SNOWBOARDER HOTELS KEEP IT REAL

Aglance at The Block's website tells you all you need to know about “the world's first snowboarder hotels,” located in South Lake Tahoe and Big Bear Lake, CA. Spotlighting its Spy Room, the site promotes the “big ass” mini fridge, surround sound, 48-inch HDTV, Lovesac (we're afraid to ask) and PS2, among the many schwank amenities (schwank, pronounced shu wank, is boarder lingo for “super cool“). Other room standards include board racks, stripper poles, BYOB bars, boot and glove dryers and funky utilitarian furniture.

Dude, we're stoked.

So are the hotels' owners, professional snowboarder Mark Frank Montoya and Las Vegas hotelier Liko S. Smith. (The Block name was chosen because it was close to the front of an alphabetical listing, and “it sounded cool,” says Smith).

The brothers-in-law teamed up three years ago to tap what they saw as a select but underserved market — young white males (mainly 7-13-year-olds and 18-25-year-olds) from affluent and middle-class families, big into hip hop music, and whose parents happily indulge their snowboarding passion.

The first two properties they bought were small and dated. Business has steadily increased since being refreshed and reconfigured for snowboarders. The rates aren't cheap either, ranging from $150 to $350 a night. “Those parents gladly pay it too,” says Smith. Marketing has been mostly word of mouth, leading to coverage on MTV, CNN and magazines such as YRB, Penthouse and VIBE. The company has also shrewdly partnered with snowboard industry and youth-oriented companies such as DVS Shoe Co., Jones Soda Co., SPY Optic and Napster to sponsor and furbish signature suites.

“Snowboarders feel understood when they stay with us,” says Smith. “Would non-snowboarders find it comfortable to stay with us? Who cares? If snowboarders want it, we want it — end of story.”

Smith says he and other Block backers (including professional snowboarders and industry veterans) plan to open 20 locations over the next five to seven years, including hotels in Colorado, Canada and France.

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