70-foot distance from current lift wheelhouse is less than figure publicized by opposition
Should the Gorsuch Haus development proposal be approved in its current form, the entrance to a new Lift 1A would be approximately 70 feet up and to the east from the loading area of the existing chairlift.
Project planners note that, despite the distance measured by a reporter of 53 footsteps from the old to the new lift entrance, the elevation of the new terminal would be 3 feet lower than the current 1A due to extensive regrading contemplated with the site plan. Most of that distance would be covered in snow in the winter as well, so skiers will be able to click in and slide the extra 20-plus yards.
The entrance to a new high-speed quad replacing the aging Lift 1A, which would cut the ride time of the current lift almost in half, would be near the bottom of an existing stand of cottonwood trees.
Those trees would be gone with the existing look and feel of the bottom of 1A transformed by the plans for Gorsuch Haus, an 81-key lodge encompassing 68,000-square-feet of above-grade development in a north-south oriented building reaching 49 feet tall at its highest point.
Plans call for multiple levels of slopeside outdoor plazas stepping up the hill, including a new restaurant and bar, as well as skier services such as ticketing, a ski patrol locker room and space for the Aspen Valley Ski and Snowboard Club.
The 70-foot difference between the old and new lift loading areas is less than an estimate publicized by developers of the Lift One Lodge project, which would be located directly downhill of the Gorsuch Haus on South Aspen Street. The public relations campaign branded “Lift 1A for All Aspen,” funded by the Lift One Lodge developers, claims that the distance from the old to the new lift would be 123 feet.
However, that distance is based on a beginning point in the middle of the existing red building housing the bull wheel and mountain operations facilities. Skiers get on the 1A chair just uphill from the end of the building.
Michael Brown, a developer of the Lift One Lodge, said the real issue is previous claims by the Gorsuch group that the new lift would be lower than current conditions. He also criticized the proposed building as being too big and creating an impediment to skiers heading to the new 1A chair.
The exact location of the lower terminal of the new lift has shifted throughout the design process for Gorsuch Haus, prior to developers submitting a formal land use application in March.
Jeff Gorsuch and Bryan Peterson, principals of Norway Island LLC, which is proposing to build the hotel on land it is under contract to buy from the Aspen Skiing Co., traced the changes to the site plan, which they said has been in the works for years.
About a year ago they were planning an L-shaped building, with a cable-car-like “funicular” that would carry people up the South Aspen Street Hill from Dean Street.
The developers later went back to the drawing board based on neighborhood feedback, and re-oriented the building to a north-south alignment. They also cut about 20 percent from the footprint, Peterson and Gorsuch said.
The first version of the new building footprint included a gondola lift system that had a lower loading terminal than what was eventually submitted.
That was scrapped in favor of the high speed quad, which moved up the hill because of the need to load from the back, unlike a gondola, which can load from the side, Gorsuch said.
Placing the lift up the slope also leaves more room on the east side for return-skier loading, and gives greater clearance for a 30-foot-wide ski-back route leading back toward town from the bottom of the Gorsuch site.
Alignment could extend downhill
A key question in the early stages of Gorsuch Haus planning was whether or not a new lift could be extended three blocks down to Dean Street, where the original Lift 1 loaded skiers on what, in 1947, was the world’s longest chairlift reaching the top of Aspen Mountain in two stages.
The reluctance of Lift One Lodge developers to scrap their already-approved building site plan — which places its east wing in the likely path of such a chairlift — effectively dashed those hopes.
However, if there was ever a change in the Lift One Lodge’s footprint or some other drastic shift in the neighborhood, the lift alignment planned with the Gorsuch Haus project could be extended down the hill, Gorsuch said. The building has been purposefully moved to the west so not to foreclose that possibility, he said.
“Gorsuch Haus has the singular purpose of getting out of the fly zone for the lift,” he said.
Next P&Z hearing on July 19
The project, which would entail a rezoning of its site from the current “conservation” district, was subject to its first public hearing on July 5, where city community development staff presented concerns with the site plan, mass and scale, and public access to the new lift.
The hearing, which attracted dozens of citizens, was cut short and continued until July 19 before public comment could be completed and before Gorsuch could respond to staff comments. Both are expected during Tuesday’s meeting.