Aspen, Colorado is slated to host the International Skiing Federation's World Cup Finals in March 2017, but the underdeveloped state of the Lift 1A base on Aspen Mountain is posing a big problem. The 42-year-old double chairlift is slow, low-capacity, and surrounded by aging properties, hardly the race venue favored by the FIS. For the past few months, the FIS has suggested that unless Lift 1A is replaced and the base area upgraded, Aspen may risk losing the event.
An Aspen Journalism report from December 2014 put the price tag on a new, high-capacity lift at around $8-10 million, a steep figure for a lift that seems minimal use most times of the year. Any improvements also require review by the U.S. Forest Service and conversations with property owners in and around the South Aspen Street. Aspen Ski Co. does have an approved master plan from 1997 that called for replacement of Lift 1A.
Originally, Aspen Skiing Co. officials maintained that they were awarded the World Cub finals based upon the existing condition of Lift 1A. But in the last few months it's become clear that the lift will need to go if Aspen wants to keep the event.
Just this week, Aspen SkiCo President and CEO Mike Kaplan stated that in order to install a new chairlift in time for Aspen to avoid losing the event, the lift will have to be ordered by next April.
Several hurdles exist before the lift can happen:
· The parcel where the lift is located needs to be rezoned to a ski area base definition.
· A new comprehensive plan for the Shadow Mountain neighborhood would have to be presented and then approved.
FIS officials are also worried about a referendum that would trigger a public vote for certain projects seeking land-use variances. Referendum No. 1 will be voted on tomorrow and could make it more difficult for SkiCo to get new lift plans approved.
Meanwhile, international competition is steep for hosting World Cup events. This past February, the Vail Valley saw over 220,000 spectator visits in conjunction with the 2015 Finals. That's a lot of tourist dollars.
· FIS watching Aspen election with eye to future [Aspen Daily News]
· Aspen may lose 2017 World Cup Finals if old lift 1A isn't replaced [Aspen Journalism]
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· The Insider's Guide to the 2015 Alpine World Ski Championships [Curbed Ski]