Future of Aspen Mountain’s Lift 1A spins into next phase of study

Carolyn Sackariason
The Aspen Times
The Lift 1 structure, seen here in December 2017, sits at the corner of Dean and Aspen streets in Willougby Park. Some scenarios of a new 1A chairlift could affect this historically designated structure.
David Krause / The Aspen Times |

Aspen City Council agreed Tuesday to continue its pursuit of moving the 1A chairlift, located at the base of Aspen Mountain’s west side, as close to town as possible.

That now comes in the form of drilling down two scenarios that were presented by the consulting firm, SE Group. Last October, SE presented to council nine options for replacing lift 1A. Two have been selected, with modifications.

A more detailed study by SE will consider the merits of the first option, which would extend the lift south of Gilbert Street. The second lift scenario brings it down farther, extending it south of Dean Street and just uphill from the historic Lift One terminal.

But council also added two of its own options — a possible mid-loading station where the current 1A chairlift is located, along with the Dean Street scenario. First suggested by Councilman Ward Hauenstein last fall, a mid station would allow for repeat skiing on that side of the mountain. However, Aspen Skiing Co.’s position is that the area is too narrow to accommodate a loading station and still provide an adequate guest and skiing experience.

Hauenstein was able to convince his fellow council members to keep the concept in the next review, although it won’t be as in-depth as the others.

“This is a 50-year decision, at least,” he said. “I want that part of the mountain to be part of town. … Let’s keep our options open.”

The other consideration council wants in the next study is moving the lift even farther down the hill, which would impact the historic Lift One structure located in Willoughby Park. If the lift was moved closer to Dean Street, the old Lift One would have to be moved slightly, and the viewplane of the mountain from that locale would be eradicated.

Aspen resident Mike Maple, who favors historic preservation, told the council that none of the scenarios get to the goal of creating a second portal to Aspen Mountain without significant sacrifice.

“You can’t have both,” he said of preserving history and providing access. “Everything is a balancing act.”

Moving the lift farther down the hill is a result of the 81-key Gorsuch Haus lodge proposal. In the developers’ land-use application, replacement of Lift 1A is planned where the existing terminal is located near the top of South Aspen Street.

Listening to community feedback that the lift should be more accessible, the council in March tabled its review of Gorsuch Haus and asked for a third-party consultant to evaluate alternative lift options.

The study, now in its second phase, is being paid for by the city, Skico, Gorsuch Haus and Lift One Lodge as the landowners who would be directly impacted by a relocated lift.

Mayor Steve Skadron said the idea of moving the historic Lift One is intriguing if it gets the 1A chair closer to Dean Street.

“Bringing the lift down has consequences,” he said, adding that all along it’s been about providing access to the mountain, which means a lower chairlift. “That’s what we told the community, … that’s their expectation.”

Landowners affected by a realigned chairlift have submitted to the city their list of concerns and nonstarters, which will be considered in the next phase of the study.

Those “qualitative parameters” include everything from no mid-point terminal — as suggested by Skico and the Gorsuch Haus developers — to a required informal review by the Colorado Passenger Tramway Safety Board, and a minimum 66-foot-wide ski run through the developments.

The Lift One Lodge ownership group asked that all of the stated concerns by Skico and Gorsuch be eliminated for the next phase of the study so that SE Group can conduct an objective and unconstrained review of the scenarios.

City Council members disagreed, and said taxpayer money is best spent addressing all of the parties’ concerns at once.

The city put in roughly $20,000 for the initial study by SE Group, and the three parties contributed $5,000 each. For the second phase, which is limited to the four scenarios, the city’s contribution will be upward of $16,000. Each stakeholder has committed to $10,000 toward the next effort. The study is expected to take two months.