Agreement preserves Aspen’s birthplace of skiing

The Highland Bavarian Lodge is situated on over 80 acres of land near the confluence of Castle and Conundrum creeks. (Aspen Times file photo)

A key piece of Aspen area ski history will be preserved in a compromise that gives the landowner greater capacity for development.

Pitkin County commissioners approved a 3-1 deal on Wednesday that will preserve the Highland Bavarian Lodge and dormitory on Castle Creek Road. The structure will receive historic designation and will be remodeled in a way that restores its historic significance.

Owners Meredith Loring and Sami Inkinen have also funded the creation of a documentary film that explains the importance of the site in the development of skiing in Aspen. The documentary will be donated to the Aspen Historical Society. A history pamphlet will also be created and a plaque will be installed along Castle Creek Road.

The owners will also make their property available for public viewing one day a year, with guides from the Historical Society or the Aspen Valley Ski and Snowboard Club.

Loring and Inkinen will also provide $15,000 in seed money for a project to post all of Pitkin County’s historically designated properties on a website, according to their representative, city planner Glenn Horn.

The Highland Bavarian Lodge was built in late 1936 and opened in time to welcome Christmas guests. It was part of a grand vision for a ski area in the upper Castle Creek Valley.

Ski trails were dug along the valley floor and hardy guests could strap skins to their skis and ride up Richmond Ridge. The grandiose plans of the owners lost momentum during the Second World War. The emphasis was on the development of skiing on Aspen Mountain after the war.

The Highland Bavarian Ranch covers 82 acres above the confluence of Castle and Conundrum creeks. The property overhangs the east side of Castle Creek Road, but the owners have agreed to place a conservation easement over this section and 49 acres in total.

The owners could have demolished the lodge as Pitkin County has a voluntary historic preservation program.

As an incentive for historic preservation in this case, the county will grant 7,500 square feet of additional floor space for a home on what is called the ranch’s Mesa lot. A house of up to 13,250 square feet could be built.

Additionally, a density bonus was granted for a 5,750 square foot second home on the main ranch lot. Owners have acquired rights for 10 years.

County commissioners debated the proposal for so long they had little to say on Wednesday. Commissioner Steve Child complimented the documentary on the lodge’s roots.

“The video you made, which tells the story better than anything I can imagine,” he said.

Commissioner Francie Jacober said she hopes landlords don’t take full advantage of the incentive density bonuses.

“I just want to say you don’t have to build all that square footage,” she said.

Commissioner Greg Poschman joined Child and Jacober in endorsing the deal.

Commissioner Patti Clapper cast the only vote against. She objected to the development of an alley in a meadow.

“I just think the driveway flies in front, putting it in front of the building,” she said. “I just can’t get over it.”

Commissioner Kelly McNicholas Kury was on a family vacation and did not attend the meeting.

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