Skico eying a new plan for Buttermilk | AspenTimes.com

Skico eying a new plan for Buttermilk

Janet Urquhart
Aspen Times Staff Writer

The Aspen Skiing Co. is again looking at redeveloping the base of Buttermilk Mountain ski area and has broached the city about annexing the property into Aspen.

Dave Bellack, a Skico senior vice president, met with the City Council Tuesday to brief members on the company’s latest vision for the Buttermilk base area.

“We just wanted to give the council a heads up to what we’re up to,” he said.

The Skico could submit a development application and, presumably, an annexation application, to the city sometime next year, according to Bellack. There is no set timetable to bring forward a plan at this point, he said.

The company submitted a Buttermilk master plan to Pitkin County several years ago, but then withdrew it to focus its efforts on a new base village at Snowmass. Since then, the vision for Buttermilk’s base has changed, and the Skico has concluded annexation of the property into the city may make sense, Bellack said.

It would be an urban-type development within the community’s growth boundary, and it would require city water, Bellack noted.

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The Skico owns about 60 acres at Buttermilk, about 20 of which constitute a flat, developable area at the base of the ski slopes. The property was acquired from the Friedl Pfeifer estate two years ago, he said.

The last master plan for Buttermilk envisioned a gondola to connect the top of Buttermilk to the base of Aspen Highlands, a 13,000-square-foot children’s center, office and commercial space, and up to 72 employee housing units, among other elements.

“Our thinking has changed quite a bit,” Bellack said. “Before, we had a massing, if you will, of employee housing.”

Now, the Skico is exploring a condominium hotel project that would provide slightly less expensive lodging than visitors find at the base of Aspen Mountain.

“The thinking is trying to generate some product that would generate some hot beds,” Bellack said.

Housing required for the development would also be built. The existing parking would be retained with a parking structure, he said.

“I would encourage you to do more than that,” said Councilman Tony Hershey.

The Skico owns the parking lot upvalley of Owl Creek Road; the lot on the other side of the road is owned by the county and state, Bellack said.

The building containing Bumps restaurant and the new Powder Pandas headquarters would be retained. And the green building that now houses offices and the rental shop would be replaced with a new structure containing a rental shop, the ski school and offices, he said.

Representatives of the Inn at Aspen at the base have approached the Skico about working with the company and pursuing annexation, as well, Bellack added.

“It made a lot of sense to see if we could integrate their land into a comprehensive plan,” he said.

Annexing the timeshare hotel, however, may prove trickier, given the multiple owners in that project, pointed out City Attorney John Worcester.

Annexing either property into Aspen shouldn’t be construed as an attempt by the city to expand its borders, noted Mayor Helen Klanderud.

“There’s a perception out there that the city has a rather aggressive annexation policy,” she said. “We never talk about annexation unless they come to us.”

[Janet Urquhart’s e-mail address is janet@aspentimes.com]