Sundeck cuts into Ajax summer fun |

Sundeck cuts into Ajax summer fun

The construction of the new Sundeck Restaurant on Aspen Mountain won’t prevent summer tourist operations, but they will start later and end earlier than usual.

Aspen Mountain will have a “vastly shortened summer season” that is “obviously due to the construction,” said mountain manager Rob Baxter, who is making a transition from Aspen Mountain to Snowmass ski area this summer.

The Silver Queen Gondola won’t be available for rides up and down the mountain until Saturday, June 26. It will run from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. through Sunday, Sept. 12.

Usually, the gondola opens on Memorial Day weekend and rides continue into leaf-peeping season on weekends into October.

Gondola rides are a major summer attraction. The effects of the shortened season and the construction work on Aspen’s economy are unknown.

The Skico has reduced the price of an adult ticket from $18 to $12 to try to entice gondola riders this summer.

Even without the Sundeck – which was torn down in April – food and beverages will be available at the mountaintop. Sandwiches, snacks and beverages will be for sale at a tent which will be erected southeast of the gondola building in an area known as “the meadow.”

The tent will have walls that can be rolled up during nice weather and kept down during showers. Outdoor picnic tables will also be available.

Mountaintop activities will also be scaled back from prior seasons. The free nature walks guided by naturalists from the Aspen Center for Environmental Studies will still be offered daily. Frisbee golf is also offered for free with discs, scorecards and course maps available for free.

But other special events have been canceled for the summer, such as the free concerts, dinners and kids’ day activities. Weddings can’t be held, either.

In addition to the $12 adult ticket, the gondola fee is $6 for seniors, ages 70 and older, and children ages 7 through 12. Children, age 6 and under ride for free. Weekly summer passes, that are also valid at Snowmass, are available for $19 for adults and $11 for children, age 12 and under.

The Skico may also offer tours of the Sundeck construction if it can be done safely and without hampering work, Baxter said.

Otherwise, the construction area around the 22,000-square-foot building will be fenced off from the public.

The Skico is using the delayed opening to do some maintenance on the Silver Queen Gondola. Baxter said the four-ton bull wheel at the top station is being replaced with a “beefier” 6 1/2-ton version.

The old bull wheel had cracked and been repaired, then cracked again. Engineers and representatives of lift manufacturer Poma decided it should be replaced when it cracked a second time.

The Skico trucked the old bull wheel down the mountain last week and is preparing to transport the new bull wheel, which recently arrived from France.

Baxter said the company will pay for the removal and installation of the bull wheels. He didn’t know who would pay for the new wheel itself. The Silver Queen Gondola is no longer under warranty.

For hikers, the construction activities will have little effect on places like the Spar, Copper and Ute trails. Cyclists and vehicles using Summer, Little Annie and Midnight Mine roads, however, must be prepared to meet more traffic due to construction.

Despite the wet spring, construction of the new Sundeck is on schedule, Baxter said. Rain and snow had pushed back the

schedule at times, but now crews have caught up, he said.

Much of the foundation work has been completed and crews will soon start framing.

When completed, the new Sundeck will include a public cafeteria that seats 230, a deck for 125 and a patio for 100. A public sit-down restaurant will seat 70 with a deck for 40.

The private Aspen Mountain Club will have a restaurant that seats 75 with a deck for 40.

The new restaurant and day lodge was designed by the local architectural firm of Cottle, Graybeal and Yaw. The structure will cost in excess of $12 million, according to Skico officials.

The public portion of the Sundeck is scheduled to open for Christmas. The private club will open later next ski season.

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