Skiers Chalet plan wins praise |

Skiers Chalet plan wins praise

Janet Urquhart

Plans to expand the venerable Skiers Chalet won praise Wednesday from Aspen’s Historic Preservation Commission.

Whether the effort to preserve and modernize one of Aspen’s original ski lodges will outweigh concerns about the developer’s intent to demolish a separate structure, though, remains to be seen.

The original Skiers Chalet, built by Howard Awrey in 1953 next to the old Lift 1, has seen various alterations over the years. The building, which contains the popular Skiers Chalet Steak House, has been designated as historic by the city and can’t be torn down. A second lodge building, located on a nearby parcel, was constructed in 1965 and has no historic designation.

Developer Greg Hills represents a group of investors who purchased the Steak House building from Awrey in 2002 and have an option to buy the second building.

Hills will be coming forward with formal plans to expand the Steak House building shortly, but his representatives gave the HPC a preview of the project yesterday.

An existing one-story addition on the east side of the building will be removed to make way for a new, three-story structure that architect Michael Noda of Oz Architecture described as a “modern chalet building.” It will mimic, but not match the historic building, he said.

Worn and damaged elements of the historic building will be repaired and the interior will be completely remodeled. The restaurant operation will disappear, as its owner, Stephen Wright, has opted to close the business when his lease is up in April 2005.

Amy Guthrie, the city’s historic preservation officer, praised the preliminary plans, as did the HPC.

“This is beautiful – one of the nicest conceptual projects I’ve seen,” said commission member Derek Skalko.

The broader question for the city, however, is whether or not the preservation work on the historic structure is worth losing the second building, which Hills wants to raze and replace.

“We’ve tried to make this one outstanding to kind of offset losing the other one,” said Mitch Haas, planning consultant for the developer.

The HPC actually has no say about what happens to the other building, but the City Council will be looking for its opinion, Guthrie predicted.

City staffers don’t want to see the second lodge building demolished, she said. It’s 39 years old. Next year, it would be eligible for a historic designation.

“We have a fundamental disagreement about the more recent building,” she said. “At this point, we’re not in support of what they’re proposing at that site.

“Even though the building’s only 39 years old, it’s a classic example of that style of architecture,” Guthrie added. “We just can’t afford to lose these examples.”

Hills has no intention of retaining the second building and remodeling it, according to Haas.

While future changes to the Skiers Chalet are debated, the lodge is continuing to welcome guests as usual.

Janet Urquhart’s e-mail address is

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