Skico seeking changes in Sundeck use

Janet Urquhart
Aspen Times Staff Writer

Citing lost business as a result of current restrictions on use of the Sundeck atop Aspen Mountain, the Aspen Skiing Co. is asking for more flexibility in scheduling nighttime events at the restaurant.

The company isn’t asking for more nights of use overall, but wants to lift the cap on the number of nights per week and per month that it can host nighttime events there. It has also requested an extension of the county-imposed curfew on evening use of the Sundeck to 1 a.m.

The Skico has also proposed enclosing the back deck space at the Sundeck to increase the restaurant’s indoor seating capacity, and would like the Ruthie’s lift deemed a three-person chair, since skiers and riders tend to load up three to a chair already. The Aspen Mountain Master Plan identifies it as a two-person lift.

All of the proposals, amendments to the master plan, are scheduled for a public hearing before the Pitkin County commissioners on June 11.

The enclosure of the deck along the side of the Sundeck that faces Highland Bowl to the west will allow 184 more diners to be seated inside the restaurant. The space would be used on busy days when the weather is not conducive to outdoor dining, said Phillip Ring, project manager with the Skico planning department.

The added seating would be split between the cafeteria-style area, the sit-down dining in the Benedict Dining Room and the private Aspen Mountain Club.

New, larger windows on the southwest wall of the Sundeck, facing Highland Bowl, and a glass windscreen around the Aspen Mountain Club deck are also proposed.

“We don’t think that we captured the views as well as we should have in the original new Sundeck,” Ring said.

Some additional outdoor deck space is proposed to help offset what would be lost.

The renovation would add 2,270 square feet to the restaurant, which opened in the winter of 1999. The Skico would like to complete the work this summer, Ring said.

The Skico’s request for night use of the Sundeck calls for up to 30 nighttime events during the winter and up to 20 during the summertime, but allowing those two seasons to encompass the spring and fall off-seasons, when no nighttime events are currently permitted.

Winter, for example, would be defined as Nov. 1 to May 1; the rest of the year would count as summer use, Ring said.

“If somebody came in and said, `We want to have a wedding up there right now,’ we couldn’t do it,” he said.

The current master plan defines winter as the ski season and summer as the period from June 1 through Sept. 30. A May event, such as a high school prom at the Sundeck, required a special-use permit, according to Suzanne Wolff, county planner.

The mountain master plan currently permits eight nighttime events per month – no more than two per week – in both the summer and winter, Wolff said. One additional evening event is allowed each month during the winter, so long as it is open to the general public. Attendees must be off the mountain by 11 p.m. under the current rules.

During the winter, the Skico is also allowed to use the Sundeck for evening events that end by 8:30 two nights per week.

The company is seeking up to 30 nighttime events each winter and up to 20 in the summer, with the ability to schedule an event at any time of the year.

The Skico also wants the ability to run events until 1 a.m. – with attendees downloaded on the gondola by that time – on 12 occasions per year.

Extending the curfew on outdoor music at the Sundeck from 8 p.m. to 9 p.m. has also been proposed.

The current overall caps on nighttime use aren’t problematic, but the 11 p.m. curfew and the limit of two events per week and eight per month force the Skico to turn away business because the facility is fully booked under those parameters, Ring said. Some parties go elsewhere because they want an event that can run later into the evening.

“We just want a little more flexibility in scheduling. [That] is the bottom line,” he said.

The Skico estimated it lost $565,000 in potential business from March 29, 2001, to Oct. 10, 2001, largely as a result of the current restrictions.

[Janet Urquhart’s e-mail address is]