Tony Vagneur: Warming up to Aspen Street development includes snow melt now
January 25, 2019
Nice article in the paper this week about the city struggling with whether snow melt might be required on Aspen Street after the hotels are built. It's not one of those need questions — we've lived without it forever, but in our politically correct and high-priced world, do we want to see delivery trucks, cars and people in ski boots sliding all over the street? How about those women in high heels who stay too late after dinner and realize they need to climb 500 feet or so up the mountain to get home?
The answer, quite simply, is hell yes, snowmelt will be required! It's hard to believe this is even debatable.
Other than Lift 1A, it's been so long since any viable businesses have operated up there, with the exception of the Shadow Mountain Condos, no one seems to remember the problems associated with getting supplies and people up the hill.
And once up there, those delivery trucks, vans, cars, etc., need to get back down a hill that can be impossibly slick. The fact that mostly snow-wise locals were parking up there for the past 20 years has obfuscated the reality that those unfamiliar with the street could likely have tragic times traveling there on snow days.
This council meeting should have been held with the boys at the city shop, where realism would trump intellectualism and we could get a finished project all at once, instead of waiting for baseline markers to be established, doing studies, and then tearing up the street to put in snow melt a couple years later. Unfortunately, that seems to be how government operates.
My good friend, Stan Lauriski (RIP), who grew up here, was appointed by the city to sand Aspen Street on slick days and he did a fine job of it, mostly because he was one of a very few who could actually do it safely. Even at that, he needed help getting straightened out one day after his truck had inadvertently and without warning slid sideways in the road, blocking the street. It was a ticklish situation, trying to avoid parked cars. When the sand truck gets stuck, you have a problem.
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Yours truly did a very slow-moving 360 in a garbage truck coming down the hill from the Skier's Chalet — it took about a minute to complete. There's not much to do in a case like that but sit back and enjoy the ride. By some miraculous form or other, we managed to miss cars parked on both sides of the street. It's happened to other truck drivers, as well as those who drive cars.
For almost 20 years, I had a private parking spot up there near the top (which fortunately I used most every day), and my four-wheel drive Jeep made it without too much trouble, but on slick days it could be very amusing to watch motor vehicles try to make it down without sliding into other vehicles. Or heading up, they would spin out and try to back down, usually ending up crossways in the road or stuck to another car.
One day I witnessed Aspen Mountain ski patroller Isabel Day giving expert directions to a van driver who was totally incapable of understanding gravity and its relationship to slick roads. Without Isabel's help, he might have spent the rest of the winter there. Watching people walk down Aspen Street on a slick day also can be an eye-opener.
Back in the old days (if you can't remember how slick Aspen Street can get, you sure as hell can't remember the old days), we used to be able to tuck it down the street from near the bottom of Lift One and get as far as Hopkins Avenue — on really good days, we could get as far as Main Street, sometimes clear across Main to the Sardy House if the traffic wasn't too bad. From there, it was a short walk home for most of us. Then one year, they started sanding South Aspen Street, and we hardly ever got to enjoy such a fun and quick way home at the end of the day.
Sometime ago, one of my columns insisted that there wouldn't be any development approved along Aspen Street unless the lift came down to Deane Street. Kudos to all of those involved in the planning process who got the lift extension included in the near-final package, including the Dolinsek family.
Now all we have to do is voter-approve this whole shebang and move on. But, let's put in the snow melt while everything is already torn to hell instead of dragging it out an additional two or three years and face tearing the street up again.
Tony Vagneur writes here on Saturdays and welcomes your comments at email@example.com.
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