The master plan guiding the redevelopment of the base of Buttermilk has been tabled while the Aspen Skiing Co. negotiates with the state department of transportation to buy a piece of land to complete the puzzle.
SkiCo submitted its master plan for the base of Buttermilk last March and it was reviewed by Pitkin County’s planning commission in June, when access and transit issues were raised. Once SkiCo delved into it more, planners realized that the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) owns a 60-foot-wide strip in between the county-owned parking lot and SkiCo’s property.
SkiCo is seeking to acquire the right of way, known as the “old West Buttermilk Road alignment,” so it can use the area for bus and shuttle drop-off and pick-up.
David Corbin, vice president of planning and development for SkiCo, said negotiations with CDOT have been slow moving but the state agency has indicated a willingness to sell. SkiCo initially reached out to CDOT in September.
Once the land purchase is complete, SkiCo intends to resume the master plan process with the county. Corbin said he hopes to be back in front of the planning commission this summer, and to be seeking approval from county commissioners in the fall.
“I’m kind of waiting on the state and the county knows that,” Corbin said. “It’s been slow moving.”
SkiCo would like to break ground for the first phase of its redevelopment in the summer of 2014. That includes a permanent facility for Powder Pandas ski school. Currently, the SkiCo operates the program out of a temporary 2,880-square-foot modular structure. The new facility would be a 7,377-square-foot children’s center.
Earlier this month, the SkiCo applied for and was granted a two-year extension of its temporary use permit to operate out of the modular building.
The second phase includes tearing down and replacing the “green building,” located between Powder Pandas and the building housing Bumps restaurant and ticketing services. The new facility would include a 8,690-square-foot skier services center, which is about 2,000 square feet larger than the existing structure, housing SkiCo’s rental shop, ticket office and public restrooms.
The new structure also would house lockers and a day lodge.
The bottom floor of the Bumps building would be remodeled and expanded by 2,282 square feet. All of the new buildings are proposed to be one story.
“It’s pretty benign in the entitlement world,” Corbin said of the master plan.
No other development is proposed in the master plan, partly because SkiCo doesn’t think there is interest from the county in building large structures, and the company only owns 3.82 acres at the base.
“Our property is somewhat long and narrow, running from the toe of the slope to Highway 82, wedged in between The Inn at Aspen and the Stapleton parking lots,” Corbin said of the development constraints.
“Useful acreage is pretty small for us,” he added.
And, the area is not zoned for lodging, which had been contemplated but the economics don’t pencil out, according to Corbin.
“We’re not sure the county would be receptive to lodging in regards to heights,” Corbin said. “To make a project [work] with a small footprint, you’d have to put three or four stories in the air.
“At the end of the day, it doesn’t work for anybody.”
So, SkiCo turned its focus on enhancing the guest experience and buffing out skier services.
Skier numbers at Buttermilk have remained flat for the past 15 years but ski school operations have grown exponentially.
“We need to respond to that,” Corbin said. “We need to meet the needs of Buttermilk as a ski area.”