Gondola snafu is solved | AspenTimes.com

Gondola snafu is solved

The Silver Queen gondola gets to stay put even though one of her legs was planted in the wrong spot.

The Aspen Skiing Co. and Aspen Valley Land Trust discovered a few years ago that when the gondola was constructed in 1986, lift tower No. 3 was built on the Millionaire Lode, a patented mining claim near the base of Aspen Mountain. The problem was, the Skico didn’t own or lease the mining claim. It was the property of the Aspen Valley Land Trust.

AVLT wasn’t too belligerent about the boo-boo. It didn’t threaten to make the Skico move the tower, pay rent or even give its board of directors a bunch of free lift tickets, according to AVLT Executive Director Martha Cochran.

Instead it worked with the Skico on a deal that would compensate the land trust for the Skico’s use of the property. The deal was recently completed.

The Skico will continue to use the 1.5-acre Millionaire Lode. In return it is giving conservation easements to AVLT on about 195 acres in Snowmass Village, according to Cochran and Bill Kane, Skico vice president of development. The conservation easements restrict development.

“The Skico didn’t have to do this much. It was a generous offer,” said Cochran.

Kane said the land the Skico is sterilizing from development was among 600-plus acres the company bought when it acquired the lucrative Base Village land a few years ago.

The Skico gave easements on three parcels. The largest – the 145-acre Wildcat Ridge – is located on the steep slope behind the Snowmass Center. The Rim Trail, popular with hikers and bikers, runs through that land.

Another 25 acres or so is in the stream bottom along Brush Creek, from the Divide Subdivision to the Snowmass Conoco, according to Kane.

The remaining 25 acres is adjacent to the Ridge Run subdivision.

“This is good land,” said Cochran, confirming that the deal removes some threat of development and affects lands that are worth protecting. “This is an important deal for Snowmass.”

It also boosts AVLT’s light presence in the Snowmass Village area.

The deal also assures that the gondola can operate without moving a tower. Kane said no one is certain how the gondola tower was placed on the wrong property. Perhaps a survey was misread.

Aspen Mountain is a mishmash of ownership, thanks to the multitude of mining claims and fractional ownership interests dating back to the silver-mining heyday.

Kane said about 87.5 percent of the roughly 700 acres in the ski area permit area is controlled by the Skico – either through ownership or lease.

Scott Condon’s e-mail address is scondon@aspentimes.com

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