Developers’ challenge — putting the ‘there’ there in Snowmass Village
BIG PROJECT, BIG EXPECTATIONS
Here are major components of Snowmass Base Village:
Limelight Hotel — about 100 rooms, 11 condos, 5-story climbing wall
The Discovery Center — a public building that will showcase Ice Age fossils found at Zeigler Reservoir
A public plaza — central outdoor gathering spot and winter ice rink
Lumin building — three residences and Four Mountain Sports
One Snowmass — two buildings with 41 condos, welcome center, commercial space and clinic.
As Snowmass Village prepares to celebrate its 50th anniversary, there are finally prospects for putting more “there” there.
A representative of the company that’s heading the $600 million development at Snowmass Base Village said last week at a public event the project is intended to create a sense of place and shed the sleepy feeling.
“Right now Base Village is activated when the sun is out, then when the sun goes down everybody disappears,” said Andy Gunion, managing partner of Snowmass Base Village for East West Partners.
The development company teamed with Aspen Skiing Co. and KSL Capital Partners to acquire the mostly undeveloped land earlier this year.
Part of the plan to inject energy into the village is to complete Skico’s Limelight Hotel. It will have about 100 hotel rooms, 11 condominium units and a lounge bar that will be the town’s living room — like its sister hotels in Aspen and Ketchum, Idaho. There will be a public plaza directly in front of the Limelight that will be an extension of the hotel lounge during special events. The Limelight also will feature a five-story public climbing wall.
Skico and Snowmass Tourism do a good job of hosting events, Gunion said, but boosting the vibrancy will require getting people to stick around when there are no big events.
“There’s also a lot of times where Base Village is really sleepy and there’s not a lot of people there,” Gunion said. “As the Limelight comes on, we’ve got all those additional hotel beds and a lot more to do, we hope it’s a lot more active area when there aren’t events going on.”
Speaking to a couple hundred people at an event called the Upload for the Download at Elk Camp Restaurant, Gunion gave Snowmass a mixed grade for “sense of place,” which is generally considered somewhere with a strong identity and character that is well regarded by inhabitants and visitors.
“The sense of place varies by where you are,” Gunion said. “The beachfront, as we call it, where the ski slope ends and the village starts, at the end of the ski day has a pretty good feel to it and is a fun place to hang out, but it’s hard to have a sense of place when two-thirds of the project is a giant concrete monolith.
“Right now there’s not enough ‘there’ there to have a great sense of place but we think that will improve as we building the project out,” Gunion said.
He gave the existing Base Village higher marks as a portal to the ski area. It’s easy to pop through the village to the base of the Village Express chairlift and Elk Camp Gondola.
“It’s a pretty good place to start and finish your day,” Gunion said.
That said, the arrival experience leaves something to be desired.
“I would say right now we get a ‘D’ at best on sense of arrival,” he said. “You come in and see this giant wall with fake facade on the garage. It’s been cleaned up as best we can but obviously not what we want at a resort the caliber of Snowmass. We’ve got a lot of work to do there.”
In addition to the Limelight and public plaza, the development features a small building with residences and a Four Mountain Sports outlet. Another phase will feature One Snowmass, 41 condos separated between two buildings. The ground floors of the building will feature commercial space and the Base Village Welcome Center as well as a medical clinic.
The Discovery Center will be constructed and deeded over to the town. The concept is to design the interior around the mastodon and other Ice Age fossils found at Ziegler Reservoir on the outskirts of town. The building, designed by Aspen architect Harry Teague, will include a cafe and deck that spills into the public plaza.
Snowmass Base Village is intended to have an eclectic rather than a sterile feel. Several different architects and interior designers are working on the buildings.
The Limelight, plaza and Discovery Center are scheduled to be completed for the 2018-19 ski season.
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Snowmass Ski Area tested its first five chairlifts in 1967, just before opening day.