keep – and still has – less-expensive accommodations, he said. The town can’t ignore value-seeking travelers, he said.”Today’s college kids are going to be tomorrow’s MBAs,” he said Rod Slifer, mayor of Vail, said land is so expensive, it’s difficult for Vail to have affordable hotels. There are still options in Vail for inexpensive lodging, including at condos that are being rented out, Slifer said.”As a consumer, you have to snoop around a little bit more,” he said.The Roost’s replacement, the Marriott Residence Inn, will still be a relatively inexpensive option in Vail, Slifer said.”In today’s market that’s probably a pretty good tradeoff,” he said.
More posh hotels bring a lot of good things to the community, said Ralf Garrison, a resort analyst with the Denver-based Advisory Group. Most notably, they bring affluent visitors who spend money in stores and restaurants, he said.”If more money’s coming in than coming out, that’s a good thing,” he said.Plus, that spending gets taxed, and tax money helps improve the community, he said.”It would be grand if there could be products for everyone in the market,” Garrison said. “But as destinations grow, they learn that they can’t successfully be all things to all people.”Does Vail need inexpensive hotel rooms, even as its lift tickets sell for $85, the most expensive in the nation?Garrison said one concern is that Vail risks losing its “entry level.””We need to bring new skiers, new mountain vacationers and new families into the sport,” he said. “And there aren’t enough rich people to go around.”Plus, Garrison said, economic diversity of visitors helps places – including resorts – have vibrancy. Without low-cost lodging, that could be threatened, he said.”The fun part of the local flavor of resorts is moving out one rung on the bull’s-eye,” he said.Staff Writer Edward Stoner can be reached at 748-2929 or firstname.lastname@example.org.