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Snowmass history: Four-mountain development

Snowmass had big plans for more lifts back in 1976

Aspen Historical Society
An illustration shows the four Aspen ski areas — Aspen Mountain, Aspen Highlands, Buttermilk, and Snowmass — in a postcard-like promotion from the Aspen Chamber to attract tourists.
Aspen Historical Society/Aspen Skiing Company Collection

U.S. Forest Service District Ranger Tom Bell gave the Pitkin County Planning and Zoning Commission a rundown of development rules and possibilities across the four Aspen Snowmass mountains back in 1976.

Bell was “the first ‘witness’ in a growth-management workshop that is expected to take about 6-8 months,” The Aspen Times reported on Feb. 5, 1976.

“Bell told the commissioners that the Forest Service has made two basic rules: 1) The Service will not approve a new ski area that will produce external forces that the city and county can’t accommodate, and 2) A growth center must be provided for a new major ski development,” the Times reported.



He then gave a rundown of the status of developments: “Aspen Mountain — essentially totally developed; Buttermilk — potential for one more lift, between Lifts 1 and 2 and West Buttermilk; Highlands — already has an application in — to be discussed this Spring — for four lifts on the Castle Creek side, going part way down and to be built about one every other year.” (Lifts serving Highlands and Maroon bowls were in the master plan, but that plan was never approved by the Forest Service).

Snowmass had particularly big development plans ahead, according to the rundown.




“(T)he ‘western phase’ is partially done and the Aspen Skiing Corp. wants to finish it in five years. Permits have been issued for three more upper lifts to serve the cirque, high alpine and valley areas; the ‘eastern phase’ would involve a whole other system (East Village) and (five to six) lifts; Owl Creek — potential area between the eastern phase of Snowmass and Buttermilk,” the Times reported.


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