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Ski museum takes one step closer

Janet Urquhart
The Skier's Chalet Lodge would be moved toward Dean Street and the Holland House razed in a development plan for the area directly below Lift 1A at the base of Aspen Mountain. (Jenna Holcomb/The Aspen Times)
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Relocation of the Skier’s Chalet lodge to become the town’s ski museum won an informal nod of approval from Aspen’s Historic Preservation Commission this week, giving developers a key piece of land for a new lodge project at the base of Lift 1A.The commission took its first look at a proposal to upgrade both Willoughby and Lift One parks, which contain the remains of the old Lift One, once the longest chairlift in the world.Alongside the lift corridor are two of Aspen’s oldest lodges – the Skier’s Chalet and Holland House – built when the base of Lift One, and then Lift 1A, was the hub of ski activity – long before installation of the gondola on the Little Nell side, some four blocks to the east.Now, the neighborhood is slated for big changes, and HPC members grappled Wednesday with how best to preserve the sense of the early days of skiing in Aspen.”If we want to talk about post-war history in Aspen, this is the absolute center of the universe,” said Amy Guthrie, Aspen’s historic preservation officer. “It’s just amazing history that was happening here in our town and it was all originating in this location.”The two parks are city property, but Roaring Fork Mountain Lodge-Aspen LLC has acquired the Holland House and Skier’s Chalet properties for an anticipated lodge project on the east side of upper South Aspen Street. The lodge plan has yet to be unveiled.

So far, the development partnership – David Wilhelm, Jim Chaffin and Jim Light – has submitted an application for public improvements, including the relocation of the Skier’s Chalet lodge structure about 90 yards downhill to Willoughby Park, where it would serve as a long-envisioned ski museum operated by the Aspen Historical Society. The relocation would also clear space for the project to come.”A lot depends on what happens here tonight,” conceded architect Bill Poss.The lodge building is not protected with a historic designation, unlike the separate Skier’s Chalet Steak House, which the developers want to convert to employee housing.Though Guthrie urged the HPC to consider whether the lodge could successfully be preserved exactly where it is and incorporated into the new development, three of the four commission members in attendance agreed relocation is the best option to save the structure’s integrity. “I don’t think we have another option – it’s not designated historic,” said member Alison Agley. The designation is what gives the HPC leverage to protect a structure.Commission member Derek Skalko expressed fear that the lodge will be trivialized by the new project developers want to construct. The relocation may be to its benefit, not detriment, he reasoned.

“This represents an era – that’s what we’re preserving,” Poss said of the building. “Is it site specific? I don’t think so.”Though Poss didn’t offer details of the project that is still to come, the development team’s historic preservation consultant, Lisa Purdy, confirmed the old lodge building will be compromised by what’s envisioned.”It’s going to be overwhelmed by what is built near it,” she predicted. “The Holland House will not be there.”The Holland House is not designated as historic and is expected to be razed.Developers are also proposing underground parking both below Gilbert Street, to serve Willoughby Park and the museum, and above Gilbert Street for their project. A snowmelt system is proposed beneath steep Aspen Street, which will also serve the planned Lodge at Aspen Mountain – a large hotel on the west side of Aspen Street that has already won conceptual approval from the City Council. The Roaring Fork Mountain Lodge parcels are on the east side of Aspen Street – split by the Lift One corridor.The remnants of Lift One will have to be temporarily moved to accommodate construction of the subgrade parking. They’ll be put back in place and refurbished, but the short length of lift won’t be returned to operation.HPC members panned sketches of proposed landscaping within the lift corridor, urging developers to forego planting a bunch of trees that would change the character of what was once a ski run. They also expressed hope that skiers can continue to drop below Lift 1A and ski down the corridor, but project spokesman Bob Daniel said he isn’t sure that will be possible.

“There’s something really great about skiing down from Aspen Mountain alongside that old lift,” said HPC member Sarah Broughton.It’s the future of a summertime pursuit, however, that worries Leon Fell, producer of Aspen’s annual Motherlode Volleyball Classic.The lodge relocation would plunk the building down on top of two volleyball courts that play a crucial role in the Labor Day weekend tournament, he said. He urged the city and developers to either put the building elsewhere in Willoughby Park or replace the courts with others that are within walking distance of the various Motherlode venues.”We cannot lose those two volleyball courts within the downtown core,” he said.In addition to the Motherlode’s dependency on the courts, they are in frequent use by the general public, Fell added.The HPC continued its review to June 28 with the understanding that further discussion may be continued to another date.Janet Urquhart’s e-mail address is janet@aspentimes.com


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