By ski journalist, author and blogger Louise Hudson
Today’s major motif for mountain hotels is bijoux, boutique, functional but fabulous, and decidedly social. Like the ‘tiny house’ trend touted on TV programs like Tiny House, Big Living, ski resort accommodation is getting smaller and more specialized. With cheap and cheerful AirBnBs taking business from bland big box hotel chains, savvy ski town hoteliers are competing with more intimate, designer-decorated settings. Whether boutique bed and boarding like the new Limelight Hotel Snowmass or artsy and affordable like The Cube, they are the niftiest newcomers on the block.
The smallest slopeside sanctuary around is probably Canada’s first pod hostel-hotel, the Pangea Pod Hotel at Whistler Blackcomb which opened last season. Owners, Russell and Jelena Kling say: “We’re not a hostel. We’re not a hotel. We’re the best of both worlds.” While guests have their own teensy territory to relax and sleep in, everything else is shared. “This ‘chic shared’ concept is changing the face of the travel industry in North America, and is setting a trend towards alternative accommodation worldwide,” says Jelena Kling. “Pangea is geared towards solo budget travellers, giving them the opportunity to experience all that Whistler has to offer without breaking the bank and without having to forego both the key elements of privacy and a first-rate location, both of which hostels simply do not provide.”
Satisfying the main Millennial priorities, the Pangea Pod Hotel offers hip designer accommodation – in wood-lined pods with memory foam double mattresses and high-end linens – that is inexpensive, central and sociable. It’s a high-altitude holiday hub where like-minded travellers mix and mingle over an espresso or craft beer in The Living Room or a shaken cocktail before dinner at The Rooftop Patio – Whistler’s only rooftop deck. Although sleeping quarters are petite, there are storage options in the suites themselves, as well as additional space for larger items like skis and snowboards in the ‘Toy Box’ area.
One of the most creative motel rebuilds in recent years is in the town of Jackson, where a lack-lustre low-end motel morphed into the Mountain Modern Motel with a lick of paint and a lot of inspiration. The typical motel format has been reinvented in this 135-room complex with trending dark grey cladding, metal and bright red accents, with distinctive bison sculptures drawing further attention. “The entire property was renovated from floor to ceiling. New design features, amenities, bedding, décor, etc. It’s like a brand new property, with an excellent location in Jackson,” says Spencer Long, Sales Manager for MMM. “We offer great value all year long, but the winter months are definitely more affordable.” Long thinks that motels are making a comeback: “We’re making it cool to stay in a motel again. Similar to the days of travelling down Route 66 and staying at a roadside inn, the Baby Boomer generation feels a sense of nostalgia bringing back memories of the family road trip.” It also appeals to Millennials and younger generations, he adds, due to its aura of authenticity and playful vibe that reflects the spirit of the area. “The property is designed with the adventurer in mind, with practical spaces for storing your gear and a uniquely modern design and décor,” he says. All at a great value with complimentary grab-and-go breakfast and shuttle service to Jackson Hole.
RED Mountain is reflecting both ends of the spectrum with two new properties. A cutting-edge hostel, comically called Nowhere Special, opened there on December 18. “RED Mountain Resort has torn a page from world-class destinations like London and Barcelona that have taken travel to a new level by redefining what a hostel can be,” says Howard Katkov, RED’s CEO. “Nowhere Special starts at just $40/bed and is a mere two-minute walk from the base lodge, purpose-built for today’s modern fuss-free traveller. This new accommodation will put RED on the radar of young, young-at-heart, and adventurers who value community, connection, and careful curation.” Nowhere Special was crafted to deliver the best in clean, modern design and usability while catering to practicalities like the indoor bike and ski storage and an outdoor fire pit with two gas grills. The range of floor plans include shared rooms sleeping four with en suite bathroom for each eight as well as private rooms.
At the higher-end is The Josie, a boutique ski-in, ski-out hotel located right at the base of RED Mountain. New this season, the motif is modern-meets-mountain-adventure, encapsulating the stunning views with floor-to-ceiling windows, and using recycled local wood panelling and earthy tones to bring the outside in. “We hope to attract skiers and adventurers seeking a true, authentic mountain