Gwyn's

The Gordon-Knowlton family celebrated the remodel and reopening of Gwyn’s on Dec. 18, 2016. On Monday, the Snowmass Village Town Council will discuss a resolution that decries Aspen Skiing Co.’s decision to take the privately operated Snowmass eatery into the SkiCo fold.

As anticipated, the Snowmass Village Town Council will discuss a resolution Monday of “strong support for Gwyn’s as a locally owned and operated business on Snowmass Mountain.”

The item is currently last on the agenda for the regular meeting that begins at 4 p.m. However, town spokesman Travis Elliott said that if there’s a large public turnout at the meeting, the discussion could be moved up.

Public comments sent to elected officials last week weighed in on the side of Mayor Markey Butler, who two weeks ago lambasted Aspen Skiing Co. for its plans to assume ownership, in 2020, of the 39-year-old Gwyn’s High Alpine restaurant that has had a history of continuous family ownership on Snowmass Ski Area.

Res. 36, series of 2018, pulls no punches about the town’s support for the extension of lease terms to the Gordon and Knowlton families to operate Gwyn’s “well into the future.” It notes the importance of local flavor as essential to Snowmass’ unique character.

SkiCo has said that running all of the restaurants on the four mountains it operates has been part of a long-term plan, and should come as no surprise. The Gordon and Knowlton families replied that they had receive mixed assurances from SkiCo management about their future in Snowmass, which began in 1979.

Res. 36 takes further issue with how SkiCo, which is the area’s largest private employer, operates as a community partner. (The resolution is included in its entirety on page 4).

“WHEREAS, while we as a community are displeased with the action of Aspen Skiing Company for not renewing the lease for Gwyn’s Restaurant, we are even more concerned about the direction this decision will take the resort in the future. The Aspen Skiing Company’s willingness to discontinue a long standing business relationship with a local family sends a decidedly non-community oriented message and does not reflect the actions of a good community partner promoting local business,” it states.

According to the staff memo that accompanies the resolution: “This effort addresses both the goals of community engagement and community building.” 

Council is given three options, approve the resolution as presented; modify the resolution then approve by motion or choose not to approve the resolution.

A line in the resolution notes a sense of urgency and that council “cannot be complacent with this decision and finds it necessary to do what we can to help locals who want to invest in this community be successful.”

 

‘Flaw in that strategy’

All five emails sent to the Snowmass Village Town Council on the Gwyn’s issue supported the operation remaining independent. 

That included a note from the family of Rich Williams, Allison Renshaw and Atticus Williams. In an Oct. 29 email to the council, Aspen Skiing Co. and Snowmass Sun they wrote: “We understand that SkiCo has a strategy of owning all the dining at the ski resorts, but we implore SkiCo to consider that there may be a flaw in that strategy as it pertains to Gwyn’s. 

“Of all the dining available at all four hills, Gwyn’s has always been our favorite. The primary appeal to us has been the warmth of the family, and feeling like we belong there because of the connection with the family. So many resorts have dining facilities that are completely impersonal. Gwyn’s is the antipathy of that. We know that thousands of families must feel the same about Gwyn’s, and it would be a great loss to all of us to have the (Knowlton/Gordon) family no longer continue full operation of the restaurant.”

Russell Francis stated in a missive to council, “While I am sure SkiCo have run the numbers and they believe that they will make more profit than the rent they would have received from the Knowltons I wonder whether they ultimately will lose out…

“SkiCo are very unlikely to be able to replicate the quality of food and the family feel that the Knowltons are able to achieve day in, day out. Gwyn’s will become just another restaurant on the hill. The result could well be an element of the uniqueness of Snowmass is lost and therefore skiers drift away to other resorts.”

SkiCo operates 11 of the 13 restaurants on the four area local ski resorts. Bonnie’s on Aspen Mountain is the other independent.

George and Barbara Carroll, in an email to Snowmass Village elected officials, wrote that, “Though the other ‘corporate restaurants’ on the mountain provide adequate service, none of them rise to the level of Gwyn’s. That is the difference between corporate owned vs. family owned. We strongly urge you to do whatever you can to help retain this ‘family’ part of the mountain.”

Wrote Melanie and Lewis Sharpa: “My husband and I would like to share that taking this restaurant away from Gwyn and George would not be good for the mountain. They bring a lot to the experience of Snowmass including the wonderful food!”

A fifth email to council, from Carol Melamed, noted that, “We’ve been coming to Snowmass for 25 years, and Gwynne’s (sic) is a wonderful tradition.”

Support for SkiCo’s decision has been seen in social media posts from Snowmass Village resident John Hornblower. 

In a response to an Oct. 23 Aspen Daily News story Hornblower wrote: “Instead of bashing SkiCo, we should be thanking SkiCo for doing such an amazing job with all the other restaurants on our four fantastic mountains, along with everything else they do to make our life here truly world-class wonderful. Have faith, people! SkiCo isn’t going to ruin anything. I’m sure whatever they do with Gwyn’s will be fair to all concerned and will make us happy.”

 

Madeleine Osberger is a Contributing Editor for Aspen Daily News. She can be reached at madski@aspendailynews.com or on Twitter @Madski99