Forest Service seeks a more rustic design at Sam’s Knob
July 31, 2006
The Aspen Skiing Co. must redesign its new restaurant at Sam’s Knob at Snowmass after the U.S. Forest Service found the initial architecture “too contemporary and modern.””It’s not that we denied the design. We just asked them to bring it up to our standards,” said Sally Spaulding, public affairs specialist for the White River National Forest. The Skico can alter its design or submit a new one, she said.”The net effect was to send us back to the drawing board,” said David Corbin, Skico vice president of planning and development.The Skico hoped to start construction this summer on a new 250-seat, 13,000-square-foot restaurant on public land leased from the Forest Service. The old restaurant – which many people, both inside and outside of the company, believed was outdated and dysfunctional – was demolished prior to last ski season. The Skico was going to pour the foundation of the new structure this summer, then complete the restaurant prior to the 2007-08 ski season.
But White River National Forest Supervisor Maribeth Gustafson sent the company a letter June 22 asking it to alter the design to comply with the agency’s criteria. A document called a Built Environment Image Guide dictates design, materials and colors in construction of buildings on national forests and grasslands.Gustafson’s office refused to release the letter it sent because the issue isn’t yet resolved. Spaulding summarized the letter as saying the Skico design “had too much of a contemporary, modern character.” Forest Service reviewers found the restaurant “too urban,” she said.The agency’s standards favor a more “rustic” design than what was proposed by the Skico, Spaulding said. A glance at the Built Environment Image Guide indicates that colors should be influenced by “rock outcrops, leaves or needles, tree trunks and bark” and other natural elements. Materials such as stone, wood and heavy timber are preferred.The Sam’s Knob design was “long, low and intentionally meant not to stand out to show off its architecture,” said Corbin. It appears to feature a lot of glass and steel. The west wall was mostly glass to take advantage of stunning views of Garret’s Peak, Mount Daly, Haystack Mountain and other scenery west of the ski area.Skico officials also liked the design by Aspen architect Michael Ernemann because of the way it handled and shed snow, Corbin said.
Company officials became aware of the Built Environment Image Guide in March, after they started working with Ernemann on the design. Gustafson’s letter seeking alterations came as a a “surprise,” Corbin said.The Skico has issues with the way the Built Environment Image Guide was applied by the Forest Service to its restaurant. The 4-year-old guidelines seem aimed more at the agency’s construction of its own facilities on public lands rather than ski area development, he said. In addition, the guidelines fail to outline a process for submitting and reviewing projects by ski area operators who want to build facilities on public lands.Corbin also questioned if the guidelines have been applied equally in national forests throughout the West. Alta recently constructed a “more modern” restaurant than the Skico proposed, he said.The company further wondered why the federal agency wants all restaurants and other facilities at ski areas in the West to have the same rustic look. “That tends to be quite boring, frankly,” said Corbin.
Nevertheless, the company declined to appeal the decision. Instead, it had Ernemann try to add rustic touches to the modern design. It didn’t work; Ernemann and the Skico agreed those modifications weren’t up to par.”It was kind of a ugly mutt of an architectural style,” Corbin said of the hybrid design. “We need to go back to the bones of the thing to stretch a new skin” on the structure.One possibility is decreasing the size so that all work can be completed in one construction season. However, the Skico must build at least a 125-seat restaurant at Sam’s Knob per an agreement with the town of Snowmass Village.Scott Condon’s e-mail address is email@example.com