Lift 1A question hovers over Aspen planning |

Lift 1A question hovers over Aspen planning

Carolyn Sackariason
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado

ASPEN ” Putting a new chairlift several hundred feet below the existing Lift IA at the base of Aspen Mountain’s west side is a difficult proposition but not impossible, said a ski area planner hired by a group that is designing a master plan for the area.

Bringing Lift 1A down to Dean Street, where Lift One originated in 1946, is the centerpiece in a summer-long planning process being conducted by dozens of residents.

A new chairlift in that location will need more space than what is currently available in the area, said Chris Cushing, a principal with SE Group, a consulting firm specializing in the planning, design, and development of mountain and resort communities.

Cushing presented various options to the Lift One Task Force, which is charged with creating a master plan for the area. That side of the mountain is arguably one of the most important areas ” it’s where skiing first started in Aspen and is home to the World Cup course.

With virtually all options on the table, the group is thinking out of the box ” including putting South Aspen Street underground and allowing people to ski over it to the lift. A magic carpet ” an escalator of sorts like the one in Snowbird ” also could go underground and carry people several hundred feet to the base of a permanent chairlift.

Because of state and federal regulations, a chairlift must be 35 feet away from any structure, mostly because of concerns of buildings catching fire and reaching the lift’s cable system.

And that is a major constraint in the area, where lodges, condos and other facilities are being planned.

At a minimum, at least 95 feet ” roughly the width of Main Street ” will be needed for the lift’s terminal. It’s thought that the chairlift will go where what remains of the historic Lift One currently sits.

And a skier transition area, where people will funnel into and mill about, needs to be 150 feet wide and flat, Cushing said.

“It’s pretty substantial,” he told the task force last week. “The most important thing is having enough space so there are no conflicts.”

Cushing added that a fixed-grip chairlift takes up the least amount of room. A detachable lift, which are most commonly used at ski areas, would require 171 feet of width.

Also under consideration is a pulse gondola, in which three or more cabins are clustered together, as well as surface lifts, like a T-bar, platter or rope tow. An horizontal elevator like a monorail also was presented as an option.

There are plenty of constraints in the area, which spans eight acres. Two major hotel or lodging facilities are expected to be built there, as well as affordable housing, skier and public amenities.

By bringing the lift farther down, snowmaking will be required at the lower elevation, which would be disruptive for the residents, Cushing said.

“In today’s environment, snowmaking is essentially mandatory and that’s certainly the case here,” he told the group. “There’s a significant level of noise with snow guns … That’s an operational aspect that needs consideration if skiing will be extended into this neighborhood.”

As developers prepare to build hotels and other forms of lodging in the area, city officials have expressed a strong desire to bring the lift farther down South Aspen Street, which already is at a steep grade for people to walk up.

Bringing the lift into town was a result of a plan last year that included moving the existing Lift 1A terminal 125 feet farther uphill to accommodate the Lift One Lodge, a development proposal that has been put on hold while the master plan is created.

The idea of moving the lift uphill prompted City Council members to ask for a master plan, which is now being created through what’s known as the COWOP process (Convenience and Welfare of the Public). The group is the driving force in creating a comprehensive development program for the ski area’s base, which sees only 3 percent of visitors using that side as a portal. The rest use the Silver Queen Gondola to get up the mountain.

The end result will be a blueprint of what kind of lodging, affordable housing, community and skier amenities, and other development aspects will be in the historic Lift One neighborhood ” the original portal to Aspen Mountain.

One of the last areas to be redeveloped in town, there are four major landowners at the base, including the Aspen Skiing Co., the city of Aspen and Centurion Partners, which owns the property where the Mine Dumps apartments used to be on South Aspen Street. Across the street, David Wilhelm, Jim Light and Jim Chaffin own the property where the defunct Holland House and Skiers Chalet lodges are located.

Those developers, represented by Bob Daniel, were proposing the 114,000-square-foot Lift One Lodge below Lift 1A.

When Centurion Partners was asking for approval for their proposed Lodge at Aspen Mountain, Mayor Mick Ireland said the feedback he and his fellow council members received from the public was that lodging is important in that area and so is keeping a chairlift in the same location, or moving its bottom terminus even lower.

Without a master plan for the ski area’s west side, developers have acknowledged they face an uphill battle in getting any land-use application approved. And elected officials have acknowledged that more hotel rooms are needed in that area but not without a smart growth plan in place.

The task force will meet as often as once a week until the end of September. At the end of the process, the task force will vote on a recommendation that will be passed onto the City Council, which has the final say in what will be developed.

A task force of residents, business owners, elected officials and other community mem­bers currently are creating a master plan for the historic Lift One neighborhood at the base of Shadow Mountain.

The task force has been meeting since April and has spent countless hours discussing what its goals should be while creating a development plan for the area. On May 22, the task force formalized its mission:

Integrate the bal­ance of architecture and design through the relationships, mass and scale of historic and proposed structures.

Aspen’s ski history and traditions.

to all users that integrates the Lift One neighbor­hood and town, while minimizing traffic and pavement.

and infra­structure that includes the World Cup venue and year-round activities.

of lodging, servic­es, amenities and on-site affordable housing to attract visitors and locals, while respecting the nature of the neighborhood.

and flexi­ble project without imposing burdens on the community.

that exploits on-site energy generation and responsibly uses energy and other resources.