Snowmass’ $600 million Base Village project underway with groundbreaking

Erica Robbie
The Aspen Times

With a $600 million pricetag, North America’s largest ski area village development is underway and was celebrated Tuesday night as 200 people braved the rain and hail for the Base Village groundbreaking.

“It’s an entirely new day,” said Aspen Skiing Co. Chief Executive Officer Mike Kaplan, who quipped during his public comments that it wasn’t his first Base Village groundbreaking. “Snowmass has always been really strong in the winter experience but it’s had some gaps.”

Skico has invested more than $100 million in on-mountain amenities at Snowmass Ski Area over the past 12 years, Kaplan said. Those investments include the Elk Camp gondola and Meadows beginner’s area, new and renovated on-mountain restaurants, new and realigned chairlifts and a new children’s center.

In late June, Skico started building its on-mountain summer adventure center, the Lost Forest, which will feature an alpine coaster, canopy tour, ropes course and a climbing wall as well as added and rerouted biking and hiking trails.

“From the lifts up, that’s been taken care of,” Kaplan said. “And now from the lifts down, that will be taken care of.”

Kaplan said that although Skico “wanted the Limelight Snowmass to be the second Limelight and not the third, it’s a bit of a blessing in disguise” because they learned lessons throughout the process.

“The Limelight Snowmass is going to benefit from those learnings,” Kaplan said.

Plans for the Limelight Hotel include 100 rooms, 11 residence units, an indoor and outdoor lounge and restaurant, a fitness center, hot tubs and a five-story climbing wall, which will be open to the public.

Snowmass Mountain Club, a private club with skier amenities that include parking, lockers and lounge space, will be a part of the hotel.

Another key component to the Base Village core is the central plaza developers hope will serve as an outdoor gathering space. It will feature an ice-skating rink in the winter and lawn space for events, fire pits and pop-up fountains in the summer.

“I think this is just the game-changer for Base Village and for Snowmass. It’s pretty rare to be able to bring a hotel like the Limelight, an ice-skating rink, all these amenities, to a resort that’s 50 years old,” East West managing partner Andy Gunion said. “These opportunities are not everywhere.”

The Limelight Hotel; the public plaza; Building 4, which will be a small residential condominium; and Building 6, a designed community-use facility, are expected to be complete by November 2018, Gunion said.

Buildings 7 and 8, dubbed “One Snowmass,” will include the Base Village welcome center, a 5,500-square-foot medical clinic, 41 condos and commercial space at ground level.

Gunion, who oversees the day-to-day management of the development, expects construction of One Snowmass to “hopefully” start this fall and finish by spring or summer of 2019.

“It always seems to be weird to be celebrating the start of construction,” Gunion said. “But there’s so much work that happens to get to this point that once we start construction, I won’t say it’s the easy part, but it’s happening at this point.”

East West Partners, Skico and KSL Capital LLC bought Base Village in December from Related Cos., which had stalled development following the 2008 economic recession.

“Probably when a guest comes here right now, they feel like they’re in the middle of a construction site,” East West founder Harry Frampton said Tuesday. “If you come all the way to Snowmass to ski, you don’t want to live in a construction site. You want to live in a completed resort.”

After the ceremony, Kaplan thanked the local community for its patience with the development of Base Village, up to this point as well as with the construction in the next two years.

“We’ll see some construction impacts this summer,” Kaplan said. “But by fall of 2018, it’s going to look very different and will be well worth it.”