Who’s footing the bill for 1A? | AspenTimes.com

Who’s footing the bill for 1A?

ASPEN – Who will pay for a new Lift 1A? That’s the $5 million ” or more ” question.

Developers of the Lodge at Aspen Mountain had promised to contribute $4 million toward a new chairlift at the base of Ajax’s west side as a community amenity. But now that the City Council has denied the proposal, the fate of the on-mountain improvement is unclear.

It’s a big question mark in an upcoming development proposal designed around a new lift. Plans for the Lift One Lodge, a 114,000-square-foot membership lodge, call for a new Lift 1A, with a loading terminal within feet of the front door.

“There will be a new lift,” declared Bob Daniel, a representative for the Lift One Lodge developers. He added that Lift One Lodge developers hadn’t planned to pay for a new chairlift.

And Aspen Skiing Co. officials have said in the past that the company will not pay for a new chairlift on a portion of Aspen Mountain where only 3 percent of its customers start out the day skiing.

“It’s not going to come out of our pocket,” Skico spokesman Jeff Hanle told The Aspen Times in August. “At this point, it’s all contingent upon a new development.”

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Apparently that hard-line stance has shifted, and a new chairlift might be contingent on the approval of the Lift One Lodge instead of the Lodge at Aspen Mountain.

“[Daniel] was planning his development with a lift that was going to be built and paid for. … Now the whole situation has changed,” said Skico Senior Vice President David Perry. “It’s true that we were counting on the $4 million and now that [the Lodge at Aspen Mountain] has been completely shot down … frankly, we need to regroup.”

Skico has many competing interests with improvements on each of its four mountains, and the company must prioritize which of its 40 or so chairlifts need upgrading. Typically, on-mountain improvements coincide with real estate development, which generates a bed base and helps pay for upgrades.

If the project wins approval from the City Council, Lift One Lodge developers intend to purchase three Skico-owned parcels located around the terminal of the current Lift 1A.

“We have a strong vested interest in what happens up there,” Perry said. “It’s time to revisit what we might do and when we do it.”

The City Council is expected to begin reviewing the Lift One Lodge proposal within the next few months. If history is an indicator, council members will be interested in knowing the status of the new lift, since they were critical of its relocation 125 feet farther uphill that came up during the Lodge at Aspen Mountain review. They argued that it wouldn’t be a community amenity to make people walk uphill. However, Skico officials said the new lodge would be farther up South Aspen Street and a new lift would only be 25 feet from the development.

Carolyn Sackariason’s e-mail address is csack@aspentimes.com.