Looking for a weekend getaway to enjoy pine trees, cooler temperatures and maybe even snow?
A new hotel developer hopes you'll consider Mount Lemmon.
University of Arizona alums Justin and Andrea Hafner are building a hotel development atop the mountain that will feature 17 cabin rooms for rent.
The couple, who now live in Iowa, came up with the idea during a return visit to Mount Lemmon in 2018.
“While we were up there with our family, we took trips to the general stores and heard people asking, ‘Hey? Is there someplace where we can stay tonight?’” Justin Hafner recalled.
But last-minute amenities were scarce.
Citing their love for Tucson, the couple decided to build what they are calling Mt. Lemmon Hotel at the site of the former Alpine Lodge, which burned down in the 2003 Aspen Fire.
The hotel will feature 17 detached 400-square-foot casitas with kitchen, bathroom, queen-size bed and fold-out couch. Some of the units will have little yards for pets.
“It amazes me how many people make a four-hour drive for cool air and pine trees when you can drive 45 minutes to Mount Lemmon,” Hafner said.
Construction on the $2 million-plus development is expected to be complete next summer and have a local offering.
When booking, guests can sign up for vouchers to local restaurants and stores.
Target guests will be UA students, members of the military, veterans and visitors from Mexico, as well as Tucsonans looking for a getaway.
Rates will be between $99 and $149 a night, said Hafner, who bought the site from Tucson developer Jim Campbell and credits his mentoring with the vision for the site.
Hafner plans to have a snowmaker on site at the hotel so on nights when temperatures are freezing, but not snowing, guests can enjoy some powder.
“There will be a little area with 2 to 3 inches of snow,” he said.
A retail component of the site will have snow-related rentals available and a burrito shop.
Wi-Fi will be available in the rooms as well as television sets, and access will be digital with Wi-Fi-controlled locks that will be sent via text message when someone books a room.
Hafner, a reservist with the Arizona Army National Guard, is offering discounts for military members, as well as some medical professionals.
A 20% discount will be given to active service members, reserves or veterans as well as registered nurses or employees of Arizona Community Physicians.
Veterans retuning from deployment can get one night free within 30 days of their return.
“We’re definitely nervous and excited,” Hafner said, “all at once.”
Leanne Mack, general manager of the Mount Lemmon General Store and Gift Shop, said she is eager for the new hotel to open.
“We are very excited,” she said. “We need the amenity here so badly.”
Often people come up the mountain from Tucson for the day and don’t want to leave.
“Especially in the winter, when people see the snow,” Mack said. “They’re like, ‘Where can we stay?’”
But, since all rentals are privately owned, a spontaneous booking isn’t available.
“I believe it will do very well,” Mack said. “And, it will be extremely beneficial for the mountain.”
Note: This story was originally published in the Arizona Daily Star on Nov. 24, 2019.