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Skico unveils S’mass lift plan

Steve Benson

Snowmass Ski Area is on the verge of some extraordinary upgrades that were unveiled in a Snowmass Village Town Council meeting Monday night.

But there’s a catch: no Base Village, no on-mountain improvements.

The upgrades, unveiled by Bill Kane, Aspen Skiing Co.’s vice president of planning, are not only financially dependent on the approval of Base Village, but are an integral part of the development plans.

The improvements, which are massive, include an eight-passenger Elk Camp gondola, a six-passenger Sam’s Knob Express lift, an open-air cabriolet connector between Base Village and the mall, and replacement and realignment of the Assay Hill lift.

Furthermore, Kane said nine existing lifts will be replaced with high-speed machines.

But the fate of the Burlingame lift, which loads adjacent to the mall, continues to concern some members of the council and public.

Last week, Councilmen Doug Mercatoris, Arnie Mordkin and Bill Boineau urged the applicants, Skico and Intrawest, to consider turning the Burlingame lift into a high-speed quad. Removing the lift would have a negative impact on mall businesses, Mercatoris said.

Monday night, Dave Spence of Snowmass Village also pleaded with the applicant.

“A high-speed [lift] out of the mall would be far more attractive,” he said. “This is a strong issue for a lot of people in the community.”

But Kane said the applicant was “reluctant” to build a high-speed quad at that location. Doing so, Kane said, would be pricey – a high-speed quad costs $4 million to $5 million – and would consume too much space in an already congested and tight area. But, he said the Burlingame lift wasn’t going anywhere, at least for a while.

“We will be keeping the Burlingame lift for three additional years after the completion of phase one of the construction plan,” Kane said. “Also, ski services will continue to be located at the Snowmass Mall.”

In addition to new lifts and upgrades, a variety of plans to boost year-round recreation on the mountain were presented.

“I’m going to spend a lot of time talking about summer the next few months,” Mayor T. Michael Manchester said.

Summer recreational opportunities would include, among other things, mountain biking, horseback riding, fishing, Frisbee golf, paint ball and a climbing wall.

“[Summer’s] a tremendous opportunity for us to capitalize on this asset we all use together,” Manchester said.

Steve Benson’s e-mail address is sbenson@aspentimes.com


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