Aspen to unveil new chairlift, terrain and restaurants

By Troy Hooper
Real AspenJuly 18, 2011
Each season, the Aspen Skiing Company rolls out new amenities for its red-carpet clientele (and the rest of us).

This upcoming winter will be no different.

A new high-speed quad chairlift at Buttermilk is under construction to replace both the Eagle Hill and Upper Tiehack lifts. Built by Leitner Poma of America, the lift is expected to shave about 11 minutes off the current commute. Combined, the Eagle Hill and Upper Tiehack lifts took 18 minutes. The new Tiehack Express, expected to debut in December, will ferry riders almost 600 vertical feet up the mountain in just under seven minutes.
At Buttermilk the Eagle Hill and Upper Tiehack lifts, both more than 40 years old, will be replaced with a high-speed quad.

The lift is part of an effort to breath new life into Tiehack — the eastern and most-difficult section of Buttermilk, which is largely known as a beginner's mountain. In addition to the new $7 million quad, Aspen Skiing Company's summer trail crew is now cleaning up the gladed area on the Tiehack side of the mountain to add more rolling gladed and groomed single-black terrain into the underutilized area.

Over at Aspen Highlands, the Merry Go Round restaurant, situated mid-mountain, has begun a $6 million remodel, set to swing open its doors on the mountain's opening day, Dec. 10.

"The ‘duct tape chic’ restaurant will maintain its relaxed, informal atmosphere while benefiting from new interiors, improved amenities and enhanced kitchen facilities," a company press release states. "Green materials will be used throughout the refit and the energy efficiency of the entire building significantly improved. The Merry Go Round walls will preserve history and embrace new technology with framed photos of Highlands skiers past, present and future."

To that end, "guests will be invited to submit photos for display in digital frames and digital monitors to show off real time information, streaming media and live feeds, like a newly installed video camera on the Highland Bowl, as well as a photo booth for instant photos," the Aspen Skiing Company announced.

A new restaurant is also in the works at Snowmass for the 2012/2013 season. The Elk Camp Restaurant, now under construction for $15 million, is slated to replace Café Suzanne, located adjacent to the top of the Elk Camp Gondola. The new eatery will have seating for up to 300 guests and include summer and evening event space. Officials say the project is scheduled to be LEED-certified and will implement advanced heating systems with other green materials to beat local energy codes by an estimated 30 percent. Elk Camp would be the company's fifth LEED-certified building after the recent overhauls of Sam’s Restaurant and the Holiday House.

In all, the Aspen Skiing Company is planning to invest more than $26 million in on-mountain improvements this year. Over the last eight seasons, the company has invested more than $164 million in on-mountain improvements, including 11 new lifts with two new gondolas, the new Snowmass base village, the Treehouse Kids’ Adventure Center, an interior remodel of The Little Nell hotel, the launch of four new restaurants, the acquisition of the Limelight Lodge, the installation of a resort-wide art exhibit, and the opening of new ski terrain.

Aspen Mountain and Snowmass are scheduled to open Nov. 24 for the 2011/2012 season. Aspen Highlands and Buttermilk are set to open Dec. 10. Buttermilk is due to close April 8, Aspen Mountain and Snowmass on April 15 and Aspen Highlands on April 22. World Cup women's races will be held in November and WInter X Games in January.

After business slipped during the recession, skier visits are back on track across the nation.

The National Ski Area Association announced Friday that, thanks to a prolonged period of cold and snow, an end-of-the-season survey of U.S. resorts recorded 60.54 million visits, an all-time high.

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