POMA to 1A chair on Ajax gains lift
September 19, 2008
ASPEN ” A surface chairlift near Dean Street appears to be the best and most inexpensive way to get people up the west side of Aspen Mountain, in contrast to earlier plans of a covered escalator and other grandiose “people movers.”
That’s the conclusion of the Lift One Task Force and the Aspen Skiing Co., which are moving forward with installing a POMA lift that would run along the same alignment as Aspen’s first chairlift, which began operating in 1947.
The proposed lift will start where the existing terminal of the historic Lift One chair is located in Willoughby Park, and take riders slightly above and left of a new, high-speed quad Lift 1A set 150 feet farther uphill.
But it will require a variance from the Colorado Passenger Tramway Safety Board to make it happen. Tramway standards require 45 feet of clearance on either side of a ski lift, but the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) requires only five feet on each side of a surface lift, said Skico attorney Dave Bellack. Skico wants five feet of clearance.
“That is the argument we need them to buy,” Bellack said to the task force Thursday. “We’re hopeful.”
Bellack noted that variances have been granted at other ski areas, including for the POMA lift on the Cirque at Snowmass that allows skiers to cross the alignment to reach the other side of the ski run.
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Because of safety concerns, skiers and snowboarders would not be allowed to ride down to Dean Street while the POMA lift is in operation. So it’s thought that the T-bar type of lift would operate in the morning and early afternoon, and then be closed so skiers and snowboarders can have return skiing to Dean Street at the end of the day.
The surface lift is a departure from Skico’s position that a lift in the historic Lift One corridor, which is 50 feet wide, wasn’t possible because of space constraints. But that was only if its purpose was for repeat skiing. The latest thought is that the POMA lift would serve as a mode of transportation up the hill, Bellack said.
Once a site plan for the entire 8-acre area at the base of the mountain is agreed upon by the task force, an application will be prepared for the tramway board, along with a designed lift proposal and the factors surrounding it, Bellack said.
The task force met Thursday in what was its 24th meeting. It will likely gather two more times before it makes a recommendation to the Aspen City Council on a development master plan.
That recommendation will ultimately serve as a land-use application for hundreds of thousands of square feet in commercial and residential space, including two large hotels, retail shops, restaurants, affordable housing, a ski museum and public spaces.
It was apparent last week that the task force wasn’t ready to sign off on any of the “people mover” options presented to them, which included an above-ground escalator, elevators, a trolley, a cable car or an underground escalator that would take people up the steep slope along South Aspen Street.
Task force members last week also were seriously questioning whether there was enough community benefit attached to the morphing site plan and doubted they would be able sell it to the general public.
But now that a surface lift is a real possibility, task force members said they felt more comfortable making trade-offs on development. They listed more than three dozen public benefits to the existing site plan, which includes improved skiing to Dean Street; lockers; year-round access to an under-utilized base of Aspen Mountain; underground parking; a revitalized historic area of skiing; improved infrastructure such as sidewalks and locals’ friendly venues where beer and food will be served.
The long list of community benefits will be organized and disseminated to the public in coming weeks.
“I think it’s huge and important that we can bring this back to the community,” said task force member Yasmine dePagter.
Mary Janss, a task force member and the daughter of Bill Janss, who developed an early Snowmass Ski Area, said she’s excited about the aesthetic features of the site plan.
“It looks beautiful to me,” she said.