When a World Cup race course opens to the public in a ski town, one would reckon that there’d be a huge line at the bottom of the chairlift. The fact that there isn’t speaks volumes. That’s what I like most about lift 1A and the runs it serves. There are only a handful of people that ski over there on any given day. Imagine if the Woody Creek racetrack opened up to cars — you better believe I’d be the first one in line wearing a crash helmet and leather driving gloves to see how fast my van would go around that thing.
The irony is that 1A really is some of the best terrain we have here, not to mention it’s steeped in our town’s ski history. As you ride up the lift, you can see the old footings from the original Lift 1, a slow-speed single. The lift that’s there now isn’t any big departure from the original one, just a whole lot shorter. When it comes to slow lifts accessing excellent terrain, people can’t see the forest for the trees.
So let’s say for discussion’s sake that plans in whatever form were approved, and a hotel, timeshares and condominiums magically sprung up overnight (sparing our town from the seemingly never-ending construction process) and they were filled to capacity. Do you know what the two most commonly asked questions would be?
When the horrified guest looked up at the ominous terrain above them on 1A, the first most-asked question would be, “How do we get to the gondola from here?” The second question would be, “How the heck do we get to Snowmass?”
There are two aspects sorely lacking from most planned redevelopment — modesty and creativity. Think of the buzz created by Aspen introducing the ski industry’s first slow-speed reclining luxury single chairlift, letting you off slightly higher with access to Trainor’s and the Dumps, a new twist on the original 1A. Kick back and smell those snowflakes — aaaah!
The 1A site also is a perfect location for the world’s largest outdoor après ski-in, ski-out hot tub. If you designed a pool built specifically to reintroduce and accommodate the annual Winterskol Ski Splash, the plans would likely meet immediate approval.
When I read that the land owners weren’t interested in a hotel because they couldn’t make it work financially without it having something like seven stories and several hundred rooms I fully understood their reasoning. I’ve always wanted to open an authentic Western-themed restaurant in town, but unless it can have four stories and seat at least 1,000 people, it just doesn’t make sense for me to do it.
At one point there was discussion of moving the lift terminal slightly farther uphill. That’s a good thought, but don’t stop there — move it all the way up to where tower eight is, just below Summer Road. Make it really difficult for people to get to. That way if one were to dare to ski Norway, they’d have to herring bone a quarter-mile back uphill up to the lift. After all, Aspen Mountain is the “Athlete’s Mountain” — it says so in the brochure.
People are inherently lazy. The only way that a redevelopment at 1A will ever be a success, in terms of actual usage, is if you uprooted the Silver Queen Gondola and transplanted it over there. The term “successful redevelopment” is quickly becoming the new oxymoron of the local ski industry. There are two definitions of good redevelopment — one perceived and the other actual.
My favorite part of the redevelopment process in Aspen is the part we’re in right now over at 1A; the part where the old buildings have been removed and all that is left is open space. It has a deserted feel to it. It reminds me of the feeling I had as a kid riding my bike along the old railroad track at the base of Shadow Mountain. The bonus is that this redevelopment process has taken what seems like a decade.
All those years have been a huge missed opportunity for the landowners — to provide day skier parking. Can you imagine how much money could have been made by charging a reasonable amount for parking off of South Aspen Street?
The day the most recent plans were shot down was reportedly heartbreaking for some. The sad day will be when the real redevelopment process starts. Whatever becomes of the base of 1A, it’s going to be hard to stomach. It feels like our town is fed up with large projects and more construction. I know it’ll never happen but all I want for Christmas is for 1A to be purchased as open space and stay the same as it is now.
Email Lorenzo at email@example.com.