Sharpen the skates, real ice returning to downtown Aspen rink

Ice skating on real ice will continue as an amenity in downtown Aspen this coming winter thanks to alternative plans approved by Aspen City Council on Monday.

Council agreed Monday to allow the Hyatt Grand Aspen to use a temporary electric cooling system for one year to maintain the only outdoor ice skating rink downtown.

The chiller, as it’s called, may be big and loud to passersby and those using the rink, or eating at nearby CP Burger, but it’s a better alternative to last year’s synthetic ice, which drew widespread complaints.

Representatives of the timeshare and hotel development told council Monday they will do everything they can to mask the sight and sounds of the chiller, which will ensure the ice doesn’t melt during the 2019-20 season.

“It will be located as far away as CP Burger as we can get,” said land-use planner Chris Bendon, representing the Hyatt Residences homeowners association.

The HOA last month was seeking approval for a temporary use for another season of synthetic ice, arguing that it’s too expensive to continue refrigerating the rink, and the Environmental Protection Agency is phasing out freon, a cooling agent that has been used for more than a decade on the park-zoned land along Durant Street.

Council members at the time told representatives from the timeshare lodge to find a different alternative, citing that the Hyatt Grand Aspen is required to maintain an outdoor ice-skating rink based on 1992 approvals.

During Monday’s meeting, the city’s long-range planner, Phillip Supino, expressed concern with noise and visual impacts.

The unit is 161/2 feet long, 71/2 feet wide and 71/2 feet tall. For comparison, a standard shipping container is 20 feet long, 8 feet wide, and 81/2 feet tall, according to Supino.

The unit will be visible from Durant Street, Rubey Park Transit Center, portions of the properties to the south and west, and possibly portions of Wagner Park, according to Supino.

Standing next to the unit, a person will hear approximately 95 decibels, which is equivalent to a gas lawn mower. Standing 30 feet away — roughly at the mid-point of the rink on its western edge — one will hear approximately 65 decibels, equivalent to a residential air conditioner.

At Rubey Park across the street, idling RFTA buses operate at approximately 65 decibels, which is the maximum noise level allowed in commercial zone districts between 7 a.m. and 9 p.m.

The HOA has indicated to council it would like to discuss long-term concepts for the site — to provide a public benefit in a different way — if it is going to substantially invest in the property and its infrastructure.

“We believe there are potentially different, new ways to imagine public use of this parcel that may or may not involve ice skating,” Bendon wrote in a memo to council.

Council members said they were amenable to future conversations, with some noting that ice-skating is still as important as it was when the approval occurred almost three decades ago.


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