Property deal preserves Aspen’s birthplace of skiing |

Property deal preserves Aspen’s birthplace of skiing

Pitkin County commissioners reach deal with owners of Highland Bavarian Lodge property

The Highland Bavarian Lodge sits on more than 80 acres of land near the confluence of Castle and Conundrum creeks. (Aspen Times file photo)

A key piece of the Aspen area’s skiing history will be preserved in a tradeoff that gives a landowner more development ability.

The Pitkin County commissioners approved a deal 3-1 Wednesday that will preserve the Highland Bavarian Lodge and bunkhouse on Castle Creek Road. The structure will receive historic designation and be remodeled in a way that restores its historical significance.

Property owners Meredith Loring and Sami Inkinen also funded creation of a documentary film that spells out the significance of the site in the development of skiing in Aspen. The documentary will be donated to the Aspen Historical Society. A brochure on the history also will be created and a plaque will be installed along Castle Creek Road.

The owners will also make their property available for a public tour one day per year, with either the historical society or Aspen Valley Ski and Snowboard Club guiding.

Loring and Inkinen will also provide $15,000 in seed money for a project to display all the historically designated properties in Pitkin County on a website, according to their representative, land-use planner Glenn Horn.

The Highland Bavarian Lodge was built in late 1936 and opened in time to host Christmas guests. It was part of a grand vision for a ski area in upper Castle Creek Valley.

Ski trails were cut along the valley floor and hardier guests could attach skins to their skis and ascend to Richmond Ridge. The owners’ grandiose plans lost momentum during World War II. The emphasis was on developing skiing on Aspen Mountain after the war.

The Highland Bavarian Ranch covers 82 acres upvalley from the confluence of Castle and Conundrum creeks. The property spills over to the east side of Castle Creek Road but the owners have pledged to place a conservation easement on that section and 49 acres in total.

The owners could have torn down the lodge because Pitkin County has a voluntary historic preservation program.

As incentive for the historical preservation in this case, the county will grant 7,500 square feet of additional floor area for a home on what’s known as the Mesa Lot of the ranch. A home of up to 13,250 square feet could be constructed.

In addition, a density bonus was awarded for a second home of 5,750 square feet on the main ranch parcel. The owners have 10-year vested rights.

The county commissioners have debated the proposal for so long that they had little to say on Wednesday. Commissioner Steve Child complimented the documentary on the lodge’s roots.

“The video that you made, that tells the history of it better than anything I can imagine,” he said.

Commissioner Francie Jacober said she hopes the owners don’t take full advantage of the density bonuses given as incentives.

“I just want to say, you don’t have to build out all that square footage,” she said.

Commissioner Greg Poschman joined Child and Jacober in approval of the agreement.

Commissioner Patti Clapper cast the lone vote against. She opposed placement of a driveway in a meadow.

“I just think the driveway flies in the face, putting it in front of the building,” she said. “I just can’t get over it.”

Commissioner Kelly McNicholas Kury was on a family vacation and didn’t attend the meeting.