Lights out for the Limelite | AspenTimes.com

Lights out for the Limelite

Janet Urquhart

Forrest Woolery carries another box of Limelite Lodge furnishings to the lobby in preparation for demolition of the lodge. (Jordan Curet/The Aspen Times)

The rooms are bare, the swimming pools scummy and the breakfast room in disarray.Aspen’s venerable Limelite Lodge, where members of the Paas/Woolery family have greeted guests for more than half a century, will soon be reduced to a pile of jagged lumber, sheetrock and brick.The long-anticipated razing of the Limelite Lodge could begin as early as Monday.Its owners have been emptying the last of the rooms and putting what’s left of the furnishings in the lobby and front offices of the lodge’s headquarters at the corner of Monarch Street and Cooper Avenue. Everything from the decor to the front counter is for sale.And the people who’ve spent the better part of their lives behind that counter are bracing to watch the old buildings crumble, making way for the new Limelight Lodge (note the tweaked spelling) that will take its place. The demolition, originally scheduled to begin early last week, was then rescheduled to commence Friday. Now, it looks like Monday is the day.Sue Woolery, one of the lodge’s owners, confessed to mixed emotions about the lodge’s impending destruction.”You know, I’m just taking it moment by moment. I’m sure I’ll be in tears,” she said. “It’s sad, but it’s got to be – to keep us here.”

The family’s redevelopment plans for the property, including the construction of free-market condos and a new midpriced lodge, are crucial to their ability to remain in business, stressed owner Dale Paas, Sue’s brother.

The collection of buildings that make up the Limelite complex, including the Snowflake Inn, the Deep Powder Lodge and the former Ski-Vu Lodge, have seen better days. “There’s some of that, ‘Oh, we wish it could stay the same,’ but the buildings’ time has come,” Paas said. For the past two years, maintenance costs have more than eaten any profit the Limelite could have made, he said.”We’re all just ready for this to happen,” said Sue’s husband, Rick Woolery. “We’ve made the decision, so it’s time to see it go.”Once it begins, the demolition will take about 45 days. Materials will be recovered and recycled as the buildings topple, Paas said.

Most of the interior furnishings already have been recycled – sold to everyone from valley residents to the Aspen Camp School for the Deaf.”We had 110 rooms worth of beds and we’ve got four or five beds left,” Rick said.”If you know what our furniture looks like, you’re going to see it around the valley a lot,” Paas added.After a year and a half of construction, the new Limelight Lodge should open early in 2008. Delays in obtaining permits to tear the old buildings down set the project back from the original plan – to open in time for the start of the 2007-08 ski season.

While the lodge is gone, though, it will still take calls. The Limelight’s Aspen phone number now rings at a two-person office in El Jebel, where guests will be referred to other local accommodations during the lodge’s operational hiatus. It’s business as usual for the lodge’s marketing efforts, as well, Paas said.The goal, he said, is to keep guests coming to Aspen/Snowmass, and to bring them back to the new Limelight when it’s ready.”If you don’t answer the phone for a year and a half, good luck,” he said.Janet Urquhart’s e-mail address is janet@aspentimes.com