Tramway safety board gives OK for new Lift One at base of Aspen Mountain

A new chairlift at the base of Aspen Mountain’s west side got the go-ahead by the Colorado Passenger Tramway Safety Board last week.

Lift One will be a telemix, which includes chairs and gondola cars, and will replace an aging Lift 1A chairlift, as well as serve a new timeshare lodge and a hotel.

The tramway board granted the Gorsuch Haus a variance deeming it safe to operate next to the planned hotel at the base of Aspen Mountain.

The tramway safety board’s technical committee reviewed the variance application in July and expressed concerns about the horizontal distance from the chairlift to the building.

Aspen Skiing Co., which submitted the variance application, altered its plans by raising the lift 6 feet near the Gorsuch Haus and will add an additional tower.

Raising the lift to 40 feet in that area puts enough distance between the hotel and the chair that it can operate safely in the tramway safety board’s view, said David Corbin, Skico’s senior vice president of planning and development.

The state requires a 35-foot clearance around the building, and the Gorsuch Haus will be 22 feet from the telemix.

Also, between 4 and 6 square feet were shaved off the hotel’s dining room to add distance between the building and the lift.

The committee also was concerned about the distance between lift towers in one particular area in the case of a possible derailment of one of the chairlifts or gondola cars.

Tower five will be added, which will decrease the likelihood of one of the carriers to reach the ground in the event of a “deroping” of the cable.

The technical committee made its recommendation for approval two weeks ago and the board approved it last week.

Lift One Lodge, a 107,000-square-foot timeshare project that includes 34 fractional interests and six full-interest condominiums, received its variance in July.

The tightest distance that Lift One Lodge, which includes two buildings, has to the telemix is about 16 feet.

Meanwhile, the development team for Lift One Lodge submitted its final land-use application earlier this month, which Ben Anderson, the city’s principal long range planner, is currently reviewing.

“It’s very large,” he said Friday of the 565-page document. “When I determine it complete, probably next week, we will put Gorsuch Haus and Lift One Lodge’s applications online.”

Virtual open houses also are being planned as the development teams prepare to go in front of the city’s Planning and Zoning and Historic Preservation commissions for final review.

Those public hearings are expected to begin at the end of October or the first part of November.

Lift One Lodge is the applicant that will go before the Historic Preservation Commission because of its plans for the old Skiers Chalet and steakhouse buildings.

The city’s open space and trails board also will review the applications for the planned Dolinsek Gardens and park area located in the ski corridor.

The commissions will only focus on minor issues such as finishes and materials on buildings, landscaping and grading of the site.

Anderson described the engineering for both projects as “massive.”

Planners project that the earliest construction for the projects can begin is April 2022.

The plan was fleshed out by the Planning and Zoning and Historic Preservation commissions already on a conceptual level, and then Aspen City Council referred it to city voters, who narrowly approved both land-use applications in March of 2019.

The project also comes with a new chairlift coming 500 feet farther down the hill to Dean Street with the final descent for skiers and snowboarders being in a 60-foot-wide ski corridor.

Voters also blessed a skiers’ services space, restaurants, bars, a ski museum paying homage to the original Lift One chairlift and a parking garage, among other amenities.

The developers have five years of vesting rights from their approval to begin the project.

The five groups who are involved in the project are Lift One Lodge, Gorsuch Haus, the Aspen Historical Society, Skico and the city of Aspen. Besides a land interest in the Lift One Corridor project, the city also has a financial interest.

The city has allocated $4.36 million in an escrow account to help pay for public facing elements of the project, including improvements to Dean Street and the relocation of the Skiers Chalet Lodge, where the museum and skier services will be located.

The taxpayers’ money will be released to Lift One Lodge when overall improvements are constructed and once the new ski lift is in a working condition.

Corbin said the tramway safety board’s approval gives additional assurance to taxpayers that the lift can work.

“It was important to know from the city’s perspective,” he said.


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