Developers of two hotels that are critical to bringing a new Lift 1A 500 feet closer to the downtown core submitted amended building proposals to the city’s planning office this week.
Planners working on the Gorsuch Haus and Lift One Lodge projects are proposing changes to previous iterations of their proposals to accommodate the new lift alignment. These changes include more square footage and a higher room count for the Lift One Lodge, which narrowed and lengthened its buildings.
Prior to a multi-faceted planning process involving the developers, the city, the Aspen Skiing Co. and a private consultant, the new lift was sited on the Gorsuch Haus property, roughly in the same location as the existing lift. However, many see the redevelopment of the three blocks sitting on the east side of South Aspen Street leading to the western Aspen Mountain base as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to bring the lift back down the hill, nearer to the location of the original Lift One that opened in December 1946.
After a year of stakeholder meetings concluding last spring, a plan was devised to bring the lift 500 feet down the hill, with a loading terminal steps from Dean Street in the city of Aspen’s Willoughby Park. The plan will preserve the original chairlift’s bullwheel and remaining lift towers, though their exact location on the site is still to be determined.
The amendment applications from Gorsuch Haus and Lift One Lodge were submitted on Tuesday and deemed complete on Thursday. They are the next steps in the process that by late fall will shift to land use review meetings before municipal advisory boards and Aspen City Council and conclude with a public vote in February or March.
Lift One Lodge was initially approved in 2011 with an amended plan approved in 2014. Gorsuch Haus has yet to secure a final approval.
“The results of this unprecedented public-private collaboration are profound — we have a chance to reconnect our town to the historic side of the mountain where the magic began,” Jeff Gorsuch, a member of the Gorsuch Haus team, said in a press release. “This has been a long and thorough process that always had its focus on achieving the community goal of bringing the lift back to town.”
Michael Brown, co-owner of the Lift One Lodge project, added in the release that “we really could not have achieved this plan without the support and leadership of the city of Aspen and the Aspen Skiing Co. The city council provided the direction we needed and city staff kept all of us on task to develop a plan that works for the ski area and the community.”
Allyn Harvey, a spokesman for Gorsuch Haus, said that the footprint of his project will shift to the west, closer to the Norway run, to accommodate the lift alignment. The total floor area and room count are similar to the most recent iteration, at 64,000 square feet of floor area and 81 lodge keys. Some skier services that were included in the lodge project when the lift originated on its site have been removed, he added. The maximum lodge height remains at 40 feet, he said.
A lynchpin of the plan involves running the lift alignment through two buildings of the Lift One Lodge that straddle what was originally designed as a ski corridor. To fit a lift through the corridor, the distance between the two buildings has been increased from 45 feet to 60 feet. The buildings themselves have been narrowed and lengthened.
According to Lift One Lodge application materials, the project’s total room count is proposed to increase from 84 to 104 keys, with floor-area square footage increasing from 76,123 to 107,651. The height will not exceed what was previously approved, through portions of that building plan exceeded the 40-foot limit.
Both lodges are under the total amount of square footage that could be allowed on their sites per lodge zone district dimensional standards.
The plan also includes moving and renovating two historic buildings currently on the Lift One Lodge site. The Skiers Chalet Lodge will be moved down to Willoughby Park, to the site where two sand volleyball courts sit, and converted into a ski museum that will also include some skier services. The Skiers Chalet Steakhouse will be moved downhill and reopened as a restaurant.
The plan also includes a new race finish area near Gorsuch Haus that many hope will lead to the return of World Cup racing on Aspen Mountain. International Ski Federation organizers said after staging the 2017 World Cup Finals here that they will not come back to Aspen until base area infrastructure is upgraded.
An underground parking garage running beneath the lodges will also provide 50 public parking spaces, as well as parking for hotel guests.
A public vote is needed due to the change in use two city parks to accommodate commercial skiing infrastructure, and possibly because of issues related to the development plans of the two hotels.
Brown and Gorsuch both credited the Aspen Historical Society, the Dolinsek family and the Aspen Valley Land Trust for making the plan possible. Part of the site plan incorporates land on the east side of the corridor donated by the Dolinsek family to the city. Though the conservation easement on the land held by the AVLT prohibits commercial skiing infrastructure such as chairlifts, downhill skiing is allowed on the land. The family agreed to allow certain snowmaking and grooming activities to occur on the land, without which the plan would not be possible.