Ajax ski patrol shack: A wart to be removed? | AspenTimes.com

Ajax ski patrol shack: A wart to be removed?

Is it a wart or a beauty mark?

That’s the question being posed about the old ski patrol shack atop Aspen Mountain, now that the new Sundeck Restaurant has been constructed nearby.

Passengers on the Silver Queen Gondola can’t help but notice that the Aspen Skiing Co.’s $14 million showcase structure is partially obscured by the funky patrol shack and bunkhouse.

The two buildings are an odd couple – every bit as awkward as Felix and Oscar, Lyle Lovett and ex-wife Julia Roberts, or even Mike Shanahan and soon-to-be ex-quarterback Bubby Brister.

The long, elegant design of the Sundeck features a peaked-roof front entrance that punctuates the wood-and-stone exterior. The patrol shack’s circa-1960s, box-like design is punctuated by Buddhist prayer flags.

For some, the patrol shack is a blemish next to the new Sundeck. For others, it’s a last bastion of a simpler, less-pretentious time in Aspen and on its flagship mountain.

Whatever it is, the patrol shack probably isn’t long for this world.

“We’d certainly like to create a new home for the patrol shack,” said Bill Kane, Skico vice president of planning and development.

But aesthetic reasons are only a secondary concern. Kane and other Skico officials believe the patrol shack is ill-suited to its current site primarily because it interferes with skier flow.

The shack was built before the Ajax Express high-speed lift was added in the mid-1980s. That lift spits skiers out between the Sundeck and the shack. The majority of traffic goes to the skier’s left while leaving the lift, requiring them to go around the patrol shack.

“It’s a location [problem] that’s getting more painfully obvious,” said Kane, likening it to placing a building in a busy street.

Kane is scouting for a more appropriate location. The new patrol building will be at the mountaintop, just not in the middle of traffic and views.

Ironically, the slow start to this ski season might earn the shack a reprieve for at least another year. If business ends up down or flat, the Skico will have to scale back its capital improvement plan for summer 2000.

Kane said he had hoped to replace the patrol shack next summer, but it’s a project that probably wouldn’t compete well for limited capital-improvement dollars.

“It’s probably not a front-burner item,” he said.

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