Why isn’t Summit County a hotel hotspot? Visitors and residents give input on their lodging preferences
Editor’s note: This story has been updated to correct the definition of a county.
Residents, visitors and even officials have said that Summit County is not a hotel destination.
With its beautiful scenery and multiple ski resorts established within the county’s jurisdiction, visitors flock to Summit County every year to ski or ride, hike, climb, mountain bike and more.
These visitors, however, need a place to stay. Hotels are not the No. 1 option for many, based on input from vacationers in Frisco. Likewise, there are only three hotels in Breckenridge, according to the Breckenridge Tourism Office, and about 46% of Breckenridge’s occupancy was utilized in 2021.
So where are people staying?
In the past few years, short-term rentals have increasingly become an option for those visiting the region. 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 of the county from Grand Junction, said she prefers an Airbnb over a hotel. Not only are there limited hotels within the county she can choose from that allow her dog, Shelley said the cost of a hotel isn’t worth the money in comparison to an Airbnb.
Even if an Airbnb is more expensive in terms of the cost, the benefits outweigh it, she said.
“There’s a beautiful washer and dryer, a big deck, a fire pit, we have a place to put our bikes, there’s a big covered parking area for the car,” Shelley said.
Besides the amenities, Shelley’s dog is a steady companion on her trips to Summit County and she sometimes brings extra guests — a flexibility at an Airbnb she doesn’t always get at a hotel.
Though she loves short-term rentals, Shelley said she is aware they can be a sore on communities.
Recently, the long-term effects of short-term rentals have been highlighted by community members.
A short-term rental questionnaire, created by Summit County government’s planning department, received almost 2,000 responses. The survey showed that a majority of respondents believe short-term rentals have a negative impact on communities in Summit County.
Some of the responses cited loud noise, trash and parking as main offenses.
Shelley’s solution is to stay in an Airbnb that stresses guests to be “respectful” within the Airbnb guidelines. “They say ‘please be considerate of our neighbors because we live in a community,’” Shelley said. “No barking dogs, limit your time in the hot tub — not past midnight — or no loud music.”
Another reason visitors may not stay in a hotel during their time in Summit County is the proximity to ski resorts. Shelley brought up that hotels are frequently found in town centers, far away from the ski slopes so many come to the county for.
So why not build more hotels where people want to stay?
Deitz said hotels can be a challenging project for developers due to the hefty construction costs, zoning requirements and lack of demand within the county.
Deb Pearson and Joe Chesney, from 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 typically spend their allotted time at the ski resort.
Not everyone has the money for a timeshare or can afford the extra fees that come along with a short-term rental, however.
Gerod Green, a visitor from Golden, recently came up to Summit for two days. He stayed in the Snowshoe Motel in Frisco, but Green said he looked up Airbnb options before booking his room.
While searching, Green found a local, tiny house that was listed at $98 per night. It seemed like a reasonable price, but as he went to check out, Green found the total price had increased to $370 after taxes and fees. He quickly nixed that idea and chose the motel instead.
Short-term rentals may be costing locals, too.
According to the short-term rental questionnaire, about 65% of respondents in the survey answered that short-term rentals have reduced the number of units available for long-term rentals for the past five years.
Asia Kuskowska, a real estate agent from Copper Mountain, pushed back on the stance. “It’s not a direct correlation,” Kuskowska said. “People who were looking for better-priced rental rates, those were going up anyway, because of the economy and because of inflation.”
As controversy over Summit County housing continues, Summit County government is working to create short-term rental regulations and more workforce housing in response. Recently, the town of Breckenridge and Summit County government have purchased two hotels to convert into workforce housing, a decision Kuskowska supports.
“We have to start thinking outside the box,” she said. “Are we utilizing this space, this land, with its best intended use?”
Support Local Journalism
Support Local Journalism
As a Summit Daily News reader, you make our work possible.
Summit Daily is embarking on a multiyear project to digitize its archives going back to 1989 and make them available to the public in partnership with the Colorado Historic Newspapers Collection. The full project is expected to cost about $165,000. All donations made in 2023 will go directly toward this project.
Every contribution, no matter the size, will make a difference.