New to the resort, but not new to the world of hospitality, Christopher Jaycock is infusing new life into this buzzworthy resort. Opened in 2019, W Aspen was just hitting its prime when the pandemic struck. It was the first new hotel for the area in nearly two decades. Although the resort did strong business in recent years (given its ski-in, ski-out location and the growing desire for spending time outdoors), Jaycock is helping to orchestrate a fresh start for the property.
It’s almost like a second grand opening with revitalized food and beverage programs, partnerships with iconic brands and the fashion and music trademark for which the brand is known.
Jaycock joined the resort in June of this year, but has an illustrious career with hospitality brands like Four Seasons, Ritz-Carlton and The Rittenhouse in Philadelphia (a member of The Leading Hotels of the World) among others. W Aspen, originally modeled after the famous W Verbier in Switzerland, is one of the smaller hotels in the brand portfolio and the only W in Colorado, but it certainly makes its mark in Aspen. Jaycock gives Pursuitist a behind-the-scenes peek at what the resort envisions for the coming years.
What are your plans for the resort in the coming year?
The world has changed in the past few years. People are looking for outdoor travel opportunities, and they want approachable experiences where they can be themselves. Aspen, like other outdoor destinations, ramped back up much faster than other parts of the world, and we have been fortunate to have more time with travelers following the pandemic to learn what they want.
This is kind of like a second grand opening for us. We can start from scratch to deliver the experiences people want. One of the major focal points at the moment is relaunching our food and beverage experiences. We are ditching the idea of formal, fancy dining in favor of creative fare that spans a variety of taste bud types. W Aspen is an apres-ski, all-hours snack and drink spot. We are embracing the happy-hour, late-night vibe. Here, you can still get food all the way up to midnight.
An entirely new team in the kitchen is helping us with that so that people can order a bite to eat at any hour of the day. The executive chef comes to us from W Dubai – The Palm. While many new items will be on the menu, we are bringing back some tried-and-true favorites. We heard from so many past guests and visitors that they miss our “big-ass” pretzel. That’s coming back!
How does W Aspen fit into the destination’s hospitality footprint?
Aspen is not what it was a decade ago. It’s no longer the home of millionaires, but now of billionaires. We fill a void in town because we are not the traditional Aspen hotel. There is nothing else like us in town. W Aspen is both approachable and fun while fitting into W’s framework of fashion, trendsetting design, music and epic travel experiences.
We have a symbiotic relationship with the other hotels in town. Visitors to our mountain town have a variety of accommodation types that fit their style of travel. We really like that we offer something so different. For example, we are the only hotel in town to have bunk bed rooms, which are very popular with friends traveling together, bachelor and bachelorette groups, and families. We also have several multi-bedroom residences with kitchens, dining rooms and private access to a rooftop terrace and whirlpool.
At W Aspen, people can feel comfortable being themselves. The interior design is both playful and intentional, and we have many spaces that encourage gathering with friends. We want to be a destination for locals to come and hang out as well as for travelers looking for the ideal resort experience. Building that connection with the town is important.
Coming soon is a new cocktail program for The Grotto, our soundproof lounge just off the lobby. Originally designed to be a nightclub, the space is now popular with private events and pop-up boutiques. This winter, the space will become the “it spot” for people to enjoy drinks, great music and a speakeasy-type ambiance that befits the W brand.
There is no pretense here, and people can feel comfortable having a local beer while sitting next to someone ordering an expensive bottle of Champagne. Anything goes. We’re all about experiential hospitality, and we have lots of plans in the works to make that happen.
W Aspen has numerous brand partnerships, tell us about that.
Building partnerships with notable brands helps build our reputation as a place for everyone to come and be themselves. Already, guests can participate in the BMW partnership we have where guests can borrow our house cars to drive around the mountain. Each year, the automotive brand adds newer cars for guests to experience.
Coming soon is Aspen’s first-ever agave event, which will embrace mezcal, tequila and other similar agave spirits. This is one of the most popular drinks in the area. Informally, we see that the three top drinks in Aspen are probably champagne, tequila and vodka. At W Aspen, tequila drinks are especially popular with margaritas the number one drink ordered at the bar. Eventually, we want to have the biggest single barrel collection in the Rockies across tequila, bourbon and rye.
On the rooftop, we have partnerships with different beverage brands for bottle service and drink specials. Earlier this year, we worked with Select Aperitivo to offer a popular apres-ski experience that proved to be a hit with visitors and locals. The roof terrace, bar and lounge is open to the public. We have a heated pool, whirlpool and plenty of lounge space to work, relax or play. During the warmer months, it is quite the party scene.
Is Marriott Bonvoy a big driver of business?
Yes, we see a lot of people staying with us to redeem their points on a family or romantic vacation. In fact, during the summer and winter months, we are almost always sold out on weekends. With such an immense hotel portfolio, people really appreciate the breadth of choice they have, and we want to deliver the high-end experience they expect when they redeem their points here. Guests can also earn points when paying an eligible rate, which helps them get toward their next vacation faster.
Where do you want to see the W Aspen in ten years?
I hope it has secured its place as a melting pot for locals and guests, both the visiting the ski bums and the billionaire private jet set. This should be the place where you can have the most fun in the Rockies. We have more outside space than most hotels in town. We envision this becoming an even more popular destination than it already is.
Ramsey Qubein is a freelance travel journalist covering hotels, cruises, airlines, and loyalty programs from around the globe.