Remoteness a boon for Colorado resort during pandemic
 
Remoteness a boon for Colorado resort during pandemic
04 JANUARY 2021 9:23 AM

The Chipeta Solar Springs Resort in Ridgway, Colorado, has been a popular getaway for guests seeking outdoors activities, according to the hotel’s owners.

Richard Lawson is a staff writer for CoStar News, published by CoStar Group. CoStar Group is the parent company of STR, and HNN is a division of STR. This story has been edited to HNN style.

RIDGWAY, Colorado—A small resort in a tiny southwestern Colorado town has bucked lower-demand trends during the pandemic by serving as getaway for travelers seeking the outdoors to shake the stay-at-home blues.

The 33-room Chipeta Solar Springs Resort, at the base of the San Juan Mountains known for their gold and silver prospecting past, can boast an accomplishment most hotels cannot during the COVID-19 era: Performance growth.

The property temporarily closed like a lot of businesses in Colorado under orders from the governor early on in the pandemic. Patsy Young, who has owned the hotel with her husband, Jack, since they built it more than two decades ago, said business came back slowly when they reopened in May, “but then it just accelerated.”

As the year draws to a close, “our numbers are up over last year overall,” Young said. She said business hasn’t slowed even into December, with weekends being fully booked, “exceeding previous Decembers.”

The resort put in place safety precautions and was allowed to operate at 100% capacity and open the spa.

Chipeta Solar Springs Resort’s rooftop restaurant was able to stay open because it’s outside. Young said the hotel also has kept its entire staff employed.

Through much of the pandemic, drive-to leisure destinations have been more in demand in the U.S.

Colorado benefited, with cities such as Colorado Springs topping the country for weekend occupancy. Around Ridgway, there is opportunity for outdoor activities such as fishing, biking and kayaking.

Young said guests normally come from Denver and Boulder, more than 300 miles on the other side of the Rocky Mountains. But this year the hotel has hosted guests from states such as California and Texas.

“People wanted a safe place to travel,” Young said.

The population in Ridgway, which started as a railroad stop in the 1890s, is a little more than 1,000, roughly one-fifth the number of residents of Ouray County.

The town sits at nearly 7,000 feet in elevation. For perspective, that is higher than Clingmans Dome, the tallest peak in the Great Smoky Mountains of Tennessee and North Carolina at 6,643 feet.

Colorado’s Telluride, an old mining town turned ski resort, is about 40 miles away from Ridgway and 1,750 feet higher.

One of Ridgway’s claims to fame is serving as a set for the 1969 John Wayne film “True Grit.” The town square was made to resemble Fort Smith, Arkansas.

The Youngs built the Chipeta Solar Springs Resort in 1994 and live nearby. Jack Young also is an architect and builder, mostly in Telluride.

Patsy Young said they hadn’t intended to own other hotels, but then they bought property with partners in Fiji when land prices dropped following a 2000 coup and developed Koro Sun Resort & Rainforest Spa there.

They built homes next to the resort in Fiji. Jack Young told The New York Times in 2005 they were building a community there, designing and building seven of the houses himself at the time.

The couple has had a different experience with the Fiji resort during the pandemic. It has been closed for a year since island nations shut travel to their countries, Patsy Young said.

They have put the Colorado and Fiji resorts up for sale from time to time. Both are for sale now.

“I would like to retire,” Patsy Young said, adding that she and her husband are 71. “It’s just time.”

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