Gramiger finally dismantles his Shadow Mountain dream
When Hans Gramiger took apart an old tramway system on Shadow Mountain Monday he really dismantled a 28-year-old dream.
Tearing down the lift system symbolized the end of Gramiger’s efforts to build a mountaintop restaurant. He created a stir in the early 1970s by proposing the restaurant on top of the mountain that dominates Aspen’s southwest side.
“I’m sorry for Aspen,” said Gramiger. “I’m sorry that they lost this. It would have been the greatest amenity it ever had.”
Gramiger bought his Shadow Mountain property in 1961 and came up with the vision for a restaurant soon after. He cut timber for a lift line in 1972 and strung a wire rope for a working tram that hauled material to the top. The wire rope came from Aspen Mountain’s original Lift 1.
The lift system and Gramiger’s grand design for his land created instant controversy in a town and county just beginning to consider land-use controls.
Heinz Coordes, a longtime Gramiger friend, recalled helping with the preparatory work on Shadow Mountain even though he didn’t like it.
“A lot of people weren’t for it,” Coordes said. “As friends, we weren’t even for it.”
The same year that Gramiger’s plans became public, the county began working on a downzoning that took away his ability to build a restaurant.
Sensing a changing tide,
Gramiger applied to Pitkin County in 1973 for a building permit, according to records from a Colorado Court of Appeals case that resulted from the dispute. The building inspector refused to grant the permit and referred the issue to the county commissioners.
Gramiger filed a lawsuit and eventually won the right for a permit – but only to excavate the site and prepare a foundation on Shadow Mountain.
In the meantime, the county had downzoned his property, prohibiting the restaurant. When the commissioners wouldn’t issue a building permit, Gramiger filed another lawsuit.
It was dismissed by a district court and upheld by the Colorado Court of Appeals in 1989. The state Supreme Court declined in 1990 to hear the case.
The tram remained in place, as did a shed and other workings on the mountaintop. It was the lift, though, that was special.
“He said it was his first wife,” said Nikifor Budsey, a neighbor and friend.
Dismantling began recently after Gramiger closed a multi-million-dollar sale of his property. Gramiger, who is moving to Hawaii this fall, wanted to clear the property by Nov. 30, when the new owners take possession, according to friend Joan Alexander.
Budsey said a helicopter has been hired to airlift materials off the mountaintop, including heavy powder boxes that were used to keep dynamite dry.
“He had a lot of dynamite there. He’s famous for that,” said Budsey.
Gramiger used dynamite to blast rock for the foundation of his restaurant. He strung up a World War II torpedo net to prevent rocks from tumbling down, according to Coordes.
While taking a break from working with the Poma crew during dismantling the lift, Gramiger was asked if he was sad to see it go.
“If it all pans out in Hawaii, it’ll be a good day,” he replied.
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