Why isn’t Summit County a hotel town? Visitors and residents give their opinion

Short-term rental properties in the Copper Mountain Resort Village are pictured Aug. 13, 2021. Summit County visitors staying on timeshares or short-term rentals say the hotels aren’t ideal for a number of reasons , although locals say short-term rentals have a negative impact on the community.
Ashley Low / For the Daily News Summit

Residents, visitors and even officials have said Summit County is not a hotel town.

With its beautiful scenery and multiple established ski resorts within the county’s jurisdiction, visitors flock to Summit County each year to ski or bike, hike, rock climb, mountain bike and more.

These visitors, however, need a place to stay. Hotels aren’t the #1 option for many, based on reviews from vacationers in Frisco. Likewise, there are only three hotels in Breckenridge, according to the Breckenridge Visitor Center, and about 46% of Breckenridge’s occupancy was used in 2021.



So where are the people staying?

Over the past few years, short-term rentals have increasingly become an option for those visiting the area. So much so that about a third of all homes in Summit County have a short-term rental license, according to Summit County Housing Director Jason Dietz.



Maxine Shelley, a frequent visitor to Grand Junction County, said she preferred an Airbnb to a hotel. Not only are there a limited number of hotels in the county she can choose from that allow her dog, Shelley said the cost of a hotel isn’t worth its price compared to an Airbnb.

Even though an Airbnb is more expensive in terms of cost, the benefits outweigh it, she said.

“There’s a nice washer and dryer, a big deck, a fire pit, we have a place to store our bikes, there’s ample covered parking for the car,” Shelley said.

Amenities aside, Shelley’s dog is a steady companion on her travels in Summit County, and she occasionally brings extra guests โ€” a flexibility at an Airbnb that she doesn’t always get at a hotel.

Although she likes short-term rentals, Shelley said she is aware they can be a drain on communities.

Recently, the long-term effects of short-term rentals have been highlighted by community members.

A short-term rental questionnaire, created by the Summit County Government Planning Department, received nearly 2,000 responses. The survey showed that a majority of respondents believe that short-term rentals are having a negative impact on communities in Summit County.

Some of the responses cited loud noise, garbage, and parking as primary infractions.

Shelley’s solution is to stay at an Airbnb that requires guests to be “respectful” within Airbnb’s guidelines. “They say ‘please be respectful of our neighbors because we live in a community,'” Shelley said. “No barking dogs, limit your time in the hot tub – not after midnight – or not loud music.”

Another reason visitors can’t stay in a hotel while in Summit County is the proximity to ski resorts. Shelley referred to the fact that hotels are often in city centers, far from the ski slopes that many come to the county for.

So why not build more hotels where people want to stay?

Deitz said hotels can be a difficult project for developers due to high construction costs, zoning requirements and lack of demand in the county.

Deb Pearson and Joe Chesney, of Virginia and Tennessee, respectively, bought a timeshare in Breckenridge 17 years ago and still use it today. The two rarely come during the summer and usually spend their allotted time at the ski resort.

However, not everyone has the money for a timeshare or can afford the extra fees that come with a short-term rental.

Gerod Green, a visitor from Golden, recently came to Summit for two days. He stayed at the Snowshoe Motel in Frisco, but Green said he researched Airbnb options before booking his room.

While searching, Green found a small local house that was listed at $98 per night. It seemed like a reasonable price, but when checking out, Green found that the total price had risen to $370 after taxes and fees. He quickly dismissed this idea and chose the motel instead.

Short-term rentals can also be expensive for locals.

According to the short-term rental questionnaire, approximately 65% โ€‹โ€‹of survey respondents responded that short-term rentals have reduced the number of units available for long-term rentals over the past five years.

Asia Kuskowska, a Copper Mountain real estate agent, pushed back on her position. “It’s not a direct correlation,” Kuskowska said. “People who were looking for cheaper rental rates, those were going up anyway, because of the economy and inflation.”

As the Summit County housing controversy continues, the Summit County government is working to create short-term rental regulations and more workforce housing in response. Recently, the town of Breckenridge and the Summit County government purchased two hotels to convert into workforce housing, a move Kuskowska supported.

“We have to start thinking outside the box,” she said. “Are we using this space, this land, with its best intended use?”


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