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Mountain News: Park City boosting marketing to bikers

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Among the projects completed before work was halted in early 2009 was a major new hotel, the Viceroy, which aspires to four-star recognition. But a no-go was The Little Nell.

The hotel at Aspen is just one of three at mountain resorts in the west — Park City's Stein Eriksen Lodge and Jackson Hole's Four Seasons being the others — to get the absolute highest rankings. The brand had been licensed by the Aspen Skiing Co. for use at Base Village.

However, that license is now off the table at Snowmass, reports the Aspen Journalism Project, and it's unclear whether the deal will be revived.

Real estate professionals at Snowmass say that the Little Nell may be unnecessary. They point to both the Viceroy and a rebranding of another hotel into a Westin, where substantial upgrades are planned.

Tim Estin, a local real-estate broker, said the Little Nell was "very important" in 2005 to the future success of Base Village because it served "as validation or imprimatur of the quality of development" to which the project aspired. The Viceroy and the Westin are now delivering that validation, he suggested.

Aspen and Intrawest sold the project to a company called Related in 2007 for $167 million. The project in 2009 went bankrupt, and the four European banks that hold the notes now appear ready to sell the project back to Related. But how much of the original vision the banks and Related want to pursue is anybody's guess, and the Snowmass community is rife with speculation about what the new market for real estate justifies.

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