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Aspen gondola plaza to see redesign

Paul Conrad The Aspen Times
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ASPEN ” The Aspen Skiing Co. is hoping this spring’s overhaul of the upper plaza of the Silver Queen Gondola will make it easier for skiers and other passengers to access the bucket.

The Skico must replace all the brick and mortar on the upper plaza. “It’s crumbling and leaking,” said David Perry, Skico senior vice president ” mountain division.

Embedded in that brick and mortar is a snowmelt system that runs hot water through rubber hoses. Those hoses have sprung leaks over the years, and the water is dripping into the Skico ticket and administrative offices located underneath, according to Aspen Mountain Manager Peter King.

The upper plaza brick work hasn’t received extensive maintenance since the gondola opened 22 years ago.

The overhaul will put skiers a step ahead. The narrow stairs leading from the lower plaza to the upper plaza will gain a step, King said, and the entire upper plaza will be rebuilt on one level.

Currently, there is a mid-level that serves no real function. Skiers clunk up four more steps to form the gondola lift line and get their tickets scanned. Those four steps will be eliminated. However, skiers will still have to climb stairs to load the bucket.

King said constructing the upper plaza on one level will offer numerous advantages.

“It should be more convenient for our skiing guests, and will allow us more flexibility in putting on special events like concerts on the plaza,” King said.

It also will give the Skico more flexibility in setting up the gondola lift line. Right now, skiers climb the stairs and go to their left to wrap around a railing and get their tickets scanned. Skiers on the slopes come down Little Nell and go the skier’s right of the gondola building.

King said the scanning station can be moved to a more central location on the rebuilt upper plaza.

“There won’t be a railing at the top of the stairs, so people coming from that direction would be able to move straight toward the center of the gondola building and if the scanners are more in the center of the plaza, we can encourage more skier egress down the west side of the Little Nell run,” King said. “Obviously this is a work in progress, but we plan to use the new deck design to improve access from all directions.”

The Skico also must replace the computerized brain that runs the Silver Queen Gondola this spring. Chairlift manufacturer Poma has been enlisted for the work, King said.

The two projects make it unlikely that the Skico will be able to extend the ski season at Aspen Mountain, even if excellent snow conditions continue past the scheduled closing on April 13. King said Poma must begin the computer system replacement immediately after the closing date so that the gondola can be running for the summer.

Typically, the gondola opens for Memorial Day weekend. This year, it won’t open until the Food and Wine Magazine Classic on June 13.

scondon@aspentimes.com


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