A high-speed hike to ski?
ASPEN The new high-speed quad chairlift planned for the Shadow Mountain side of Ajax would be 200 feet farther uphill than where the current lift sits at the top of South Aspen Street.The new lift is completely dependent upon the approval of the Lodge at Aspen Mountain, a 175,000-square-foot hotel that would be built at the base of Lift 1A. Centurion Partners, the developers of the hotel, has offered to pay $4 million toward the new lift, which the Aspen Skiing Co. would build. Estimates put the cost of the new lift at more than $5 million.Skico officials have said that the company isn’t interested in paying for a new chairlift on a portion of Aspen Mountain where only 3 percent of its customers start out skiing for the day.”It’s not going to come out of our pocket,” said Skico spokesman Jeff Hanle. “At this point, it’s all contingent upon a new development.”
Moving the lift farther uphill has some residents balking at developers’ sales pitch that it’s a community amenity since it will be a longer hike on an already steep slope.But John Sarpa, a principal at Centurion, said the cul-de-sac at the end of South Aspen Street would be higher so getting to the lift wouldn’t be as taxing as some might think. Centurion plans to build a snowmelt system on South Aspen Street and to widen sidewalks from the new lift to Durant Avenue.Sarpa added that the lift’s location is entirely up to the Skico and is not something Centurion Partners is proposing – it’s just footing the bill.”The location of the lift is not determined by our application,” he said. “Our obligation is to pay $4 million for wherever it’s going to go.”Some residents lament the loss of the days when skiers could go down to Dean Street below Lift 1A. They question why the new lift can’t be brought downhill instead of moving uphill.Hanle explained that the lift is just one piece of a larger puzzle for the base of Ajax and with all of the development proposed, there isn’t enough clearance or room to bring the chairlift farther down.
“I have full confidence that our mountain planners know what they are doing,” Hanle said. “The placement of the lift is not an issue. Everything is going to fit nicely.”Two developments are being proposed for the area – the Lodge at Aspen Mountain and the Lift One Lodge, which developers Jim Chaffin, Jim Light and David Wilhelm proposed.”There’s not enough room to accommodate everything,” Hanle said. “[The lift] will move uphill somewhat to accommodate the hotel and skier services.”Lift One Lodge would be on the east side of South Aspen Street, where the Skiers Chalet and the Holland House currently sit. It includes 32 lodge suites, which would contain a total of 97 separate rental rooms.The Lodge at Aspen Mountain, which would have 80 hotel rooms, 21 fractional condos and four free-market units, is planned for the west side of South Aspen Street, the current location of the Mine Dumps Apartments.With both developments combined, a host of public amenities are planned. Restaurants, après-ski venues, parking garages, affordable housing, conference space, a skier services building and a public plaza are all part of the vision for the base.
Hanle added that a terminal for a high-speed quad lift is much larger than the current double 1A lift and is another reason it would be moved farther up the mountain.The Skico would have to submit its own application and go through a public review process before the chairlift could gain approval.Hanle said he was unsure when the lift would be built but when and if it is, it would take a summer to install.”I don’t know if you wait until there’s a bed base or do it right after the approval [of the Lodge at Aspen Mountain],” Hanle said. “It’s a lot of ‘ifs’ and ‘whens.'”The City Council is expected to make a decision on the Lodge at Aspen Mountain on Aug. 13. If the council denies the project, Centurion Partners already has approval for 84,000 square feet of residential development, including 14 luxury townhouses.Developers are preparing the land for development; whether it’s for a hotel or townhomes remains to be seen. The other option, if the council denies the hotel proposal, would be to take it to a referendum and let the voters decide. Developers haven’t said whether they would go that route if they are denied.
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