Can or can’t Skico plow Little Annie?
The Aspen Skiing Co. may attempt to use legal loopholes to keep Little Annie Road open after snow would ordinarily close it next fall.
Pitkin County’s Rural and Remote zoning code forbids winter maintenance on the road. But the Skico may keep the road open by driving on it or even plowing it next fall if the company feels it is necessary to complete construction of the new Sundeck atop Aspen Mountain.
Pitkin County appears ready to give the company permission to plow the road starting April 5 to begin demolition of the existing restaurant. But fall plowing is another matter.
Gert Van Moorsel, the Skico’s construction manager for the Sundeck project, said the company hopes to complete the job without using the road next fall. But weather may intervene, he said, and complicate matters with early heavy snows.
And the project could take longer than originally intended.
Randy Gold, who represents the Little Annie Homeowners’ Association, said his group met with the Skico earlier to discuss the project. To the best of his knowledge, the company had abandoned any plans to plow the road in fall.
“Supposedly, fall plowing is off the table,” Gold said. “They’ve agreed not to allow it except in case of emergency.”
But the Skico may not be thinking along those exact lines.
“I want to avoid using the word `plow,'” Van Moorsel said. “It’s our intention not to plow.” He said he doesn’t want to use that word because it implies performing winter maintenance, forbidden by the code.
The Skico wants to keep the road open until Nov. 19, the projected opening date for the 1999-2000 ski season, Van Moorsel said. But the company may or may not have the right to keep the road open.
“Say the Skico has a declared right,” Van Moorsel said, “based on a number of factors that I don’t want to get into right now. That right hasn’t been tested in court. We hope we don’t have to test that right.”
“Our legal team feels like we have some rights there because [the word] `winter’ is not defined,” he said.
The Skico is working on an agreement with Pitkin County for the purpose of clarifying what the Skico and its contractors can and can’t do.
He said the company wants to clarify some things, such as defining “winter.” “Then we’ll know when winter starts and ends,” Van Moorsel said.
Van Moorsel said the Skico will propose giving up whatever rights it might have to plow the road in later years in exchange for keeping the road open this fall. Other projects in the three-year Aspen Mountain Master Plan include a new ski patrol building, lift construction and improvements.
The Summer Road, up the front side of the mountain, can’t be used after Nov. 19, Van Moorsel said, because the mountain will be open for skiing. It actually must be closed some time before the beginning of the season to allow a safe depth of snow cover.
Plans call for an attempt to eliminate the need for using the road as much as possible late in the project. “It’s our intention to stockpile as much material before the snow starts flying as possible,” Van Moorsel said.
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