The Aspen Skiing Co.’s nighttime plans for Elk Camp on the Snowmass Ski Area, which include installing as many as 44 lights mounted on towers or 30-foot-tall trees, will go before the town of Snowmass Village’s planning commission next week.
The U.S. Forest Service, which leases the public lands used for ski areas, also is reviewing the plans, including a Dec. 5 kickoff party on Elk Camp for 900 SkiCo employees.
SkiCo, which invested $13 million in a newly opened restaurant on Elk Camp, wants the eatery to be open until 9 p.m. and to keep the lights on until 10 p.m. several evenings per month. If approved, the lights will illuminate interactive snow sculptures for children, sledding, ice skating and a miniature terrain park, among other activities.
The company also is seeking permission, through the town’s special-review process, to use the area for snow-bike descents (guided with head lamps), snowcat rides, snowshoe tours and avalanche dog demonstrations.
In a letter to the town’s community development department, SkiCo planner Victor Gerdin wrote that “we understand that the night lighting required for the additional outdoor activities requires further [town] review to ascertain compliance with” the village’s lighting ordinance.
Jim Wahlstrom, the town’s senior planner, said that his office is preparing a draft report for the planning commission, which will review the lighting design on Wednesday.
Jim Stark, winter sports administrator for the U.S. Forest Service’s Aspen-Sopris Ranger District, said Wednesday that no decision had yet been made.
“The night lighting is the main issue,” he said.
SkiCo’s “basic lighting plan” proposes up to “13 tower-mounted and/or tree-mounted fixtures 30 feet above grade,” Gerdin’s letter says. “The ‘enhanced lighting plan’ proposes up to 22 tower- and/or tree-mounted fixtures. The [town] code allows the variance from a 12-foot maximum tower height if the fixtures are fully shielded.”
SkiCo hired Boulder-based Clanton and Associates for the lighting design, which calls for a maximum of two lighting fixtures per tower. A narrative that Clanton and Associates submitted to the town says the lights are “intended to provide sufficient illumination for evening activities and enhance the after-dark views without creating glare or undesirable brightness for guests and people dining inside or outside the restaurant, or from the valley below.”
The Elk Camp area is not visible from Snowmass Village, the narrative says.
And the lights, which are to be a maximum of 34 watts, will use lenses to minimize glare, Gerdin’s letter says.
The new lights and activities do not “cause significant deterioration of water and air resources, wildlife habitat, scenic resources and other natural resources,” Gerdin wrote.
Stark said Forest Service representatives will attend Wednesday’s planning commission meeting to see what kind of public comments are generated before making a decision on the plan.
As for the employee party, which the town will review on Monday, Gerdin said the shindig is to last from 5 to 10 p.m., when the Elk Camp gondola will shut down for the night. Alcohol will be served, but not sold, according to the plan, and SkiCo will hire private security.
Monday’s public meeting to review the party plan begins at 10 a.m. on the second floor of Town Hall. The nighttime activities and lighting scheme will be discussed on Wednesday at 4 p.m. in Town Council chambers.