Gwyn’s remodel gets first nod from Snowmass council
January 11, 2016
Plans to renovate and expand the Gwyn's High Alpine restaurant on Snowmass ski area got approval on first reading from the Town Council on Monday.
The update to the almost 40-year-old building is part of Aspen Skiing Co.'s master plan for the mountain and the logical next step to improvements that started with the replacement of the High Alpine chairlift in 2015, said David Corbin, Skico vice president of planning and development, on Monday. The plan still needs final approval from the U.S. Forest Service, but the agency already has granted it schematic approval, and Skico executives feel that they are "well-positioned" to go forward with the construction this summer, Corbin said.
The renovations include updating the food counters in the cafeteria, relocating the bar to the main level and adding restrooms on that level as well as some structural improvements and roof repairs. Corbin compared the renovation to the one completed at the Merry Go Round on Aspen Highlands, in that Skico aims to maintain the structure and character of the building while bringing it up to modern standards.
"One of our goals for (food and beverage) overall is to maintain distinct concepts," Corbin said. "From our very brand status as Power of Four to our individual mountains to our individual restaurants, we want to do something different at each. Hence one of the reasons why we want to keep what is formative at Gwyn's but make it new again."
Designed by Z-Group Architects, the plans include a slight expansion to the square footage of the building. The Gwyn's fine-dining section would be expanded, and the new restrooms would be added next to it with access from both Gwyn's and the High Alpine cafeteria.
The bar would be relocated to approximately where the retail shop is now and will have an entrance to the deck. Retail will relocate near the stairwell, and what is currently the bar on the lower level would become a lounge area with a wood-burning fireplace. The plans also include an expansion for the outdoor deck.
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Design elements will include an exposed wood finish inside and out and touches of the exterior materials such as stone sprinkled throughout, said Seth Hmielowski of Z-Group.
The elected officials had questions about maintenance improvements, fire safety and the future of the restaurants' private ownership, whose current lease with Skico ends in five years.
"One of the unique things about Snowmass is the uniqueness of Gwyn (Knowlton) and George (Gordon)," said Mayor Markey Butler. "It's very iconic, and just the notion that we may lose that five years from now is very concerning."
The company doesn't have an answer to that question yet, nor has it asked Knowlton and Gordon, who have operated the restaurant for 36 years, whether they'd like to continue running it, Corbin said.
Knowlton told the council that she has been told by Steve Sewell, Snowmass mountain manager, and Rich Burkley, vice president of mountain operations, that the lease is theirs as long as they want it.
"We fortunately have a daughter who I think loves it even more," Knowlton said. "It remains to be seen, but I feel really good having Whitney by my side."
Knowlton also voiced her team's support for the remodel, which she said will allow them to serve a more expanded menu at the bar and in the cafeteria, among other benefits.