One piece of Aspen’s skiing history now two |

One piece of Aspen’s skiing history now two

A large crowd gathered for what was called the Winter Sports Carnival on February 27, 1937, at the Highland Bavarian Lodge in Castle Creek Valley. The lodge, the birthplace of skiing in the Aspen area, opened in December 1936.
Aspen Historical Society

A historic piece of the Castle Creek Valley considered the birthplace of skiing in the Aspen area was approved last week for two 10,000-square-foot homes.

Pitkin County commissioners subdivided the 83-acre Highland Bavarian Lodge property into two separate developable parcels in exchange for a public trail to the top of a historic ski run in the area, conservation easements and the sterilization of a portion of the property from further development.

The owners of the property, Bruce and Mac Coffey and their families, agreed to walk away from a third proposed home site on the property and not dispute ownership of Conundrum Creek Road in exchange for approval of the subdivision application and 10 years of vested development rights on the two parcels, said Glenn Horn, the Coffeys’ planner.

However, only Commissioners Patti Clapper and Steve Child liked the 10-year idea and it failed on a 2-3 vote at the board’s regular meeting Feb. 12. Instead, Commissioner George Newman proposed six years of vested development rights, which passed on a 4-1 vote, with Clapper voting against it and Child changing his vote.

“(The Coffeys) were very disappointed with that (six years of vested rights),” Horn said Wednesday. “They felt they were trying to do something that balanced their needs and the community interest, so they were disappointed.”

The Highland Bavarian Lodge was built in the summer and fall of 1936 by the Highland Bavarian Corp., reported to be the first ski-related corporation in Colorado, near the confluence of Castle and Conundrum creeks. The principals included an Aspen local, a former U.S. bobsled Olympian, a real estate magnate and a financier.

The lodge cost $7 a night, and skiers paid 50 cents for a sleigh ride up the Castle Creek Valley then skied back to the lodge on a trail cut by the corporation. Those who needed more adventure could attach skins to their skis and hike up what was then known as Highland Basin (now Little Annie Basin) and ski back down or cross over the basin divide and ski down Aspen Mountain through Buckhorn and Tourtelotte Park and down mining roads, according to Aspen historian Tim Willoughby.

The lodge was dedicated Dec. 27, 1936, in front of a crowd of 350 dignitaries, and featured separate bunkrooms for men and women, with a fireplace and dining room in the middle, according to Horn and a 1936 article in The Aspen Times.

With the onset of WWII, plans for a ski area near the lodge never materialized, and the development of skiing on Aspen Mountain shifted focus away from the Castle Creek Valley area after the war.

“The importance of this property within Aspen and Pitkin County ski history is matched only by the historic Lift 1 and boat tow,” local land-use and historic preservation planner Sara Adams wrote in the historic designation application for the property.

The lodge, bunkhouse and a cabin, however, have not been altered much from the time they were built, Horn said.

“It’s a great piece of property,” Horn said. “It has great, great views. It’s beautiful.”

Commissioners approved a 5,750-square-foot above-grade home with the option of another 4,000 square feet below grade for the Ranch Parcel of the property, which features the historic buildings. The lodge will likely become the home’s guesthouse, while the kitchens will be removed from the bunkhouse and cabin and they will likely become detached bedrooms for the main home, Horn said. Another free-market unit will be converted to a caretaker dwelling, he said.

The second parcel — known as the Mesa Parcel — will be located on a mesa on the west side of Castle Creek and is approved for a 10,750-square-foot home. A secondary building envelope on the site is approved for a 1,000-square-foot caretaker unit and a 1,500-square-foot accessory structure like an office or garage, Horn said.

Commissioners were particularly adamant that the home not be seen from Castle Creek Road. Horn said it will be heavily screened, and commissioners approved only minimal lighting and normal-sized windows on the side of the home that will face the road.

The Coffeys also wanted a home building site on another parcel, though they agreed to merge that 21/2-acre parcel with the Mesa Parcel and eliminate that building site, Horn said.

A third parcel known as the Castle Creek Parcel will be free from development, though commissioners agreed to allow a “picnic area” to be developed on the site. That parcel will likely be sold to whoever buys the Ranch Parcel, Horn said.

A public trail will be cut to the top of one of the historic ski runs in the basin, and will feature views of the historic lodge and ranch area, Horn said. How to convey the trail information to the public will be worked out later.

The original structures on the property from the 30s were also designated as historic by commissioners last week.

The entire 83-acre property was previously on the market for $25 million before the subdivision and development application was approved last week.