City Council discusses Mountain Chalet Lodge’s upgrade, city’s greenhouse gas emissions and speed limit

Aspen City Council discussed future plans for the lodge. Here, Ralph and Marian Melville pose in September 2013 in front of the Mountain Chalet Aspen, the ski lodge Ralph began building in 1954.
Aspen Times file photo |

Ben Anderson, Aspen Community Development deputy director, updated the City Council on how the historic Mountain Chalet Lodge’s renovation is coming along. He said he and his staff are happy with the aesthetics and believes the Aspen community and visitors will enjoy the new building.

The late Ralph Melville opened the three-room hotel in 1954 on 333 E. Durant Avenue as a modestly-priced option for ski lovers. The lodge was popular and grew to 67 rooms; the lodge’s alpine design reflected architecture he admired in Garmisch, Germany.

The new owners, while investing $100 million to revitalize the lodge, are vowing to keep the alpine character that Aspen grew to love. The plan is to add two new restaurants, decrease the number of lodge rooms from 67 to 59, and possibly add lounges, a bar, spa and lockers for lodge guests, as well as a workout room.

Mayor Torre admired the artists’ renderings of the new exterior and said he looked forward to dining in the restaurants.

Then, reflecting on the chalet’s homey, quirky beginning, added that the “moment is happy and sad … bitter and sweet.”

Aspen Community Development leaders seemed to reassure City Council by telling it the former owners sold their chalet in April 2021 for $68 million to a business partnership led by Zach Kupperman and Larry McGuire because the partners wanted to keep the chalet’s unique character intact. Kupperman’s New Orleans-based company develops boutique hotels; McGuire runs an Austin, Texas-based firm that develops and manages restaurants and hotels.

Switching topics, City Council also reviewed the first reading of a Building IQ ordinance, a result of the city’s January 2022 adoption of science-based targets to reduce Aspen’s greenhouse-gas emissions 63% by 2030. A 100% reduction is the goal by 2050.

“(Building) emissions account for 57% of Aspen’s total emissions,” stated the memo from Clare McLaughlin, sustainability programs administrator. “Reducing emissions from buildings is the most important strategy to reach the city’s targets.”

The memo explains that new buildings must meet certain energy requirements, but Building IQ “augments the city’s existing building code to address emissions from existing buildings.”

Councilman Bill Guth said he was “vehemently opposed” because he considered Building IQ a waste of money. But City Council approved the first reading, with further discussion down the road an option, said Torre.

Finally, a discussion of whether to lower Aspen’s 20 mph de facto citywide speed limit to 15 presented council members with a thornier dilemma. Research was presented, pinpointing Aspen streets that had an increased risk of traffic crashes including Maroon, Mill, Park Circle, Cemetery Lane, Ute, Spruce, and McSkimming.

But would lowering the speed limit make those streets safer? City Engineer Trish Aragon’s research indicated that lowering the speed limit might have an adverse impact on some Aspen streets.  

Aspen police currently do not ticket for drivers going just 5 mph over the posted speed limit, which means there may be unticketed vehicles traveling through the city at 25 mph. Torre disagreed with perceptions that drivers normally go slow through the pedestrian- and bike-heavy downtown core. He said he lived downtown and routinely witnessed drivers going over 20 mph. He said that e-bikes and scooters were also posing hazards that hadn’t yet been addressed.

Councilman Sam Rose said the speed limit was one of the most difficult issues he had confronted as a council member. The agenda memo suggested choosing streets within the West End to have a 15 mph limit, which appealed to Councilman Ward Hauenstein.

City Council voted to approve a citywide speed limit of 15 mph.