Crews cooking up new cookhouse | AspenTimes.com
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Crews cooking up new cookhouse

A new Pine Creek Cookhouse is being raised where the former version of the restaurant at Ashcroft Cross Country Ski Area once stood.

And the way things are going, skiers, sleighs and snowshoers will likely be eating at the popular restaurant by late December.

The new cookhouse will replace the building that was destroyed by an explosion last April.



The Aspen Volunteer Fire Department was at a loss to save the structure, because after driving 11 miles up Castle Creek Road, their trucks and engines were blocked by a locked gate and an unplowed road suitable only for cross-country skis, sleighs or snowmobiles.

The department later determined that leaking propane gas was likely the cause of the explosion and blaze. No one was injured in the fire because it occurred shortly after the cookhouse closed for the off-season.




Wilcox said he vowed to rebuild the restaurant, which he’s owned since 1986, even as the flames that reduced it to ashes were still burning hot. And he is making good on that promise.

Over the last few weeks, as Harriman Construction has been pouring a foundation, a replacement log cabin was being built in a Montrose lumberyard.

After the replacement cabin was finished, the logs were numbered. Then it was taken apart, trucked to Ashcroft and reassembled atop the new foundation. The building, made of Engelmann spruce, will be 4,400 square feet, noticeably larger than the old 1,800-square-foot cookhouse.

Wilcox said the restaurant had been so popular that it was mandatory to make a reservation. In the new cookhouse there will be an informal dining area with a salad bar, soups and chili, and no reservations required.

“It won’t be a cafeteria, by any means,” Wilcox said. “We’ll still have reserved dining, but also this ability for [dining in] an informal area.”

In fact, the reserved dining area will still have an intimate feel, with seating for 70 compared to the previous restaurant’s 60 seats. But there will be more room to spread out, Wilcox said, rather than the cramped style of the last cookhouse.

“We’ve tried to maintain a personal experience, but we’ll have a reception area, informal dining, handicapped-accessible bathrooms and a bigger kitchen,” he said.

Wilcox intended to keep the same rustic feel visitors loved about the cookhouse, and so far most visitors have told him he’s succeeded.

He reckons just having the restaurant built in the same unique, remote location will help keep the Pine Creek Cookhouse spirit alive.

“The building was one thing, but it was the people that came there and enjoyed it who truly make it unique,” he said. “I think people want to be in the outdoors; they enjoy the outdoors, our location, and the experience of cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, sleighing or walking out there.”

Summer business is also important to the cookhouse, and Wilcox said 30 percent of their summer business was from bicycle traffic.

Of course, food is a key factor in keeping demand up in summer or winter, and Wilcox has every hope that chef Kurt Boucher will return with his popular menu.

[Naomi Havlen’s e-mail address is nhavlen@aspentimes.com]


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