Return of Sam’s Knob |

Return of Sam’s Knob

The Aspen Skiing Co. shaved off 12 to 14 feet from the top of Sams Knob over the summer and demolished the restaurant, but will build a new one by next season. Mark Fox/The Aspen Times)

Sam’s Knob isn’t exactly Sam’s Nub, but skiers and riders familiar with Snowmass will find something missing from that area this season.The Aspen Skiing Co. shaved about 12 to 14 feet off the entire top of the knob this summer and hauled away or spread out thousands of cubic feet of soil and rock.The old restaurant that sat at the top of the knob was demolished and replaced, for this season only, with three trailers that will house the ski patrol, guest services and provide a warming hut. With luck, a new restaurant that seats 260 diners will open at the same location – although 12 or so feet lower – at this time next year, according to Skico Director of Food and Beverage Peter King.

The removal of the top of the mountain creates a much wider platform that can handle a higher volume of skiers and riders, according to Skico General Manager of Mountain Operations Rich Burkley. That was important this year because Sam’s Knob will once again be one of the centers of Snowmass’ universe.The new Village Express – a six-passenger, high-speed chairlift – runs from the base of Fanny Hill to the top of Sam’s Knob. The vast majority of skiers and riders using that west side of the ski area will take the Village Express to access the Big Burn.Therefore, Burkley said, the top of the knob had to be regraded to better handle the skier traffic.When the ski area opened in 1967 the only chairlifts delivered skiers to Sam’s Knob before they whisked down a short slope and caught the Big Burn chair, according to King. Every skier heading to the top of the mountain went by Sam’s Knob until later years when expansion opened other areas like High Alpine and Elk Camp.

King said he believes the old Sam’s Knob restaurant was opened for Snowmass’ first season. It was designed by Fritz Benedict and was the place at Snowmass.When the Fanny Hill and Coney Glade high-speed chairlifts were constructed at Snowmass in 1986, it allowed skiers to bypass the Knob restaurant on their way to the Burn. “It became a little bit out of the way,” King said. Now Sam’s Knob is regaining its stature. The new restaurant will be situated “so it captures the best views,” King said. A deck will cover the vistas from the Big Burn to Mount Sopris. It will offer cafeteria-style seating on one level.The work on Sam’s Knob also allowed widening of the top of the Sunnyside, Banzai Ridge and Max Park trails to create easier skier and rider access, Burkley said. Banzai Ridge was also filled in to ease its steep pitch and make it more attractive to less-experienced skiers.

In addition to handling the traffic from the Village Express lift, Sam’s Knob will continue to be served by a lift of the same name, making it one of the busiest sections of the mountain.King said the Skico is internally reviewing options for the restaurant design. Approvals will likely be sought this winter so construction can proceed next summer.Scott Condon’s e-mail address is

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