Candidates weigh in on Lift 1
Editor's note: This is the fourth of a five-part questionnaire for the six candidates vying for the two open seats on Aspen City Council held by incumbents Art Daily and Ann Mullins. Aspen residents should receive their mail ballots this week. Election Day is May 2.
Today's question: Does the Lift 1 side of Aspen Mountain need capital improvements such as a new restaurant, lodge and chairlift, or is it fine the way it is now?
After 20 years in Aspen, I am burnt out on construction. My guess is that I am not the only Aspenisan who feels that way. So regarding Lift 1A and other projects, I am very wary and going slow and carefully reviewing and probably rejecting most new construction proposals.
Listening to all the public comment for and against the current application at Lift 1A, it was clear that most people want to see something done on this site, from a minimum of just cleaning it up to some type of lodging and/or associated commercial development. I agree with the majority of the public. Lodging is appropriate at this location along with the supporting commercial activities. Lift 1A should be located to be easily accessible both physically and visually to the public, both winter and summer seasons. A newly developed area should fit in seamlessly with the neighborhood, but more importantly a new development should respect and celebrate the historic importance of this area as the first ski portal to Aspen.
The Lift 1 side of Aspen Mountain has for many years needed capital improvements that will upgrade that portion of our town located adjacent to Aspen Mountain as well as that element of our ski-area base. The capital improvements essential to achieving those objectives are a new lodge, a new restaurant located adjacent to or within that lodge and a new high-speed chairlift. The site plan (including parking), dimensions and architectural characteristics of those improvements will need to be determined during a thoughtful and comprehensive land-use process. Such a process is already underway.
This winter I accessed Aspen Mountain as much as three times a week from the Lift 1 side. It is a steep mess of a street that leads to a dirt lot with 10 or so car spots, a beat-up lift building and locker/work rooms and, of course, an old lift. It is old school and cool in its own way and to a lot of people. I respect that.
Do I support improvements to this side? Yes, I do. But I also have a lot of questions that would inform my decisions about what is appropriate and in Aspen's best interest. My questions range from site stability to economic feasibility and everything in between.
Lift improvements are priority No. 1. Better lift service on the racecourse side of Aspen Mountain would be great for daily ops as well as carrying our ski racing history into the future. As for restaurant and lodge development, that's where the questions come in. The question of what amounts of square footage of restaurant, lodge, retail, amenities and other allocations are best on this site is deserving of careful scrutiny. What is the expected usage of this side of the mountain? What is sustainable? How would any new development compliment and integrate with lift ops, race venue, mountain services, the neighbors, etc.?
The options range from just a new lift to the lodge and free-market proposal council is reviewing now. What is appropriate and sustainable? If I am elected, I will ask the questions and find the answers to help bring the best solution for Aspen. We need to get this right.
I love the 1A side of Ajax. It is where I started most mornings as an AVSC big mountain coach, and the photo of my grandparents with leather blanket over their laps reminds me each day that this is the historical base of Aspen Mountain. I do believe this side of the mountain deserves to be honored with a responsible new base tied to our historical roots. As the chairman of the Planning and Zoning Commission, I am not legally permitted to discuss the Gorsuch application directly. As a planning commissioner, I helped redirect the project that is starting to become more in line and appropriate with the neighborhood and the overlying zoning. My input, and that of my fellow commissioners, helped raise concerns about the (then) existing project, which, I believe, has moved the submission in a better direction.
It is the duty of government to plan for the future. A healthy tourism-based economy for Aspen is vital to its future.
I do believe that improvements are needed to the Lift 1 side of Aspen Mountain. Lift 1A is old and parts are no longer available for it. I think the base of a ski mountain needs public spaces. There are none there now.
The current rendition of the Gorsuch Haus is attractive by most accounts. There remain significant issues to be resolved. Access by a shuttle running eight times an hour creates more vehicle traffic in town and we need less. There is a commissioned study by a consultant to evaluate new lift alignments. That study is not ready. Any decision on the western side of Aspen Mountain must be made after all the data are in.
No decision is going to please all people.