Pitkin County OKs cabins at Ashcroft
December 21, 2011
ASPEN – A plan to add overnight accommodations at Ashcroft Ski Touring, a cross-country-skiing and restaurant operation south of Aspen, won Pitkin County approval Wednesday.
Commissioners voted 4-0 to amend the master plan for Ashcroft after another round of tweaking a resolution that allows the development of cabins for guests but ensures they won’t be converted to residences. Their use as short-term accommodations is linked to the continued operation of the ski area, run for the past 25 years by owner John Wilcox and his wife, Juliet.
The cabin plan needs no further commissioner approval, though a site plan outlining their placement will go to the county Planning and Zoning Commission and commissioners. Unresolved is a proposal to convert the use of the Wilcoxes’ 5,000-square-foot residence, located next to the ski area, for guest accommodations, as well. That proposal has been withdrawn for the time being.
Wilcox said Wednesday that he would like to begin planning the design of the cabins but that his focus remains finding the next “steward” to take over the operation of Ashcroft and the restaurant, the Pine Creek Cookhouse. He wasn’t sure whether he would pursue development of the cabins himself, collaborate with a yet-unchosen partner or find a new owner for Ashcroft Ski Touring who could take the project on.
“I’m looking for the next generation of stewardship,” he said. “I didn’t do all this for 25 years for someone to come in and botch it.”
Also Wednesday, commissioners granted Wilcox two more years to construct three previously required, but as yet unbuilt, employee residences. Most recently, the county had demanded their construction by the end of this year; the new deadline is Dec. 31, 2013.
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The worker units must be constructed before or concurrently with the new accommodations.
The seven planned guest cabins include five new buildings and two existing cabins that are currently used as employee housing. Off-site housing must be provided before the conversion of the two employee cabins for guest use occurs. The cabins will range in size from 540 to 800 square feet. Kitchens aren’t permitted (guests are expected to dine at the restaurant), but limited food preparation in the cabins – with microwave ovens, for example – will be accommodated.
Use of the cabins is envisioned in summer and winter, when the Pine Creek Cookhouse is in operation.
Ashcroft operates in the scenic upper Castle Creek Valley. Most of the ski terrain and the restaurant are located on national forest land, but the cabins will be on private property. Commissioners on Wednesday added a prohibition against future subdivision of the cabin parcel.
Continued operation of the restaurant and use of the cabins is tied to continued operation of the ski area, where the public can pay a fee to ski its groomed trails.
The King Cabin, headquarters for the ski operation, is also on national forest land. It was to be torn down and replaced, but the Forest Service has granted Wilcox the ability to use it for another season. It is now to be removed by June 30.