Aspen Highlands restaurant ready for extreme makeover | AspenTimes.com

Aspen Highlands restaurant ready for extreme makeover

Courtesy the Aspen Skiing Co.This drawing shows the remodel of the sunken dining area to the left when entering the front entrance of the Merry-Go-Round restaurant. A coffee bar would be moved to the wall window that looks up at the ski slopes and the fireplace and couches currently in the center of the restaurant would be moved to the corner of the lower dining room.

ASPEN – The Merry-Go-Round Restaurant at Aspen Highlands will get a $5.8 million overhaul this summer and reopen in time for the 2011-12 season, the Aspen Skiing Co. announced Wednesday.

“The existing structure stays but with a major, major remodel,” said Skico spokesman Jeff Hanle. The Skico requires a building permit from Pitkin County and permission to proceed with the project from the U.S. Forest Service, he said.

The Skico’s goal is to modernize the restaurant and improve the interior circulation while preserving the funky feel of the facility. A summary of the project provided by Skico says the interior of the restaurant will remain “duct tape chic” by keeping it “fun, local-friendly, historic, loose and welcoming.”

Many of the old photographs that cover the walls, such as Cher standing in front of the restaurant in vintage 1970s stretch pants, will remain, Hanle said. Skiers and riders will also be invited to submit photos for display in digital frames that will be regularly changed.

The main dining room to the right of center upon entry will be remodeled so it is on one floor. The serving area will be slightly expanded and changes make to improve circulation by diners gathering food. The sunken area with a fireplace and couches will be eliminated.

In the lower dining room, the bar will be relocated to the window wall facing the slopes to create a lounge and seating area. The fireplace with couches and comfortable chairs will be located in a corner of that room. There will be a kids seating area in the downhill slope side of the lower dining room.

The main level bathrooms will be expanded and ADA-compatible.

The entire interior will get new carpet, paint, lights and ceiling materials. Green materials and efficient lighting will be used.

Possible interactive gadgets include digital monitors for live feeds, possibly even a Bowl Cam, and a booth for instant photos.

A focus of the project is to “enhance guest comfort and food quality,” according to the goals and objectives part of the project summary, but the Skico also wants to “maintain and enhance the strong appeal to both locals and visitors.” The Merry-Go-Round will retain a vibe that says, “Welcome Home Highlanders,” the summary said.

The footprint of the building will remain the same, including the outside decks. Work is required to repair erosion and settling of the foundation, improve load-bearing capacity of the roof, replace outdated mechanical systems and replace exterior siding. The appearance from the outside will remain largely the same, Hanle said.

The building was constructed from a kit that was apparently popular with grocery stores, according to Hanle. It is a myth that the building served as a grocery store elsewhere and was moved in sections to its perch at mid-mountain at Highlands.

As of Wednesday, the Merry-Go-Round renovation was the only major capital improvement project planned for summer 2011, Hanle said. The Skico is considering the replacement of the two antiquated Tiehack chairlifts with one high-speed, detachable quad chairlift, but there is no definitive word yet on that project, he said.

scondon@aspentimes.com