When Aspen Skiing Co. unveiled its updated master development plan for Snowmass Ski Area last week, several new and replacement chairlifts were the eye-catchers but there are also big plans for upgraded on-mountain dining.
SkiCo outlined plans to build two new restaurants on the slopes as well as redevelop the Ullrhof and add to the capacity at Sam’s and the Lynn Britt Cabin.
“Here’s a buzzkill when you pop into a restaurant after working up an appetite like only skiers and snowboarders can: Not finding a place to sit,” SkiCo’s website on the planned improvements said. “Snowmass’ on-mountain restaurants accommodate too few people on the busiest days, never mind accounting for modest growth in skier volume in the future.”
The master development plan is essentially a wish list of possible projects that SkiCo would like to pursue over the last decade or so. However, as the document states, some projects never advance past the dream stage. Officials in SkiCo’s planning department said that expanding food and beverage seating is a priority only behind increasing chairlift capacity out of the Fanny Hill base.
Following is SkiCo’s plan for mountain restaurants as outlined in the master development plan submitted to the U.S. Forest Service.
• Redeveloped Ullrhof: a major redevelopment would utilize some of the existing building but the new structure would be expanded by roughly 28,000 square feet to the west. The seating would be expanded by 250 to 500 seats.
The Ullrhof is located near the bottom terminal of the Big Burn chairlift.
“A third level will be added with entry from the trail occurring upslope of the existing structure, and the restaurant will expand out over the deck on the first and second levels,” the master plan said.
• New Alpine Springs restaurant: A new structure is planned at the base of the Alpine Springs chairlift, on the uphill side of where the Naked Lady and Slider trails meet. The new two-level restaurant would seat 400 people.
“The site was chosen due to ease of access from almost every lift on the mountain,” the master plan said. “Additional on-mountain guest service space is needed in this location to take pressure off of Elk Camp, Ullrhof and High Alpine restaurants.”
• New Gunner’s View restaurant: A small facility with indoor seating for about 100 people and an outdoor deck for another 100 is planned on the Gunner’s View trail on the Elk Camp section of the mountain.
“Additional on-mountain guest service space would take pressure off of Elk Camp Restaurant,” the master plan said.
• Expanded Sam’s: SkiCo plans to replace the Village Express Chairlift with a gondola featuring 10-passenger cabins. The company envisions that addition turning Sam’s into a more popular destination for skiers, sightseers and attendees of special events. The expansion would expand interior seating by about 50 and add extensive deck seating.
• Tweaked Lynn Britt Cabin and Spider Sabich Race Arena: Minor improvements and expansions are planned for these special venues.
SkiCo said its analysis of food service seating showed deficiencies in seating at Sam’s and Elk Camp restaurants and an underutilization of Ullrhof. The upgrade of the Village Express to a gondola is expected to create more demand at Ullrhof, which will be handled with the expansion.
The master plan said the restaurants at Snowmass can handle the crowds of dinners sufficiently when all outdoor seats can be used, but weather often makes that impractical. There are currently 2,882 indoor seats at the company’s base area and on-mountain restaurants along with 1,945 outdoor seats, according to the master plan.
SkiCo’s web page noted that any redevelopments or new restaurants will undertake “best practices in green development and sustainability.”
The Aspen Daily News reported Friday that SkiCo’s master development plan features several lift upgrades. In addition to the Village Express Gondola, SkiCo aims to replace the Coney Glade chairlift and pull the bottom terminal down to a level on Fanny Hill across from the Snowmass Mall. That will give riders another option for accessing the ski area.
Other plans include replacing the Alpine Springs and Elk Camp high-speed quad chairlifts with six-pack lifts, building a new lift on the western section of Burnt Mountain, replacing the Cirque surface lift and building a storage building for the chairs on the Big Burn Lift.
The master development plan has been accepted by the White River National Forest and deemed compatible with the forest plan, a guiding document. Specific projects would need further environmental review when SkiCo decided to pursue them.
The master plan will also be submitted to the Snowmass Village town government for separate review.