Smart CRE: Taylor River Lodge in Crested Butte, CO

Lending for hospitality properties from PLUM

[Top Image of the Taylor River Lodge. Photo Credit: Taylor River Lodge/Eleven Experience]

According to the most recent census, over 80% of people in the United States now live in urban areas, which is up 20% in just 50 years; as the rural population has decreased, it has made country breaks all the more popular. Babbling brooks, neighing horses, misty lakes and snow-covered peaks are calling to city dwellers, and they are answering.

So how can CRE owners take advantage of this? To answer this, we looked at the new Taylor River Lodge in Crested Butte, Colorado.

What Makes Crested Butte a Popular Destination?

Crested Butte is a small, mountain town of approximately 1,400 people, four hours southwest of Denver. A former coal-mining town, it can now be summed up in one word: nature.

As you would expect from a Colorado Mountain town, skiing and snowboarding dominate the winter months. Indeed, it can trace its economic recovery back to the opening of a ski lift in the ‘60s, when the town was in recession due to coal mines leaving the area. Crested Butte has 14 snow lifts, with the double black diamonds a particular attraction for adrenaline-seeking skiers and snowboarders. There is also miles and miles of cross-country skiing.

When spring and summer roll around, mountain biking and hikes dominate the tourist activities. Mountain biking was said to be born in Crested Butte, and a trip around its rugged mountain terrain certainly lend credence to this. Bolstering their claim is that the Mountain Bike Hall of Fame was located in the little town until 2014.

While Crested Butte is a picturesque mountain town with extreme sports and nature walks attracting visitors, it’s no Aspen. It remains relatively unknown outside of Colorado. So how does the Taylor River Lodge attract customers?

What is the Taylor River Lodge?

The Taylor River Lodge is owned by Eleven Experience, an adventure travel company, which is a growing business model for an increasingly urbanizing nation. Located outside of the town of Crested Butte, right on the tranquil Taylor River, it is- in essence- an upscale summer camp for adults.

Eleven Experience bought the eight lodges that now call themselves Taylor River Lodge, converting them from dull, purely-practical mountain cabins, into the ritzy abodes they are today. They managed to maintain the rustic charm of these old cabins, touching up the exterior and mostly decorating the interior to make it comfortable and homey, but not modern.

Part of a stay at the Taylor River Lodge is hiking, fly-fishing, biking, archery, rafting, rock-climbing and more. But before you think it’s just outdoor sports, guests also take advantage of onsite bath houses, hot tubs, sauna, luxurious cabins, a bar, locally-sourced food, car travel services (including airport pickup) and concierge services.

Wrap all that up, and factor in the spectacular views of the area, and you can see why these lodges are so appealing to people in urban areas. It’s the luxurious great outdoors: all the advantages of the city crossed with the country, in the privacy of your own cabin.

What Can Hospitality Property Owners Learn from The Taylor River Lodge?

As the urban population increases, it is only logical that tourists seeking remote destinations for vacations will increase. While CRE as a destination is not a new idea, it is because of this shift that this idea is more important.  It isn't Crested Butte that brings people to Taylor River Lodge, it is the lodges themselves that attract people. Destination weddings, destination reunions, destination bachelor/bachelorette parties, family holidays can all be based purely around Taylor River Lodge. The accommodation is the destination.

The Taylor River Lodge is a lesson in combining a good idea, with a great execution. Converting, as opposed to completely rebuilding, the cabins was smart, as the older buildings add to the charm and rustic feel of a Taylor River Lodge experience. There is something for an entire family or a group of friends to enjoy. It’s the chance to learn new skills, from ax-throwing to mountain-climbing to fly-fishing.

Making the cabins high-end is also savvy. When renovating, they got rid of the campsite in the center of the park to make the lodges the only accommodation. The exclusivity and privacy is itself an attraction for affluent millennials and families looking for a break from the city, and allow for a surcharge in the cabin prices, as there is no secondary accommodation. With only eight cabins onsite, a higher price is both necessary and justified.

Ultimately, it is a simple but effective idea: upgrade old buildings in a beautiful, remote location, and you have a high-end destination that people from cities want to visit. You’re not just accommodation; you’re the destination.


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