‘Feeder lift’ below 1-A? | AspenTimes.com

‘Feeder lift’ below 1-A?

Janet Urquhart
Aspen Times Staff Writer

A new “feeder lift” to take skiers and snowboarders from Willoughby Park to Lift 1A on Aspen Mountain is getting some serious discussion as various lodge and hotel properties contemplate new development in the Shadow Mountain neighborhood surrounding the mountain’s original portal.

The Aspen Skiing Co. envisioned a Town Lift in that area as part of its 1997 Aspen Mountain Master Plan. But it’s not the Skico that’s driving the latest call for a short lift connection that would make it easier for skiers to access the mountain on the Shadow Mountain side, according to Bill Kane, Skico vice president of planning.

The idea first came up a year ago when the city brought together various players who are pursuing projects in the vicinity of Aspen and Dean streets. The biggie, a proposed new hotel dubbed the Lodge at Aspen Mountain, has offered to fund the replacement of Lift 1A with a new, speedier chair much like the Ruthie’s lift and work with the Skico in planning upgrades to the 1A base.

Lift 1A, also known as the Shadow Mountain lift, is across Aspen Street and just a bit uphill from the southernmost end of the proposed hotel site.

“Obviously [the new lift] benefits our hotel opportunity, and we thought it would benefit the city,” said Sunny Vann, planning consultant for the project, which is under review by the Planning and Zoning Commission.

“There are all kinds of opportunities up there. We’re just the thousand-pound gorilla up there getting everybody to focus on the issue.”

Owners of a pair of lodges right below Lift 1A, the Holland House and Skiers Chalet, are also contemplating redevelopment plans. A little farther down the hill, the St. Regis Aspen is poised to begin a renovation this spring to create fractional-ownership suites in one wing of the hotel, as well as a new spa, and new owners of the former Chart House are proposing the ChartHouse Lodge at the corner of Durrant and Aspen streets. Across Durrant from the ChartHouse, the Dancing Bear Lodge has already won approval, but is not yet under construction.

In addition, the Aspen Historic Society hopes to establish a ski museum in the vicinity of Lift One, the first chairlift to serve Aspen Mountain. The lower terminus of the historic lift still stands at Willoughby Park.

“We talked about all kinds of alternatives ” could we bring the lift down to where the old lift started?” Vann said.

The area is too constricted to create a new base area for Lift 1A, but the idea of a feeder lift from Willoughby Park to the base of 1A emerged. A similar lift runs at the base of Tiehack at Buttermilk.

“We’re kind of back where we were a year ago in thinking that a small feeder lift that comes down lower and hooks up to Lift 1A would be a benefit to the community,” said Julie Ann Woods, the city’s director of community development.

With the feeder lift, skiers and snowboarders wouldn’t have to hike the icy, steepest stretch of Aspen Street to reach the base of 1A, and motorists dropping people off at the lift wouldn’t have to negotiate the nastiest stretch of Aspen Street either, Woods noted.

In its 1997 master plan, the Skico laid out a future vision for the mountain that included replacement of Lift 1A with a chair that would extend above Roch Run and Gene Reardon’s Run at its upper terminus. The lower terminus of the new 1A would be located to the east of the present-day terminus.

The plan also called for a Town Lift starting from Willoughby Park. Kane recalls the upper terminus of the Town Lift was to be at the Summer Road, giving skiers access to either 1A or the gondola. The Top of Mill residential development has since precluded that alignment, he said.

“Frankly, it was kind of a whimsical idea,” Kane said.

The Skico has no immediate plans to pursue changes at the base of Lift 1A, but the company is open to talking about upgrades ” namely the feeder lift ” if other partners want to finance the project, he said.

“There’s a lot of enthusiasm for this right now,” Kane said. “If others are really prepared to shoulder the capital expense, we’re willing to look at it.”

[Janet Urquhart’s e-mail address is janet@aspentimes.com]