Tourism is returning to Pitkin County, and short-term lodging, like hotels and condos, can operate at 50% capacity each day. In a recent Board of Health meeting, Snowmass Village Mayor and board chair Markey Butler said that isn’t the best fit for her town. She spoke with reporter Alex Hager about why she's pushing for a different plan.
What are some of the challenges unique to Snowmass that your community is facing coming out of this pandemic, especially when you’re talking about lodging?
The lodging community presents a whole different challenge than my friends and colleagues in the Aspen community. We are primarily a condominium type of resort. We have the Westin, we have the Viceroy, we have the Limelight. Everything else is condos with outside corridors. One of the things that I was really adamant about as chair of the public health board was that Snowmass operates very differently than Aspen as it relates to the hotel industry. Needless to say, I voted against the 50% occupancy measured on a daily basis and I continue to be an advocate for a different type of program and an allowance for Snowmass Village.
What part of the county’s new standards for lodging could change to better serve Snowmass?
This 50%, measured on a daily basis, doesn’t make a lot of sense. A lot of our people drive up from Denver that stay here, or come in a day’s drive. They come in on a Friday, Thursday night and stay Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, then leave on Monday. So if you only have 50% occupancy, then on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, what you have now is maybe 10% occupancy.
So that doesn’t really help the economic vitality that we need here. It doesn’t make any sense. What I wanted to have happen, if we were going to do the 50% occupancy, was measure it on a weekly basis, not on a daily basis.
Does it look like Snowmass businesses are only going to be hurting through this summer? Or do you expect the impact of the pandemic to linger into the winter season?
I will tell you that the restaurant owners that I have talked with — most of them say that they do not see a good return to business until 2021. They’re praying that when ski season comes, we will see a lot of people coming back for skiing. But most of them are saying that this is a destination location and for people to fly internationally and/or across the county to come to Snowmass or to Aspen, they think people will not trust airlines until 2021.
I don’t want to be Debbie Downer, but when you talk to businesses, I don’t see what I call that enthusiastic spirit of ‘I’m going to make it.’ They’re trying their butts off to make it, and many of them will, but some of our businesses will go out.