Aspen Skiing Co. inks key deal for new Tiehack lift
ASPEN – The Aspen Skiing Co. will seek approvals to build a high-speed, four-passenger chairlift at Tiehack this summer after an important hurdle was cleared Tuesday, spokesman Jeff Hanle said Wednesday.
The Maroon Creek Subdivision Homeowners Association voted Tuesday to sign an agreement with the Skico regarding the chairlift, according to Hanle and Leonard Lansburgh, president of the homeowners association.
The association granted an easement for a new chairlift and it agreed to make a financial contribution, Lansburgh said. He wouldn’t disclose the amount of the financial contribution.
“We are contributing a significant amount,” Lansburgh said. “It’s an improvement to the mountain. That’s how our homeowners looked at it.”
The homeowners currently provide an annual subsidy for the Lower Tiehack chairlift, also known as the Eagle Hill lift, according to Lansburgh. The annual subsidy for the new chairlift will continue “for a few more years” then the agreement will expire, he said.
The Skico needed an easement for the chairlift because the preferred alignment crosses the homeowners’ association’s “air space,” according to Hanle. “We appreciate the cooperation of the Maroon Creek Homeowners Association throughout this process and are excited to move forward,” he said.
The agreement doesn’t guarantee a new lift will be built this year. “It allows us to move forward with the entitlement process,” Hanle said.
A summer construction plan needs to be approved by the U.S. Forest Service. The federal agency has already granted conceptual approval for the lift. Hanle said the Skico’s understanding is a building permit is also required from the City of Aspen for the lower terminal of the lift.
Assuming those approvals are acquired, the Skico will spend $7 million to replace the two ancient chairlifts at Tiehack with one. The ride time would be reduced from 18 minutes to 7 minutes. The new chairlift would be ready for the 2011-12 season if all goes as planned.
The preferred alignment would swing the chairlift’s loading area slightly west or closer to the existing ticket office. The upper terminal would be built about 50 feet “to the right” of the existing upper terminal, Hanle said.
The new chairlift would probably draw more skiers and riders from West Buttermilk and Main Buttermilk to the Tiehack side of the mountain, Hanle said. However, no additional parking is planned, he said, so it wouldn’t generate a substantial increase of activity out of the base.
Lansburgh said a potential increase in traffic was one of the concerns of homeowners.
The upper Tiehack chairlift was installed in 1969, according to Forest Service records. The slow double chairs remind some skiers and riders of a bygone era in Aspen-area skiing.
“There are people who like those nice, slow lifts – on a sunny day,” Hanle said.
The Skico’s 2011 capital improvement plan also calls for an extensive interior remodel of the Merry-Go-Round Restaurant at Aspen Highlands this summer. The overhaul is pegged at $5.8 million.
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Ghez, 55, has long been a familiar name around the Aspen Center for Physics, a nonprofit launched in 1962 that seeks to bring the best minds in the world together for collaboration and innovation.