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ISSUE #149: Yes on Lift 1 - It's THAT ImportANT  2/19/19

"Censorship no longer works by hiding information from you; censorship works by flooding you with immense amounts of misinformation, of irrelevant information, of funny cat videos, until you're just unable to focus."

                              -- Yuval Noah Harari


There's an INCREDIBLE amount of misinformation circulating related to the one measure on the March 5 ballot - The Lift One Corridor.  The Red Ant is all for political discourse, but the intentional spreading of blatant falsehoods designed to mislead is simply too much.


I wrote in depth about the myths surrounding the Lift One Corridor plan in last week's issue.  Read it again HERE.  


In short:
  • The requested change from Conservation to Lodge zoning DOES NOT jeopardize an animal refuge, migration corridor nor protected land. The existing Conservation zoning DOES, however, allow for residential development, among other impactful uses.
  • The city's $4.36 million investment in the overall project IS NOT a subsidy to the developers; these funds will finance the necessary infrastructure work on Dean Street and S. Aspen Street, plus the parks. There is no subsidy, unless you count workforce housing.
  • There is subsidized housing for 67 employees provided by the developers, in accordance with the land use code.  These units will be available prior to the certificates of occupancy being granted for the lodging properties. And both properties will continually contribute to the RETT, generating millions of dollars toward hundreds more units of subsidized housing over time.
  • The new lift alignment (500' further down toward Dean Street) WILL NOT require the removal of "tens of thousands" of trees.  This was just some hysterical BS featured in a letter to the editor,
  • This proposal CANNOT and WILL NOT go back to the council table for "revisions."  This is it.  If voted down, Lift One Lodge moves ahead with its existing approvals that preclude a lift corridor down to Dean Street. SkiCo WILL NOT replace 1A unless the bed base is increased by the two proposed properties.  World Cup WILL NOT return unless we replace the lift and develop a first-world base area there.  This is NOT an a la carte menu. 
  • The status quo is NOT AN OPTION.  Change is coming.  It's the Lift One Corridor proposal or it's four single family homesites.  Public or private access. Period. You decide.
  • SkiCo is NOT planning to replace 1A "just because."  That lift is old and there aren't many parts left.  But without a significant development to justify the cost of a new lift, the current lift is what we'll have ... until it breaks down one last time.
In case you missed it, Mike Kaplan, President & CEO of SkiCo penned an endorsement of the Lift One Corridor.  I'm printing it in its entirety here because it's vital for you to know where SkiCo stands.  They are a critical stakeholder in the proposal and worked diligently with the city and both lodging partners to negotiate this great solution. Don't just take my word for it!


Almost two days after a snowstorm last week, I skied a favorite line between Henry's and Super 8. It's tight, steep, every turn counts and, as usual, it was mostly untouched. Aspen Mountain holds all sorts of stashes like that. It's why Ajax skis so much bigger and so much more interestingly than its acreage might suggest.

One reason that line gets overlooked is because it's accessed by a 47-year-old fixed-grip double chair: Lift 1A. I wondered about that as I skied it. Will adding a modern, higher-capacity lift as part of the Lift One corridor project mean more tracks in my favorite places? What will the new lift - and the whole corridor plan - do to the experience of skiing that special side of the mountain?

It'll change it. You can't argue that. And since choices in Aspen are so often framed in terms of their downsides, much of the conversation has gone that way. But as I think it through, I see a lot of upsides: The new lift will give better access to the Dumps and the whole west side. It'll make doing laps over there a first-choice option. Come springtime, that's where I would start-carving corn turns on Fifth Avenue and Silver Rush, and then watch from a patio at the new Gorsuch Haus or the Skier's Chalet Steakhouse as Aspen Mountain's army of experts rip down Corkscrew and Slalom Hill.

People develop personal attachments to the way they ski a mountain, particularly Ajax. 1A has long been that treasure you hit later in the day. But could drawing skiers over there earlier have effects elsewhere? Maybe an extra Walsh's-to-Jackpot lap on a powder morning or another pass through the Dumps as skiers are more balanced between the Silver Queen Gondola and the new lift. I expect we'll see a new moment of pause at Rubey Park as people get off the buses and make the call. Two portals at the base is rare in the ski world and in this case they'll force a reassessment of what to ski when by even 2,000-day Ajax regulars.

Of course, the most basic skier upside of the 1A proposal is obvious. Ski area planning 101 says you bring the lift to the bottom. This goes farther: It brings the lift all the way to town. At SkiCo, we have obsessed over making sure the plan meets our requirements for ski area operations, World Cup-scale events, skier safety and flow. We would never agree to a base reconfiguration that ignores the skier experience or undermines our ability to host ski racing in the future.

At 60 feet wide at its narrowest point, the proposed ski return leading to the new lift is comparable to the bottom of the Little Nell run as it funnels into the right side of the gondola, which is 58 feet at its narrowest. Simply put, the skiing works. And while losing the last few turns on Norway is not ideal, it's necessary to make the project work. The overall tradeoff for more balanced usage of the west side of the mountain offsets that small terrain loss.

The proposal honors our skiing past in a way that seems fitting for a town as history-obsessed as Aspen. Frankly, the current state of the original Lift 1 artifacts should embarrass all of us. They'll be front and center now, more accessible to the public and a reference point for a ski museum brought to life by the Aspen Historical Society. That's just one aspect of a revitalized base area that will include dining, après, and skier services. The new development will bring vitality to a side of the mountain that has been too sleepy for too long, and it's what would justify SkiCo adding lift capacity to that side of the mountain.   

I'm not ignoring the fact that the plan comes with two sizable buildings. But with the Hotel Lenado and the Mountain House having joined the list of the lodges we've lost over the past few decades - totaling hundreds of lost beds - I welcome Gorsuch Haus and Lift One Lodge. They're in a location where bed base belongs and where they'll have the least impact compared to adding them elsewhere: walking distance to both transit and all of the amenities in the core.

On balance, the upsides really do outweigh the downsides here. I've seen lots of ideas for the revitalization of the base of 1A, and this is the best plan I've encountered. Let's not let the perfect be the enemy of the good. Please join me in supporting the Lift One corridor proposal at the ballot box.
            - Mike Kaplan, 2/15/19

In addition, in an article in today's Aspen Daily News, the developers reiterate what Issue #148 explained - it's now or never.  And again, SkiCo weighs in, "Cutting the master plan into its constituent parts compromises the individual elements and cripples the master plan."  Read it HERE.  

And, due to an online edition snafu last week, you may have missed columnist Paul Menter's thoughts on the Lift One Corridor.  Read it HERE. "Everyone gave up something to get a lot for the community. Primary among the collaborators, the Gorsuch Haus folks gave up having the Lift 1A terminus adjacent to their planned hotel at the top of South Aspen Street. The Lift One Lodge folks, who already had development approvals in hand, reworked their building design in order to provide access for the ski return to pass through their property. The city of Aspen pushed for the community-serving amenities, including the lift relocation, a new ski museum, refurbishment of the Skiers Chalet building, reconstruction of Dean Street, and a consolidated Willoughby/Dolenisk open space, and put the capstone on the collaboration by agreeing to provide up to $4.36 million towards the completion of those community-serving facilities."

The Lift One Corridor question is truly critical for Aspen.  It's far more important to consider the immense community and ski area benefits before indulging individual interests, whether they be those of NIMBY neighbors or a desperate politician whose only hope at re-election is to ride the coattails of manufactured dissent.

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Still undecided?  Have specific concerns that you'd like to personally ask the principals?  Jeff Gorsuch, Bryan Peterson, Michael Brown and others involved in the plan will be at The Gant on Thursday, February 21.  Please stop by to personally get at the heart of the issues that YOU are concerned about.  One-on-one.

What:  An Evening for Undecided Voters
Where:  The Gant, 610 S. West End Street, Aspen
When:  Thursday, February 21 starting at 5:30 pm
Who:  Partners from Gorsuch Haus and Lift One Lodge
RSVP:  Click HERE to let them know you'll be coming!

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You should have your ballot by now.  Questions?  970-920-5060 or 970-920-5180

Register to vote today.  HERE's the form.  Fax it to 970-445-3007

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