“Crested Butte is what Aspen was…”
After getting its start in the commercial real estate business more than 20 years ago, Boxer Properties, which bought the Elevation Hotel and Spa at the heart of the base area in Mt. Crested Butte last February, has jumped wholeheartedly into the hospitality business.
The Elevation was the second hotel property the Dallas-based company bought after getting into the business with the Pointe Hilton Tapatio Cliffs Resort in Phoenix. Since February Boxer has added a Minneapolis hotel to its portfolio and has a Dallas hotel under contract.
Boxer’s No. 2 and president of Boxer Retail and Resorts, Michael Pariza, was in Mt. Crested Butte last week and says he likes what they have in the hotel. And just as important, he likes what he’s found in the valley around it.
“I think Crested Butte is what Aspen was. And as long as Crested Butte can maintain that personal touch, it’s going to do very, very well. There’s not much not to like. The people are great, the community is great, the hotel is great, the mountain is great,” Pariza says. “It’s not just a ski town.”
Last summer, the hotel booked more rooms than it had in the previous winter. And this year, Pariza says, they’re happy with the reservation rate and the pace of business through December. Now he hopes that as the people start to see that the hotel isn’t the invitation-only affair that it was through Club Med’s ownership, it will be a lively and integral part of the base area.
Pariza says Boxer learned about the Elevation through a contact at Wells Fargo, after the hotel had gone into receivership and the bank foreclosed on the property’s previous owner, SunVest, in 2012.
Early in its evolution, the company was slow to get into hospitality, but the timing was right and they were able to find good deals on really nice resorts. And after spending his career watching Boxer grow, Pariza seems excited to have a new challenge ahead of him.
“We’ve always loved the hospitality arena but never really had a good reason to get into it. The product wasn’t there. The pricing wasn’t right,” he says. “But there’s a window now that’s been opened up that has allowed us to see product that we weren’t seeing years ago.”
Walking through the maze of hallways running between the hotel’s 267 rooms, Pariza explains that hospitality is something to aspire to in the real estate business, not something to start with.
Instead, a company that wants to do it right grows into hospitality, starting through industrial real estate and flex space, then office buildings, then retail and finally, if they’ve got a handle on those smaller steps, move into hospitality.
“Hospitality is one of the most difficult because it’s a lot of businesses rolled into one. You have restaurants, retail outlets, rooms and each day you start out with no revenue,” Pariza says. “You’ve got to make it each day.”
Walking into one of the hotel’s suites, it’s clear why Pariza’s happy with his purchase. Despite the Elevation’s somewhat dated exterior, the inside is plush with flat-screen TVs, modern décor and plenty of space. Even a standard room sports a kitchenette big enough to cook dinner in.
To manage the hotel, Boxer brought in Paul Christensen from the Marriott in Park City, Utah in his latest move in a long career in hospitality, including 15 years teaching hospitality at the University of Utah.
After Boxer took over management of the hotel and spa from Crested Butte Mountain Resort in November, the two companies have continued to work together, signing a joint marketing agreement, and Pariza knows the fate of the hotel and the fate of ski area are tightly intertwined.
“I see them as a continued partner with us. They’re running the mountain and doing a good job and we’re focused on running the hotel. They’re focused on bringing business to Mt. Crested Butte, which is great, and we’re focused on doing the same.”
Pariza also knows that while the Elevation sits amid all the traffic at the base area, most locals have never been inside. That’s something he hopes to change. He hopes the restaurant and spa and a lively scene entices the community to come in.
“It’s surprising to me. A lot of people from Crested Butte have never even been in the hotel. They’ve never even seen a room, and that’s surprising. I think that’s just a holdover from previous owners. Club Med was a fenced-in organization that wasn’t really open to the community so I think there’s still a little bit of that that’s out there,” Pariza says. “So one of my challenges is to get everyone in Crested Butte and Gunnison to come see it. It’s not what most people would think.”
And Pariza wants people to know that everyone is welcome to go to the gym—which was designed as an Olympic training facility—the spa and the restaurant. You can buy memberships at the front desk.
It’s all part of reviving the Elevation as an anchor of the base area. Soon there could be new events and musicians during more nights. “I just want to give people a reason to come up here and hang out,” Pariza says, adding that events like the Crested Butte Songwriter’s Festival that have traditionally been held at the Elevation, are always welcome. “I want to partner with everybody. It’s a small town. There’s no reason not to.”