Truax’s employer, Grand Heritage Hotels, specializes in one-of-a-kind, independent properties, Truax explained, making the company a perfect fit for The Peaks.
“There’s an opportunity to bring this destination facility up to where it should be,” Truax said last week during an interview in The Peaks Great Room, as construction workers labored in the background. “There is so much untapped potential.”
Following a brief interruption caused by a piece of loud equipment, Truax smiled and added, “It’s like opening a brand new hotel.”
In preparation for the coming season, work is quickly being completed to address what is politely called “deferred maintenance” and to virtually rebuild the former Alpenglow Restaurant, which will reopen with a new name, new menu, new chef and new floor-to-ceiling plate glass windows in mid December.
Guest rooms are also receiving immediate attention, Truax said, and will be entirely redone in the spring when The Peaks will briefly close. According to plan, that will be the last time the hotel will close during the off-season.
Although he is new to the region, having visited for the first time just a month ago, Truax is painfully aware that The Peaks has suffered years of decline, failing to meet its potential as an economic engine for the community at large, particularly in the last two years. Even in 2007, years after its reputation had declined, the hotel booked $2.5 million in group business, according to the Telluride Tourism Board. That same year the hotel closed for what was anticipated to be a massive renovation. Shortly after that the owner, the Blackstone Group, decided to sell the property instead of restoring it and the hotel was reopened, but offering a minimal level of service and booking virtually no group business.
The sale to a group of Telluride investors finally occurred at the start of this month. At the same time, Grand Heritage was announced as the hotel operator and Truax was on the job a week later.
Starting this coming winter, Truax vows, service levels will be back to a level that destination visitors have a right to expect. A robust group sales effort will follow with the aim of dramatic improvements to shoulder season business. The Peaks is particularly suited to weddings, he observes.
A fifth-generation Vermonter, Truax grew up in a town smaller than Telluride, he says. He studied ski resort management in college, worked for the American Skiing Company at Sugarbush, Vermont, and from there gravitated to lodging management, managing the Topnotch Resort and Spa in Stowe and, most recently, the Mirabeau Inn and Spa in the Finger Lakes region of New York. His wife and two-year-old daughter will soon join him here.
“We have a lot of work to do,” Truax acknowledged, looking out on the view of the Wilsons from the Great Room, as he thought ahead to the grand restoration of The Peaks. “But at the end of the day, this is a great property with great potential and it will be a unique destination again. As we complete renovations people will see progress and they will want to come here again. Visitors and locals will enjoy a drink in this Great Room, watching the sunset.”
As so many others have observed before him, “I don’t know that I’ve ever seen a more beautiful view,” he said.