Saddle Sore: The Lift 1A dilemma | AspenTimes.com

Saddle Sore: The Lift 1A dilemma

Tony Vagneur
Saddle Sore

We all have dreams, notions of things we’d like to accomplish, and sometimes we come up with a really great idea; something that would truly put us on top of the heap, except for one small thing. You know that thing, that one seemingly small item that becomes so huge it prevents the rest of our beautifully crafted vision from coming to fruition.

If I’m reading the community correctly, Lift 1A is going to kill the Gorsuch Haus development plan, only the developers don’t know it yet. You can change the footprint of the hotel, you can reduce the square footage, obfuscate the importance of Norway into the shadows and maybe even eventually find a way to lower the overall height, but monkeying around with Lift 1A, moving it here or there or positioning its base further up the hill, is toxic.

The 2008 Convenience and Welfare of the Public group brought together developers, landowners, residents of the Lift 1A neighborhood and concerned residents as an advisory group to give the city direction on development in the 1A neighborhood. Such a tedious and agonizing process finally resulted with several conditions and ideas, and it looked like something might get done.

Most notably, by a vote of 19-1, Convenience and Welfare of the Public clearly stated that in the end, Lift 1A must be extended down the hill to at least Deane Street. City Council, in what appeared to be an unfathomable decision, killed most of those development proposals, leaving the 19-1 vote on 1A in limbo, but the community has not forgotten how important that one seemingly small issue is. Hopefully, City Hall will remember its duty to the citizenry.

Aspen Skiing Co., with its busy fingers in pies elsewhere, like Ketchum, Idaho, but thinking the 1A neighborhood needed to be developed, granted Norway Island LLC (Gorsuch Haus developer) an option to buy the property at the base of 1A. Wait a minute. As I’ve said before, the business of skiing is no longer skiing, it’s about real estate.

In my humble opinion, I don’t think it is written anywhere that the Lift 1A area “needs” development. That’s a hook promoted by the development community. What it needs is some TLC, starting with construction trash cleanup — fewer chain link fences, for one thing; the old Skier’s Chalet steakhouse building is about as unattractive as it gets — put a match to it or put it to good use, but don’t let it sit there like an afterthought pimple on a new bride’s forehead. A little landscaping here and there would go a long way toward mitigating the scars left by the “level it to ground zero” mindset of most developers; maybe the city could put in some curbs and gutters, although I shudder at that thought, and voila, we have an upgraded Lift 1A area.

Let the option run out with Norway Partners LLC on the land at the bottom of 1A — put it back in Skico control. Now we’re making progress. Lift 1A could move further down the hill and a beautiful finish area for future World Cup races could be built.

Here comes the good part — Lift One, or Lift 1, or Lift #1, no one knows exactly how to write it — the one lift that was original to Aspen Mountain (discounting the boat tow), is still there at the base. The chairs are a little worn and the cable likely suspect, but as my friend JT suggested, “Let’s fire that baby up.” Forget a “platter lift,” as if that would solve anything, and load people up in single chairs like we did in the beginning. People would flock here just for the experience.

The original Lift One could run at least up to Summer Road with disembarkation there. Then, after such a historical ride of a lifetime, leaving some likely breathless and with a wide grin, ski down to Lift 1A. Or if you don’t like that idea, just start Lift 1A at the base terminal of Lift One. There’ll be a lot of whining and crying about tramway boards, the Brown brothers’ airspace, etc. But remember this: Aspen is nothing if not contentious, and there will be a way to make it work for almost everyone.

Let’s get over this idea of having to “develop” the area, at least for now. The Brown brothers may get something built, but then again, pigs may fly. The townhomes across Aspen Street will get built, but how overall successful that project will be remains to be seen.

But one thing is for certain: The decision the developers make on what to do with Lift 1A will be the deciding factor on whether the Gorsuch Haus gets approved.

Tony Vagneur writes here on Saturdays and welcomes your comments at ajv@sopris.net.


Start a dialogue, stay on topic and be civil.
If you don't follow the rules, your comment may be deleted.