New chairlift must complement neighborhood, respect history
Building a new “feeder” lift from Willoughby Park up to Lift 1A may be a good idea, but it raises a number of concerns.
At this early stage, at least one proposal calls for replacing the remnants of old Lift One, which remain in place below Lift 1A, with a new lift that would shuttle skiers up the hill, making access to the Ruthie’s side of the mountain much easier.
Lift 1A is at the top of Aspen Street, one of the steepest in town. A lack of bus or shuttle service to the terminus means that all but a lucky few who find parking at the top of the hill face a tough hike up and an often-slippery walk down from Lift 1A.
A feeder lift could have the effect of drawing more people to the mountain via Lift 1A, taking pressure off the gondola at the bottom of Little Nell during high season. The feeder would also make life easier for downvalley skiers who drive up on the weekends, because they could park on the streets below Shadow Mountain and make it to the mountain with a much shorter walk.
But there are reasons to be skeptical of this idea. First and foremost is the fate of old Lift One.
Remnants of the original one-seat chairlift that served Aspen Mountain in the 1940s have remained in place below the new Lift 1A, essentially untouched for decades. The sight of the old one-person chairs and a few of the relic towers evokes the days before high-speed quads and gondolas, when the Skier’s Chalet was the bedrock of the restaurant community, when wooden skis and leather boots were the only choice.
The developers proposing the new feeder owe it to the community to preserve what’s left of Lift One, even if that means finding a place to relocate it and paying to have it moved.
Another concern is the seriousness of the plan. There is a proposal to redevelop the top of the neighborhood with a fancy new hotel. As hotel development consultant Sunny Vann said, the idea of a feeder lift “benefits our hotel opportunity, and we thought it would benefit the city.”
He’s right. But this idea has been around at least since 1997 without going anywhere. The Aspen Skiing Co.’s Bill Kane called one of the old plans “whimsical.”
All affected parties, and there are a number of them, need to be brought on board before this idea consumes any more of the community’s time and money.
It seems change is coming to this unique and quiet little corner of town, no matter what. Aspenites should insist that the changes are well thought out, and respectful of the ski area’s and the neighborhood’s rich history.