Night diners to be in Cloud 9 soon
One day after approving eight nights of dining at Gwyn’s on Aspen Mountain, Pitkin County gave the go-ahead to five evenings of dining at Cloud Nine on Aspen Highlands.
Night use of the restaurant high on the mountain was approved Wednesday on a trial basis, for the current ski season only. The evenings will be in late February and throughout March, but they are not yet scheduled.
As in the previous day’s special meeting, the commissioners acted against the recommendation of their planning staff. The vote was again 4 to 1, with Commissioner Jack Hatfield opposed.
The operator, the Aspen Skiing Co., will be required to keep detailed records of the impacts of operating the restaurant at night, to be considered in a future discussion of extending the operation. The list of impacts includes parking, noise, light pollution, air quality, generation of employees and public notices of use dates in local newspapers. A safety and evacuation plan are also required.
Cloud Nine will be used for both private parties and public dining. Guests and restaurant staff will be transported to the building by snowcats. During the trial period, only one snowcat trip will be made up the mountain.
Cloud Nine, formerly the headquarters of the Highlands Ski Patrol, was remodeled three years ago into a restaurant. The Skico plans to open the restaurant on moonlit nights to take advantage of views of Pyramid Peak and the Maroon Bells.
Though the capacity of the restaurant is considerably larger, only 15 diners will be allowed per evening during the trial period. Skico planner Victor Gerdin told the commissioners the numbers are based on the 20-passenger capacity of a snowcat.
Gerdin added that the Skico has received requests to accommodate small private parties for evening dining on the mountain.
Lance Clarke, the county’s deputy planning director, told the commissioners the planners feel that night use of the restaurant should be handled through an amendment of the master plan governing Aspen Highlands. But Gerdin said that’s not practical.
“The time constraints of a master plan amendment sent us to the temporary use permit process,” he said. A master plan amendment might take months.
Hatfield defended the process.
“I think temporary use permits are for special events,” he said. “I’m going to vote against this.”
Commissioner Patti Clapper requested additional information on how the operators expect to deal with the need to evacuate a victim of a health problem such as a heart attack. The restaurant is at high elevation, approximately 10,700 feet above sea level, and there’s no guarantee that the guests would be either physically fit or acclimated to the elevation.
“I’m concerned about medical emergencies,” she said.
Gerdin replied that a victim of illness could quickly be hauled down the slope in a sled behind a snowmobile. But Clapper noted that it would be impossible for anyone to administer cardiopulmonary resuscitation to a patient on a sled while traveling down the mountain.
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