In the midst of an all time affordable housing crisis that threatens to alter its identity and viability, Aspen, where the average single family home is priced at $7.7 million, is running out of places for its employees, and skiers, to live.
For Aspen Skiing Co., the problem is clear: without more affordable housing options, they risk not having an adequate staff to properly run their operation.
Their answer? Tiny homes.
Last fall, Skico purchased six "trailer coaches" to be built on their Aspen Basalt Campground, a 6.6 acre plot bought in 2008 by Aspen as an experiment to address affordable housing for their employees.
Built on a trailer chassis and complete with wheels, lights, and a license plate, at first glance these tiny houses just look like dressed-up trailer homes. But these trailers aren't your weird uncle's doublewide. Open up the door to one of the homes and they have everything one would find in a traditional home—squeezed into 500 square feet.
"These homes are built to be extremely efficient. They are very well insulated and use all sustainable materials," said Jeff Hanle, director of public relations for Aspen Snowmass. Each unit includes a state-of-the-art air filtration system to keep fresh air circulating (and relieve at least a little bit of that ski boot stank).
The trailer coaches, built by Sprout Tiny Homes in La Junta, Colorado, come equipped for two people, complete with a full bathroom, couches, a kitchen, and 100 square foot lofts on either end that act as bedrooms, and have divider walls to provide more privacy for residents.
Why tiny homes? They're cheaper, faster to build, and don't come with as much bureaucratic tape, explained Hanle. "Building a brand new building is a process," said Hanle. "For tiny homes, since we already own the property that is zoned for trailers, we don't have to go through that process. They take months to build instead of years."
Following a successful trial run of the original six homes they installed in January, Skico has ordered another 34 tiny houses that will be installed this summer, ready for employees to move in by the start of the winter season.
These new trailers will accommodate three residents each, with and 1.5 bathrooms. The new fleet of tiny homes will house an additional 102 employees next winter, with an estimated monthly rent of about $600 per person.
In addition to the 40 units on the Aspen campground, Hanle said there will be another 20 spots available for employees with traditional RVs. "We have a lot of employees that bring their own homes, so we'll have those spaces set aside for them."
Hanle said that other improvements to the campground are in the works, aiming to help relieve residents of cabin fever. "We are working on building an improved common area so that residents have a larger open space to hang out and socialize. This area will also have showers so residents have options to get a little more space out of their units."
Those currently living in the 17 spaces on the lot will have to vacate to accommodate the new tiny houses. In order to make the transition easier, Aspen Skiing Co. is offering financial assistance to the tenants they are requiring to vacate. Tenants will receive $3,000 if they leave by June 30, $2,000 if they leave by July 31, and $1,000 by August 31.
Are tiny homes a viable long-term solution to a housing crisis keeping skiers from ski towns? That remains to be seen. For now, Hanle says they have plans for other affordable housing options, including more tiny homes as well as prefabricated modular homes.