Letter: Gorsuch Haus: Good objectives but bad plan
My family and I have owned property and been skiing in Aspen for over 50 years (four generations). We have seen lots of changes (some good, some bad), but Aspen is still one of our all-time favorite places.
Given my long time here and love for Aspen, I feel that the current Gorsuch Haus proposal has some good objectives (fostering FIS and other ski racing and improving access to and use of the west side of Aspen Mountain) but is a very bad plan. As the city staff’s own analysis has stated, the current proposal is very massive and very high. It is out of scale with the site and would block views of the mountain. It also would reduce access to the lift for everyone except the people living there. For all those reasons, this is not a good plan. Let me offer two alternatives.
First, the town could meet the ski-racing and mountain-access objectives by having Aspen Skiing Co. put in a new lift (since it benefits from greater worldwide recognition), enhancing access to the lift via some form of connection to Dean Street and/or a better connection to South Aspen Street, and cleaning up the area around the lift and providing racing amenities on a temporary or permanent basis. Doing those three things, combined with the positive visual impact of the two new developments going in at the top of South Aspen Street (which will be a huge improvement over how the area has looked for the past five to 10 years) certainly would satisfy FIS and make that side of Aspen Mountain more accessible and more attractive to all Aspen residents and visitors.
If the town and its residents want more development around the lift (and/or getting money from a developer was the only way that Skico would build a new lift), then I would urge the town to require Gorsuch Haus to comply with lodge zoning. Lodge zoning would be required anywhere else in town and would result in a much less massive and lower development that would much better fit the site. Lodge zoning also would allow the development to be designed and sited to improve access to the lift (locating the lift lower and, ideally, providing a connection to Dean Street). In addition, lodge zoning would provide the opportunity to deal much better with the other issues identified and raised by city staff (the size of the cul-de-sac/drop-off area/linkage to South Aspen Street, the width of the ski runs/return to the lift, views of the mountain, pedestrian and disability access, additional on-site employee housing, etc.).
So, in closing, while I am all in favor of keeping FIS and improving access to and use of the west side of Aspen Mountain, let’s do it in a smart way. Let’s do it in a way that doesn’t reduce access and doesn’t create a massive, out-of-scale development.
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