Skico: It won’t be a hike to new Lift 1A
ASPEN ” A proposed new Lift 1A at the base of Aspen Mountain might be located 200 feet farther uphill, but the distance from the end of South Aspen Street to the chairlift would be shorter than the stairs to the gondola from Durant Avenue.
Aspen Skiing Co. officials on Thursday made it clear that Lift 1A would be 125 feet from a newly-built cul-de-sac at the top of South Aspen Street to the base of the chairlift. The street would be extended farther uphill and the steep slope at the chair’s new base would be leveled out.
Skico representatives said there have been misrepresentations made recently that the location of a new Lift 1A would eliminate skiing on the popular Norway mogul run and it would be even a longer hike on South Aspen Street.
But a site visit on Thursday with Skico officials ” who put markers where the new lift would be ” reveals that the terminal would be situated directly across from the base of Norway. Additionally, a stairway leading from the cul-de-sac and grading the terrain would provide skiers a shorter distance than what Durant Street is to the gondola plaza.
The main reason for moving the lift uphill is to preserve the three city blocks owned by the Skico for development while not losing valued terrain.
“This is about skiing and hot beds,” said Skico Senior Vice President David Perry, pointing to the loss of thousands of rental rooms in Aspen over the past decade. “[The lift location] is a compromise.”
The parking lot next to the current Lift 1A terminal and a parcel near the ticket office is owned by the Skico. But that property is planned to be sold to David Wilhelm, Jim Chaffin and Jim Light, who are proposing to build the Lift One Lodge.
The sale is contingent upon Lift One Lodge getting approval from the City Council. The lodge would be located on the east side of South Aspen Street, where the Skiers Chalet and the Holland House currently sit. It includes 32 lodge suites, which would contain a total of 97 separate rental rooms.
However, the new lift is completely dependent upon the approval of the Lodge at Aspen Mountain, a 151,000-square-foot hotel that would be built where the Mine Dumps Apartments used be ” below the current 1A terminal on the west side of South Aspen Street.
Centurion Partners, the developers of the hotel, has offered to pay $4 million toward the new lift, which the Aspen Skiing Co. would build. Estimates put the cost of the new lift at more than $5 million.
The lift’s location is entirely up to the Skico and is not something Centurion Partners is proposing ” it’s just footing the bill. The Skico would have to submit its own application and go through a public review process before the chairlift could gain approval.
Skico officials have said that the company isn’t interested in paying for a new chairlift on a portion of Aspen Mountain where only 3 percent of its customers start out skiing for the day.
If the Lodge at Aspen Mountain is rejected by the City Council, there will be no new Lift 1A. And if the Lift One Lodge is shot down, Skico isn’t planning to make any improvements to the base of Ajax’s west side, which would include developing its three parcels.
“We don’t have any plans,” said Skico attorney Dave Bellack. “We didn’t have a plan then and we don’t have one now. And we don’t have a plan for a plan in the future.”
Perry said the Skico prefers working in a collaborative effort with developers to revitalize the base of Ajax rather instigating its own plan since there are many competing priorities on each of the four mountains.
“They approached us with a plan and we’re working with them,” Perry said. “We are cooperating with both developers because they are creating hot beds.”
While Skico officials emphasized that they convened to discuss the lift’s location and not speak to the development proposals, they did voice support for both of them.
“I think it has all the optimal elements for a ski area,” Bellack said. “It’s a good development.”
With both developments combined, a host of public amenities are planned. Restaurants, apres-ski venues, parking garages, affordable housing, conference space, a skier services building and a public plaza are all part of the vision for the base.
The lift would be built after the Lodge at Aspen Mountain is approved, which is slated to go before the City Council on Monday. (See related story). The lift, which could be a high-speed quad or triple chair, would take a summer to install.
Perry added that the lift’s alignment would be changed slightly to drop skiers off closer to the old Ruthie’s restaurant mid-mountain.
“I know skiers take this extremely seriously and we weigh all of that,” he said. “On balance, this is the best location.
“It’s a compromise.”
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Warm and dry conditions to start the winter have kept all but the higher elevation slopes free of snow. That is expected to change by the end of the week and the avalanche hazard could start to climb, according to Colorado Avalanche Information Center.