Council OKs Snowmass projects
Some $45 million in on-mountain improvements at Snowmass, designed to relieve morning crowds on Fanny Hill and move more people onto the slopes, won unanimous final approval from the Snowmass Town Council on Monday.Resort officials also hope the new lifts and other amenities help turn the mountain into a mecca of summer fun and, possibly, create an opportunity for nighttime use. More immediately, it will mean a 17-minute ride to the top of the Big Burn instead of the current three-chair, 34-minute trip.”It’s $45 million worth of really good stuff,” summed up Snowmass Mayor Doug Mercatoris.Among the key elements of the Snowmass Mountain Master Plan are a new high-speed six-pack from the base of Fanny Hill to the top of Sam’s Knob, replacing the Fanny Hill quad this summer, and an eight-passenger gondola – ready for ski season 2006-07 – linking the new Base Village at the bottom of Fanny Hill to Elk Camp. The gondola will carry passengers to Cafe Suzanne in eight-and-a-half minutes. Increased snowmaking is also part of the plan – to deliver reliable conditions for early season gondola use.The idea is to disperse skiers and riders out of the Fanny Hill area, where the new Base Village will begin taking shape, as quickly as possible, said Bill Kane, vice president of planning for the Aspen Skiing Co. “The big feature of this plan is we’re going to increase the out-of-base hourly capacity by about two-and-a-half times,” he said. In other words, 6,200 people per hour will be able to move out of the base area, as opposed to 2,400 currently.Also in the plan’s timetable this summer is regrading the base of Fanny Hill and installing a cabriolet lift that will connect the village to the mall. The Sam’s Knob summit will also be extensively regraded and the restaurant there will be removed.The Skico will build a new 125-seat restaurant atop Sam’s Knob before 2007-08, according to Kane. Rumors that the restaurant would serve as some sort of private club, though, have been allayed to the council’s satisfaction.”I don’t know how that got started – it’s all on public land,” Kane said.”Sam’s Knob restaurant is on national forest land – it will never be a private club, period,” Mercatoris said.As part of the recently approved Base Village, there will be a Snowmass Mountain Club. Membership comes with perks like a parking space and private locker. There may eventually be an on-mountain component tied to club membership, Kane said.For Mercatoris, the gondola is the biggie on a menu of goodies.”The gondola is probably the most important component of the master plan from my perspective – because the gondola is going to be a huge boon to summer business,” he said.The gondola will carry bikes and passengers to Elk Camp Meadows, where summertime fishing and wintertime ice skating are planned in Rayburn’s Pond. There will be access to hiking and biking trails, including a bike route – featuring some new segments – back to the mall. The master plan envisions a new, 400-seat restaurant to replace Cafe Suzanne – hopefully by 2007-08, Kane said.”It’s going to give us the option to run nights,” he said.Also on the Elk Camp side, the master plan includes the Burnt Mountain quad, which would be located at skier’s far right near the ski area boundary, load near the bottom of the Long Shot run and unload on the Burnt Mountain summit. The plan also includes the Naked Man lift – a surface connector between the Elk Camp and Burnt Mountain summits, taking skiers and riders along the traverse to Long Shot. Beyond Long Shot, the Skico hopes to add 400 to 500 acres of glade skiing, served by a traverse that already informally exists.”The proposal is actually to formalize a trail skiers have known about for years,” Kane said.The plans for Burnt Mountain and earthwork atop Sam’s Knob remain the subject of an environmental assessment by the U.S. Forest Service.Among other lift proposals in the master plan are: two beginner lifts – one 1,300-foot quad and a 500-foot surface lift out of Elk Camp Meadows, serving a beginners’ terrain park at the bottom of Sandy Park; removal of the Wood Run lift and replacement of the Assay Hill lift; removal of the Naked Lady lift; shortening the Burlingame lift; rebuilding the Big Burn lift and eventual replacement of the plodding Sheer Bliss with a high-speed quad. Janet Urquhart’s e-mail address is email@example.com
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