Skico wants to add bucket at Snowmass |

Skico wants to add bucket at Snowmass

Skiers and riders contending with holiday congestion at the base of Snowmass can look forward to relief within two or three seasons.

The Aspen Skiing Co. wants a gondola in the worst way to relieve crowding and “so people can get to where they want to go without riding multiple lifts,” said Bill Kane, vice president of planning and development.

The need for the gondola or another high-speed lift out of the base gets reinforced at this time of year and throughout March when crowds invade Snowmass.

About 13,000 skiers and riders flock to Snowmass on the busiest days and about 10,000 of them head up the mountain on the Fanny Hill chair. Although it is a high-speed quad lift, it cannot handle all the demand.

The Two Creeks lift has never proved to be as popular a portal to the mountain as the Skico hoped. And only a few people take advantage of the Wood Run triple chair for access.

So the gondola and some other chairlift tweaking is a major part of a plan the Skico is preparing for a redeveloped base. The Skico owners, the Crown family of Chicago, shelled out $11 million last year to acquire 500 acres around Snowmass Village.

Gondola sexiest part of plan

The most lucrative property is 15 acres concentrated where the Skico’s administrative building and the main day skier parking lot are located, below Fanny Hill.

The Skico envisions lodging accommodations, skier service buildings, restaurants, shops and chairlifts in that area. A plan will be submitted to the town government next spring, said Kane.

From a skier’s perspective, the gondola is the sexiest part of the plan. It would run about 8,700 feet from the redeveloped base to the knoll where the creaky old Funnel chairlift currently ends. That would give skiers and riders easy access to the Elk Camp quad chairlift. The Funnel lift would be removed.

The gondola would be built in two stages, with a big elbow about halfway up. That would allow a second, mid-lift loading station, Kane said, so customers could utilize the Funnel terrain without going all the way down to the village.

But emptying a gondola along with the Two Creeks chairlift out at Elk Camp would probably overwhelm that chair, said Kane. So the Skico will explore options like building a short Turkey Trot chairlift, which would deliver skiers and riders from the top of the gondola to High Alpine. Another option would be to make the Alpine Springs chairlift more attractive by increasing capacity.

Gondola has conditions

The Skico would also improve flow by moving the Fanny Hill lift further down the slope, into the Base Village. That relocated lift combined with a gondola would create a one-two punch that would double what Kane called the current “out-of-base capacity.”

Eventually the Skico will consider adding another chairlift that would deliver skiers and riders from the village to the top of Sam’s Knob, perhaps by replacing the existing Burlingame chairlift. That would allow skiers to get to the top of the Big Burn in two lift rides rather than the current three, Kane noted. However, that is part of the longer-range plan.

Kane said a gondola out of Base Village is the highest priority, although the Skico may have to settle for a high-speed chair instead. A gondola will cost twice as much as a high-speed lift, but the investment would be worth it, according to Kane.

The lift selection will depend on how the Skico’s overall plan is received by the Snowmass Village Town Council. In other words, if the lodging and other components of the proposal are accepted, the Skico will go for a gondola.

“Whatever we can get approved is going to pay for these improvements,” said Kane.

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