For its first push into the high country, Zeppelin Development hopes to put a fresh twist on a mountain classic: The humble A-frame.
The Denver-based development company, which owns 765,000 square feet in RiNo, this month paid $1.5 million for 2 acres at the base of the Winter Park ski area with plans to put an A-frame village on the wooded site. The structures would be rented out nightly like hotel rooms.
“People are moving here to have access to the mountains,” said Kyle Zeppelin, a principal at the company. “But the experience up there is underwhelming.”
“Customers are looking for culture, but up there it’s gotten more and more disconnected from what people want.”
Zeppelin said the idea is to build 25 or so A-frame cabins with a rustic feel and modern touches, which might include elements of glass walls. No design plans are ready yet for the parcel, 1008 Winter Park Drive.
Zeppelin said he wants to add a new lodging concept that would entice the 4,000 office workers who populate his firm’s office campuses in RiNo. Fittingly, Alterra – the ski mountain operator that runs Winter Park – is a tenant at the office building Zeppelin Station.
“Our target audience is Denver workers in technology, the generation that wants to experience the mountains in a more relevant way,” Zeppelin said.
The recently acquired parcel is heavily wooded with creek frontage and sits next to the train station, where travelers from Union Station disembark to hit the slopes.
Zeppelin said he’s hired Portland-based Skylabs as the architect for what could be a $6 million to $10 million project.
The A-frames each will be around 350 square feet, and Zeppelin said he plans to build one or two units for staff to live in, knowing that the housing crunch in the mountain towns makes finding employees difficult.
The parcel has a 1940s building that houses a ski shop and a pub called Adolfs that’s open only around 3 to 6 p.m. for après. The company plans to upgrade the existing pub, extend the hours, and revamp the food and beverage concept.
The plan goes in front of the Winter Park zoning board next week for a variance to allow lodging. If all goes well, the company hopes to be open for this coming ski season.
They’ve been searching
Zeppelin said his company has been poking around the mountains for five years looking for the right project. Zeppelin lived in Breckenridge until middle school, when he moved to Denver.
“Winter Park got skipped over for development. What’s up there is what was developed in the 1970s,” he said.
Justin Croft, a vice president of development at Zeppelin, is helping to steer the project.
Croft said he wants to build a lodging option that could be used by groups looking for a more natural setting. He said the Source Hotel, which Zeppelin opened in 2018 as a first foray into lodging, gets lots of group travel, wedding parties in particular.
Croft said that most vacationers going to Winter Park tolerate subpar lodging as a concession to get in their ski turns. The A-frames will be part of the draw, not an afterthought, he said. And that should help drive demand during the rest of the year when the slopes are closed.
And the A-frame is due for a comeback, Croft said.
“It’s timeless and such a classic form that people instantly know that the vernacular is tied to the mountain environment.”