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Town ready to party after compromise

The Aspen Skiing Co. has placated neighbors at the base of Aspen Mountain even if it can’t bring Jerry Garcia back from the dead.

Skico officials and representatives of residents surrounding Ajax’s base worked out a compromise Wednesday for the Spring Jam festival planned to celebrate Aspen Mountain’s opening to snowboard riders.

The Skico wanted to have live music for 13 days starting March 31. Neighbors in the North of Nell Condominiums, Aspen Alps and Tipple Inn weren’t crazy about the prospects of all that noise.

A city official granted noise variances for only four nights, but the Skico appealed. While waiting for an appeal hearing Friday with Aspen City Manager Steve Barwick, the Skico cut a deal with the neighbors.

In the compromise, the Skico will have six nights of bands, six nights of quieter music through sound systems and one night of salsa music that apparently doesn’t need a variance.

The total amount of amplified music from bands will be reduced from 39 hours over 13 days to 12 hours over six days.

The compromise works because it lets the Skico host the type of parties befitting the spring festival while limiting the noise for the neighbors, said Killeen Brettmann, Skico vice president of special events.

The aprs-ski party stage has been rearranged so it is near the Tippler, and the speakers point toward the gondola building and upslope, said Brettmann. The speakers were previously pointed toward the North of Nell, Tippler and Tipple Inn.

Joe Raczak, general manager of the North of Nell Condominiums, credited the Skico with addressing some of the neighbors’ concerns by mellowing out on six nights with piped music.

“They can really blow it out with the bands, and that’s fine,” he said.

Raczak, himself a big music fan, wasn’t so hardcore that he tried to force the Skico to bring in his favorite bands.

“They don’t have to bring back Jerry Garcia,” said Raczak.

Both sides stressed that the compromise is just a proposal. It must be approved by Barwick in an appeal hearing Friday.

“The decision is now 100 percent in the city’s hands,” said Brettmann.

So is the city manager ready to party? Barwick, who sat through the city’s Special Events Committee meeting Tuesday, where the decision to allow four nights of music was made, said he doesn’t expect Friday’s meeting to take long.

“We’ll see if there is any new information,” Barwick said. “I know the company will have met with the neighbors in the meantime. And we’ll go from there.”

If either the Skico or a neighbor wants to appeal Barwick’s decision, they have the right to do so. Then the question will be, is the City Council ready to party?

It sounds like they may be.

Aspen Mayor Rachel Richards voiced surprise that the Skico was only given permission for four afternoons of amplified music in the initial city decision. She said Wednesday that she supports the Skico in its appeal to Barwick.

“I was just kind of surprised – I thought the direction was fairly clear that the council had no problems with it, in general, and just wanted to smooth a few of the details through and to take the legitimate concerns of the neighbors into account,” Richards said.

The City Council discussed the Skico’s plans, and the neighbors concerns about noise, at its formal Monday noon meeting on March 12.

“That is something I expressed before and continue to support – the action and fun of an aprs-ski life in Aspen,” she said. “We are a resort town and it’s a ski town … and I think that’s certainly part of the ski experience.”

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