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Limits set on Skico’s party

Janet Urquhart

Party on, dudes, but keep it down.

The two-week bash that will usher in the age of snowboarding on Aspen Mountain won a thumbs-up Tuesday, but a city official granted only four days of loud music for the event – not the 13 days the Aspen Skiing Co. was hoping for.

Dismayed Aspen Skiing Co. officials, who want to exceed Aspen’s noise limits with aprs-ski parties at the base of the mountain, said they will appeal the decision.

The Skico is planning a 14-day celebration to mark the end of the snowboard ban on Aspen Mountain. The fun begins March 31 – the last day the ban will be in place – and continues through April 15.

City Clerk Kathryn Koch, Aspen’s special events coordinator, agreed to issue a special events permit for the bash at a meeting of the city’s Special Events Committee. The group is composed of various advisors, including fire department, law enforcement, parking and zoning personnel.

Granting a variance to the city noise ordinance, however, is up to Lee Cassin, environmental health director. She declined to let the music at 180 Spring Jam Aspen exceed the 65-decibel limit on more than four occasions, citing the City Council’s decision last summer to limit the Farmer’s Market to four such occasions.

Both Cassin’s and Koch’s decisions can be appealed to City Manager Steve Barwick and, ultimately, to the City Council.

Killeen Brettmann, vice president of event marketing for the Skico, said the company will appeal to Barwick for a noise variance for 13 days of the bash to allow amplified music. On one day, a mariachi band that plays without amplification will perform.

The Skico is planning to construct a stage, bar and seating area to the west of the gondola building for the aprs-ski events, but neighboring property owners complained about two weeks of amplified music and suggested some of the partying take place elsewhere.

“I’m not a party pooper – I love parties,” said Jack Crawford, owner of a Tipple Inn unit and president of the Tipple Inn Homeowners Association. He suggested the Skico “let it rip” for the opening weekend of the event, but then move the action to the nearby Tippler nightclub, onto the deck at the Ajax Tavern or to The Little Nell courtyard for the rest of the bash.

“For this prolonged event, I think you have to strike a balance with the hundreds of people who live within earshot,” Crawford said.

Moving the music to the east side of the gondola building would presumably cut down on the noise for residents to the west, but Skico officials said the temporary aprs-ski venue doesn’t work well on the east side. It interferes with skier traffic and, besides, the big-air jump will be on the west side, they noted.

“We’ve got some really great bands coming in for six of the days that we absolutely have to have on the west side,” Brettmann said.

The bash moves to Snowmass for the middle weekend and recorded music will provide lower-key entertainment on weekdays, said Debbie Moore, Skico marketing manager. “It’s not a 13-day blast,” she said.

Brettmann said Skico officials will meet with neighbors today in an effort to work out a compromise. They’ll give neighbors an idea of how loud the recorded music will be on days DJs are scheduled , she said.

Though the Skico will seek a noise variance for 13 days, they’ll press for at least six days to accommodate the bands that are planned on the first two days and last four days of the bash, Brettmann said.

The parties are planned daily from 3 to 6 p.m., but bands will typically perform for an hour or 90 minutes during that time period, Moore said. A variety of music, including hip hop, funk, reggae and ’70s tunes, are planned.

The Skico is promoting the jam at colleges around the state with $29-per-day lift tickets and lodging deals.

At least one man, identifying himself as a local retailer, urged the city to let the partying begin.

“It’s a real important thing that needs to happen in this town . it needs to have some life injected into it,” he said.

Pam Cunningham, general manager of the Aspen Alps condos, also applauded the Skico for trying to stir up some business in town, but cautioned the city on letting the bash open the door to events that regularly disturb neighbors.

She noted the other proposal before the committee yesterday – for a summer bluegrass festival on the mountain’s lower slope (see related story on page 1-A) as an example of her concern.

“It kind of indicates creeping intent,” Cunningham said. “How far do we want the proverbial nose or toe in the tent door to expand all these uses?”

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