Aspen is a town that prides itself on its history. It was a booming mining town, and later a cultural and intellectual mecca before it became a worldclass ski resort. It boasts a long lineage of colorful residents, from silver miners and Ute Indians to intellectuals and hippies, and ultimately, movie stars and billionaires.
Not surprisingly, this is not a place where change comes easily. Its residents are as protective of it as parents over a child; it’s perfect just the way it is. But soon that may be the Aspen of the past. Several major projects are currently under way that promise an even brighter future.
New developments in downtown Aspen are challenging, to say the least. Zoning restrictions, historical preservation, requirements for affordable housing and parking, not to mention real estate prices that rival Manhattan’s make any new development a tall mountain to climb. The only way for a new building to go up is for an old building to come down.
That’s part of what makes the Lift One Corridor Project one of the biggest and most exciting projects in Aspen history. The west side of Aspen Mountain, where there is currently nothing but an old double chair lift, is about to get a major facelift. At the very spot where lift-accessed skiing began in Aspen, a new high speed telexmix lift (a combination of gondola cabins and chairs) will provide access just a few dozen feet from the end of Dean Street. Two new hotels—Gorsuch Haus and Lift One Lodge—will provide 185 guest rooms, restaurants, shops, and underground parking. With plenty of open space (three interconnected parks, a pedestrian- and bike-friendly ski corridor that will connect the town to the ski area, and a new Aspen Ski History Museum), it’s about much more than development.
“This is a legacy project that has direct roots to the heritage of this community,” says Jeff Gorsuch, who has spent years working to make the project a reality along with partner and former ski coach Bryan Peterson, now a broker associate with Douglas Elliman. “What this encompasses is reconnecting the town to the mountain and making skiing a centerpiece in the place that stands for skiing all over the world,” Gorsuch continues. “So many people thought it to be the unmovable sword, that we were never going to get Excalibur out of that stone. I’m proud that this is something the town was able to achieve by everyone coming together. The voters did it.”
“Lift One is where it all began, with the cutting of ski runs by Andre Roch and the Aspen Ski Club in the late 1930s, and the installation of the longest ski lift in the world in 1946,” explains Peterson. “It’s where the first FIS World Ski Championships were held in 1950, which introduced the world to Aspen. Ski racing and the alpinist culture are part of our history. We hope that by bringing back vibrancy, hotels, services, and amenities to this historic portal, we’ll solidify hosting World Cup ski races and build toward the next 50 years of Aspen.”
On the mountain, Ruthie’s restaurant (out of service for more than 10 years) will be reinvented and reopened as a second branch of Cloud 9. (The original Cloud 9, on Aspen Highlands, has become famous for its daily party scene.) On the east side of the mountain, Aspen Skiing Company has plans for a Pandora’s expansion, including a new lift and an additional 150 acres of new terrain.
Over in Snowmass, The Snowmass Base Village development project, 10 years and $600 million in the making, has finally come to fruition. The completion of the long-awaited Limelight Hotel—featuring a 53-foot glass-enclosed climbing wall in its lobby, slope-side access, and an ice skating rink out front—has injected modernity and luxury to the area, plus record-breaking sales. Luxury residences at the Limelight, Viceroy Snowmass, and The Lumin are almost completely sold out.
—by Ali Margot