Marolt: On moving Lift 1A and changing my mind
It’s wishful thinking to believe we don’t fight emotional battles through our political processes — I wish I could always be logical, but I think I’m not.
The Gorsuch Haus is my recent case in point. Jeff Gorsuch has been a friend of mine for a long time; a friendship maybe more remarkable for him growing up in Vail while I did it in Aspen. Our parents were friends before us and our kids will be friends after us. Not many relationships are more enduring than that.
The Lift 1A side of Aspen Mountain is a special place for me. I learned how to ski at Buttermilk, but I learned to love it on the big mountain. I’ll start a day of skiing at the gondola if I have to, but I rarely have to, so I hardly do. The quiet side of the mountain is it for me. I won’t explain why. For those who choose the lift less traveled, there’s no need to, and to those who prefer Little Nell, it wouldn’t make sense.
You can imagine, then, that when I first talked to Jeff about his planned hotel at the base of 1A, logic didn’t rule the day. We got going on the history of ski racing on that side of the hill and the excellent quality of skiing. We reminisced about riding up the old single-seater that was the original Lift 1.
I was close to sold. I knew Jeff would do a great job with the hotel, and I was certain that this could be the thing that breaks the inertia for extending Lift 1A back down to the place the old Lift 1 started and skiing in Aspen began. I told Jeff he had my support if he would move his hotel a little bit to the west so that a corridor for the potential lift extension could be maintained and keep that dream alive for this town. He and his architects did it and won me over.
What time does for dreams, daylight does more quickly. As winter passed, the light started to shine on the other developers in this part of town. The guys below the Gorsuch Haus already had their approvals, and it didn’t include a right of way for a new lift. Apparently they didn’t want to give up what they had and go back to the city with a new plan that would allow for the lift expansion, and who could blame them? The dream of bringing Lift 1A back down to town was dead.
It was a reality check. Logic took over. What do I really care if Lift 1A (which, I guess, technically speaking, would become Lift 1B if it was changed again) is extended back down closer to town? Walking up the hill is kind of a certification of being locally organic, like skipping the cat ride on your way up Highland Bowl. Besides, I like Lift 1A the way it is now because it’s not all glitzy and whoopdidoo like Gondola Plaza. I’m not sure which I like more — starting or ending my day so close to Shadow Mountain’s undistracted sentry watch over town.
If the lift stays where it is and the Gorsuch Haus is built, Saturday mornings will start out with me walking up the hill like always and Gorsuch’s guests mostly shuttling in the opposite direction to get to Snowmass. Not too bad for me.
I wish I would have thought like this earlier when I was caught up in moving the lift back to town. I made a mistake when I asked Jeff to move the hotel out of the way to make room for the new, longer lift. The trade-off was that the hotel is now backed up against Norway Slope, one of the most fun ski runs anywhere. As it stands, you will still be able to ski most of Norway, but will have to traverse out and forgo the last quarter of the terrain in order to get around the hotel and back to the lift. That’s a bummer for the die-hard Aspen skiers who don’t stand to get anything out of this deal. I think we need to take care of this group, and not only because I am a member of it.
I still support my friend Jeff and his project. I think his heart is right. But, sans the silly dream of going back in time and starting Lift 1 from town again, I have to wonder if it isn’t too late to ask him to move the hotel down the mountain and to the east so that skiers can still enjoy Norway Slope like we did in the old days.
Roger Marolt knows the snow and moguls don’t change no matter what developers build at the end of them. Email at email@example.com.
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