Feds approve Aspen Mountain Lift 1A replacement | AspenTimes.com

Feds approve Aspen Mountain Lift 1A replacement

Staff report

A decision approving Aspen Skiing Co.'s request to replace and realign the Shadow Mountain chairlift, also known as Lift 1A, was signed Thursday by White River National Forest Supervisor Scott Fitzwilliams, the agency announced Friday.

The U.S. Forest Service determined a detailed environmental study wasn't needed. The lift alignment is primarily on private land. The highest elevations of the lift affect three small parcels of national forest.

The decision authorizes the lift to operate at a capacity of 1,200 skiers per hour. It will be 3,600 feet in length and have a vertical gain of 1,390 feet.

Fitzwilliams' decision gives Skico flexibility in the kind of lift they build. It could be a chairlift, gondola or a combination called a telemix.

Skico asked the Forest Service in September to consider the replacement. Skico spokesman Jeff Hanle stressed Friday that the company still doesn't know if it will proceed with the lift replacement in 2016. The company wants assurances that hotels in the base area are approved before it makes a multimillion-dollar investment in the lift. The base approvals could affect how far down the mountain the lift can go, Hanle noted.

The lift still needs approvals from Pitkin County and the city of Aspen.

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Hanle said Skico is grateful to the Forest Service for the expedited review. The project has been welcomed in Aspen, in large part because the existing fixed grip double chair dates from the early 1970s. There were no comments in opposition submitted to the Forest Service.

The International Ski Federation has pressured Skico to replace the lift prior to the World Cup Finals scheduled in Aspen in March 2017. It remains uncertain if Skico will meet that deadline.

In a statement released by the Forest Service, Fitzwilliams said, "First contemplated in the 1997 Aspen Mountain Master Plan, the time has come to install a more modern ski lift for the resort's western portal. This new lift will improve the guest experience during the resort's winter operating season and improve the overall reliability of lift service for the alpine race venue."