The Gravity Haus culinary concept at 315 E. Hyman Ave. has undergone a major transformation from its initial French coastal-inspired, fine-dining iteration that launched in the summer under the name, Le Bateau.
Now coined The Boat Tow, the restaurant relaunched this winter as an affordable and approachable hangout spot, where a craft beer or cocktail won’t break the bank and hearty comfort food is served for lunch and dinner.
Open seven days a week from 11:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m., its all-day menu features healthy options, like seasonal salads and locally sourced protein dishes, along with a classic double-stacked cheeseburger, filling starters and a revamped version of tater tots (Haus Tots).
The Boat Tow is also offering daily après specials that run from 2-5 p.m. and include $10 cocktails and half off the hot chicken sandwich, as well as all snacks and shares.
It’s a significant shift from the original Le Bateau concept, which opened in June 2023 and marked the second phase of the greater Aspen-based Gravity Haus (AspenHaus) project that’s taking over the old Wheeler Square building downtown.
Following the restaurant’s summer launch, the AspenHaus team took a beat to reconsider their messaging and approach to the Aspen community. The consensus was that Le Bateau — which came in with a Michelin-starred chef and a sophisticated menu that featured pricey seafood cuisine — was missing the mark on what the Gravity Haus brand is about as a whole and what this town, in particular, was lacking food-and-beverage-wise.
“What we recognized was that we were failing to deliver a product and experience that brought the locals together,” said Ryan Krukar, vice president of marketing and communications at Gravity Haus. “It was not a place, at the time, where the locals wanted to be, and with the community aspect of what Gravity Haus does in all the destinations we operate, to not feel like we were doing right by the community was a tough experience for us.”
Founded in 2019 by a Colorado family, Gravity Haus is a hospitality group centered around community, outdoor adventure and the mountain lifestyle. The membership-based concept has outposts across Colorado — Breckenridge, Steamboat Springs, Winter Park, Vail, Denver and the current Aspen development — as well as in Truckee-Tahoe, California, a brand-new Jackson Hole location and another one opening soon in Moab, Utah.
With a range of membership options, Gravity Haus is ultimately a social club for travelers. Hotel accommodations, co-working spaces, wellness and fitness programs and premium gear access are among what the brand offers across its destinations, in addition to operating different restaurant concepts and a uniform coffee shop (Unravel Coffee and Bar) at most of its properties.
While longevity and membership growth are goals for Gravity Haus, establishing itself as a community partner and welcoming asset within each locale is crucial to this long-term development, especially in a place like Aspen, Krukar said.
He noted that AspenHaus differs from the other properties because it won’t have a hotel component tied to its restaurants and incoming fitness, co-working and wellness amenities, which are part of the next phase build-out. For that reason, Krukar said that AspenHaus will stand as more of a community gathering space upon its completion and also in the present time, between the neighboring Unravel and Boat Tow concepts.
“I think The Boat Tow and Aspen, specifically, has really required that we think outside of our normal parameters and get outside of our comfort zone for knowing that we don't have that captive audience in terms of a bed base, but that our captive audience is locals,” Krukar said. “And really, the only way to win is to be able to capture those locals and endear ourselves to the community.”
Krukar, who is based in Stowe, Vermont, joined Gravity Haus in September and was immediately involved in reimagining the Aspen restaurant. Having lived in a ski town for the majority of his adult life, Krukar said that the locals are “literally the most critical part of any mountain-town food-and-beverage operation,” and not appealing to that demographic, from a business standpoint, “you will not succeed,” he said.
“And so everything that we've done as we've reopened The Boat Tow is geared and focused on being a good partner and member of the Aspen community,” Krukar said. “We don't want to be a place that is known as price gouging or not delivering a valuable experience, and as we revitalized that menu and rethought our beverage program and the activations and decor of the restaurant, you'll see that all the changes we’ve made have been really tailored to finding ways to provide Aspen locals with a great experience on a consistent basis.”
In fact, the small space was completely redesigned to embody ski-town culture and pay tribute to Aspen’s. The Boat Tow collaborated with the Aspen Historical Society, DJ Watkins of Fat City Gallery, Richard Allen of Vintage Ski World and other historian staples to assemble the niche collection of memorabilia and artwork that now fills the restaurant’s interior.
Entering The Boat Tow today, vintage skis mount the walls, alongside images depicting legendary figures and narratives in Aspen’s ski history, from André Roch and Dick Durrance to the namesake “boat tow” contraption — the first ski lift on Aspen Mountain that opened in the late 1930s and consisted of wooden toboggans and a steel cable system.
Gravity Haus Experience Manager Liz Savickas, who lives in Aspen and has played a boots-on-the-ground role in the overall development of AspenHaus thus far, described The Boat Tow’s reconceptualization as a “sigh of relief.”
“This just feels more aligned with what we're trying to build, in addition to Unravel, in addition to our future growth of the full membership space,” Savickas said. “And it’s also so much more aligned with the community and in the market right now of considering, like, what does this town need most?”
When it comes to programming for The Boat Tow, Savickas is working to build on the community aspect of Unravel and cultivate similar experiences and events through the coffee shop’s sister restaurant.
The Boat Tow venue has already hosted a handful of events since opening in December, such as local artist brunches, a patio watch party for X Games and wine dinners for Aspen Gay Ski Week. These activations are in addition to Unravel’s programming, which includes monthly comedy nights, painting and other craft-based classes and a live music series that features local musicians every Tuesday and Saturday from 4-6 p.m.
Savickas is also focused on growing community partnerships through reciprocal membership benefits, she said. She mentioned the new package deal with Aspen Film, in which Gravity Haus members receive a 20% discount on select screenings at the Aspen Film Isis Theatre and Aspen Film members receive 15% off all food and beverages at both The Boat Tow and Unravel for a year.
As the AspenHaus project continues at its 315 E. Hyman Ave. location, both Savickas and Krukar expressed how they hope the local community will be along for the ride and take part in the spaces that’ve been established and are here to stay.
“We just want people to be along for the growth and experience each concept so differently,” Savickas said. “We’re a mountain town, we’re a mountain-lifestyle company, and we're right here, so the more we have people in here in ski boots and ski gear drinking at the bar together or hanging at Unravel, the better — you know, it’s like, just come along with us, get in The Boat.”
By:| Aspen Daily News I February 10, 2024