Hard Rock Hotel courts Copper ski resort | VailDaily.com

Hard Rock Hotel courts Copper ski resort

Bob Berwin

SUMMIT COUNTY ” This week’s announcement that Intrawest will partner with Hard Rock International to bring a four-star Hard Rock condo-hotel to the resort elicited a generally positive response from the Copper Mountain community.

Some residents and business owners said they have been waiting many years for the arrival of a flagship hotel as an resort anchor.

“As a homeowner and resident, it really, really brightened my day,” said Cathi Kneuper, who also owns the Creekside Italian Cafe, right next to the proposed hotel location in what is currently the Chapel parking lot.

“I don’t think I could have picked a better fit. They’re young, they’re aggressive. Having a national hotel will help bridge the off-season,” Kneuper said. “There’s been talk since the 1970s about bringing in a flagship hotel, and we’ve been disappointed again and again.”

Intrawest and Hard Rock International agreed on the deal last summer, said Intrawest public affairs manager Laura Goode, explaining that the hotel proposal is contingent on county approval of a new base area development plan that will be considered by local officials during the next few months. A formal application could be submitted as early as next week. A countywide open house on the base area proposal is scheduled for March 13.

Copper wants to add several hundred residential units and some new commercial space to the base area. The proposal has been studied closely by Copper Mountain stakeholders, and Intrawest officials hope their collaborative up-front approach will pay off with a smooth run through the planning process. The Hard Rock hotel announcement anticipates construction beginning as soon as 2007.

A previous base area development proposal spent about three years in the planning and approval process before ultimately getting a thumbs-down from the Summit County commissioners, who raised concerns about density and parking issues, among other things. The latest proposal will include a transfer of development rights component aimed to address some of those concerns, Goode said.

Intrawest seems to have taken a much more sensitive approach with plenty of front-end input from the community on this planning go-round, according to Bob Bloch, a Frisco-based photographer who served on a strategic advisory group that helped fine-tune the resort’s latest base area plan.

“I looked at their various hotels around the world on the web, and I was very impressed,” said Bloch, who also sits on the Copper metro district board. “I think it’s a terrific match and will help create a significant market differentiation.”

Goode said that, in her early discussions with Copper residents, response to the Hard Rock announcement has been mostly positive. But she acknowledged that she also talked to a few people who questioned whether the Hard Rock brand was the right fit for Copper.

“A few people thought we should bring in a Sheraton or a Westin,” Goode said.

Goode said a Hard Rock hotel could serve as a destination draw in itself, and explained that Hard Rock’s customer demographics mesh with Copper’s goals of bringing a mix of age groups to the resort. The Hard Rock brand resonates with the 25-45 age group. The average price point for existing Hard Rock hotels is about $200 per night, she said.

The non-traditional choice is bound to draw some inevitable comparisons to an earlier failed effort to bring a unique brand to Copper with the Indian Motorcycle Cafe, Goode acknowledged.

Intrawest partnered with Hard Rock partly because the Orlando-based company has a “corporate culture of environmental sensitivity,” Goode said, adding that the two companies, “with no promises,” will look into green building practices for the proposed hotel.

The Hard Rock Hotel Copper Mountain would be the first mountain property for the company. As envisioned, it would include four-star, luxury residences surrounded by an array of first-class resort amenities. The hotel would feature approximately 320 residences

Bob Berwyn can be reached at 331-5996, or at bberwyn@summitdaily.com.

Vail, Colorado

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