Marolt: We won’t get fooled again
I thought I’d heard all the developers’ favorite lines: “We just have to make the employee-housing component a little smaller,” “We just need to raise the height limit a hair” and “We have the best interests of this community at heart.” To these, I can now add the lift line: “We’re only going to move it up the hill a tiny bit.”
It’s time to draw a line in the snow. Soon the master plan for the redevelopment of the Lift 1A base area is going to be unveiled. Before we see a single sketch, we ought to decide right now whether there is anything about this important part of our town, our history and our ski area that we are not willing to compromise on. No matter what!
For me, the single thing that really, truly matters is that they do not move Lift 1A any further up the mountain than they already did in the 1970s. If you know our history, the overriding reason that area of town died and is in dire need of resurrection now was moving the bottom terminal of Lift 1A up from its original location just above Dean Street. That was a stupid thing to do. Think how vibrant that part of town would be if the bottom of that lift was still just a half a block from Wagner Park? No one had the best interests of Aspen in mind when they moved the lift up the hill then? They don’t now, either.
It seems obvious that in a world-class ski town, the idea of moving existing chairlifts up the ski hill is about the most foolish thing anyone could suggest. Wait, let me revise that: I think it would be beyond consideration at even the most podunk rope tow hill you can find. You would think this might be especially apparent considering our very own failed experience in having done it before.
But, I’m telling you right now, it’s on the drawing board. I saw it with my own two eyes and heard the words, “It’ll be just a few feet up the hill from where it is now” with my own two ears.
It’s a good thing for the measuring tool on Google Earth. I took the mental images of this version of the proposed new lift alignment back to my lab and made my marks on the computer screen. It turns out that the proposal I saw would move the lift 175 feet up the hill if it would move it an inch. I’m still in shock. This can’t really be the proposal — can it?
Aside from the proven business disaster that resulted from moving the lift up the hill the last time and the blatant assault on common sense it is to propose this once more for the same ski lift, we would be messing with a ton of tradition, too.
Would they ever consider shortening the 18th hole at Pebble Beach by 25 yards to make room for a new clubhouse? Would they lower the Green Monster at Fenway Park by a couple of feet so that members of a new rooftop club across the street could have a better view of the field? Of course not! These are pieces of real estate that are real to everyone because they are cherished treasures. The bottom of Lift 1A is every bit of this to us.
The bottom of Lift 1A is where Aspen began! Not the old mining-town specter, but the modern Aspen we all came here for. Everything we love about this town can be traced right back to that spot. The first ski run aimed for it. The first rudimentary boat tow picked up Aspen Mountain’s first load of skiers there. It has been the finish for every great ski race we have hosted. Our reputation has grown from there. Move the ski lift further up the greatest ski mountain on the planet away from there to make room for another hotel in the configuration of a miniature Base Village? We’d have to be out of our minds!
In my mind, any new hotel on that spot should humbly bow to our past, proudly face our town, and get out of the way so as to let Lift 1A glide gracefully back downhill closer to the town it nursed. In order to do this, the new structure might not be as big as its developers hope, but it just might end up being far greater than they imagine. After all, there is precedence for truly great things happening there.
Roger Marolt believes Lift 1A could be moved another 200 feet down the hill according to the site plan. Email at firstname.lastname@example.org
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