Old Skiers Chalet in new hands | AspenTimes.com

Old Skiers Chalet in new hands

Janet Urquhart
Aspen Times Staff Writer

A group of investors has acquired Aspen’s venerable Skiers Chalet with hopes of renovating the old lodge into condominiumized units, just as they are now doing with the former Christiania Ski Lodge and Chalets.

The building containing the popular Skiers Chalet Steak House has already been purchased, and the second lodge building in the complex is under contract, according to Greg Hills, managing partner for the new owners.

The Skiers Chalet is among Aspen’s oldest ski lodges, dating back 50 years in the Aspen Street neighborhood that sprang up around what was then the longest chairlift in the world – the old Lift One – since replaced by Lift 1-A.

The lodge’s founder, Howard Awrey, now in his 80s, came to Aspen in 1947 and later built the restaurant and lodge on a site that began with the Skier’s Cafe in a miner’s shack.

The total purchase price for the lodge is $5 million, according to Hills, who is also the managing partner with a slightly different collection of investors who acquired the Christiania on Main Street in late 1998.

Much of the former Christiania complex has been razed to make way for the Christiania Aspen, a condominium lodge that will contain 25 units and three apartments for employees. Three historic cabins on the property will remain.

The first phase of construction, scheduled to wrap up next August, will contain 16 units that have been pre-sold to buyers who can use them for up to six months a year, but must make them available for short-term rental the rest of the time. The arrangement keeps the lodge units in the resort’s inventory of tourist accommodations when they are not in use by the owners.

No firm redevelopment plans for the Skiers Chalet have yet been made, but the new owners would like to retain the Steak House, run by Stephen Wright, according to Hills.

“A lot of locals love it,” he said of the restaurant.

The building containing the Steak House and 10 lodge rooms has been designated as historic by the city of Aspen, which prevents its demolition. The owners will probably look at renovating that building, Hills predicted.

“We’d like to work with Amy Guthrie [the city’s historic preservation officer]. We want to remember its past, but also appeal to someone who would want to be there in 2005,” he said.

The second building on the property, containing 17 units, could be razed and redeveloped, or renovated. It was apparently constructed in the late 1960s and is not designated as a historic structure.

“We’ll sit down with the city and see what works for everybody,” Hills said.

Given its ski-in, ski-out access, it?’s important that the Skiers Chalet continue to function as a lodge, even though the units will be owned – and, at times, occupied – by individual buyers, he said.

“It should be a short-term stay place. It’s right next to the mountain,” Hills said.

With parent company Austin Lawrence Partners busy with various projects around Aspen, nothing is slated to happen immediately at the Skiers Chalet, he said.

After a couple of years of planning, work could begin at the lodge in 2004 or 2005, Hills said.

The second phase of construction at the Christiania is expected to begin shortly after the initial phase is done next year; phase two will be complete in the summer of 2004.

Hills’ company is also redeveloping the apartment building next to the Pitkin County Courthouse as condos and is converting rental units into condos at the Aspen Airport Business Center.

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