Lift One project at base of Aspen Mountain moves to next phase

Approvals by city’s historic preservation and planning commissions take development into five years of vesting rights

Skiers ride the Shadow Mountain Lift on Aspen Mountain on Friday, Jan. 15, 2021. (Kelsey Brunner/The Aspen Times)

The land use applications for roughly 320,000 square feet of commercial development at the base of Aspen Mountain’s west side were conditionally approved last month, and now vesting rights have begun for the developers behind what’s known as the Lift One project.

Jeff Gorsuch and his partners, who plan to build an 81-room hotel, and Michael and Aaron Brown, who plan to build a 107,000-square-foot timeshare lodge, hotel and private residences, have five years from Dec. 24 to apply for a building permit.

The project, which was approved by voters in 2019, will see a new telemix chairlift that will replace the outdated Lift 1A, or Shadow Mountain lift.

Both developments went through public hearings in November and December in front of the city’s Historic Preservation and planning commissions, with reviews primarily focused on building materials and landscaping.

With final land use approvals granted, development orders have been issued, according to Jen Phelan, the development manager for the project and the city’s representative.

The city allocated $4.36 million to help pay for public facing elements of the project, including improvements to Dean Street and the relocation of the Skiers Chalet Lodge, where a ski history museum and skier services will be located.

Also involved in the project are the Aspen Historical Society and Aspen Skiing Co.

Gorsuch Haus and Lift One Lodge developers must submit to the city final plats, development agreements, easement agreements, maintenance agreements and other details for the project by June 22, according to Phelan.

In the meantime, representatives of the players continue to meet to discuss drafts of the legal documents and refine them. They also will continue to solve design and operations issues between themselves.

“My role is to coordinate to make these things happen,” she said.

Michael Brown said city staff deserve a lot of credit for keeping the stakeholders on track.

“We’re very excited about the progress that’s been made,” he said on Thursday. “We’re really looking forward to the work ahead and delivering this amazing project to the community.”

It may take up to a year before developers are ready to submit building permits and just as long for the city to approve them, making April 2023 the earliest construction could begin.

The first thing that will happen is the chairlift will come down, then excavation for the 176-space, multi-level underground parking garage will start.

Skico officials have said they would prefer not to have a ski season without a chairlift operating on that side of the mountain, but it remains to be seen what lurks beneath the sloped landscape.

“They are going to be monitoring for any type of movement of soil,” Phelan said of what will likely be a two-year project.

The plan was fleshed out by the Planning and Zoning and Historic Preservation commissions already on a conceptual level, and then Aspen City Council referred it to city voters, who narrowly approved both land-use applications in March of 2019.

The project also comes with the telemix chairlift coming 500 feet farther down the hill to Dean Street with the final descent for skiers and snowboarders being in a 60-foot-wide ski corridor.

Voters also blessed a skiers’ services space, restaurants, bars, a ski museum paying homage to the original Lift One chairlift, among other amenities.


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