Snowmass Village: Aspen's Neighbor Goes Upscale

New nightlife options in Snowmass Villiage are designed to stimulate the economy beyond the slopes.

Ever since it was incorporated in 1977, the sleepy town of Snowmass Village has grappled with an identity complex.

Snowmass has always lived in the shadow of its glamorous neighbor, Aspen, just 10 miles way. Not that Snowmass didn’t have potential. The 3,000-acre Snowmass ski area attracts more skiers than Aspen’s other three ski areas combined. But after the lifts closed, Snowmass would fade to black. Snowmass officials decided something had to be done to jazz up Snowmass.

The Redevelopment Plan

Aspen Skiing Co., the firm that operates the four mountains in Aspen/Snowmass, went to voters in 2004 asking for approval of a 1 million-square-foot development that would feature a four-star hotel, conference space, hundreds of condos and nearly 100,000 square feet of retail space. It was a contentious campaign to say the least.

Longtime locals argued Snowmass was fine the way it is. But advocates of the $1 billion Base Village development said improvements were necessary if Snowmass was to stay competitive with other ski areas across the country, all of which were upgrading and adding amenities.

Voters in the town of 2,000 approved the redevelopment plan, and the 2008-2009 ski season marked the opening of numerous businesses townsfolk hope will stimulate the local economy.

There have been changes to the original plans along the way. Aspen Skiing Co. and co-developer Intrawest sold the development rights to Related Westpac.

The project has been lauded for its environmental efforts, earning the Leadership in Energy and Design (LEED) neighborhood development certification. Most every building under construction is on track to obtain LEED certification, including the luxurious and trendy Viceroy hotel, slated to open Christmas 2009

Amenities to Anticipate

On tap for the 2008-2009 ski season are a number of projects, including Junk and Liquid Sky, a potentially trendsetting establishment run by the owner of the Playboy Club in Las Vegas. Patrons will be able to buy $400 bottles of vodka in surroundings that will include an 800-pound replica of an elephant, two indoors bars, two outdoor bars, flaming torches, smoking cauldrons and outdoor showers.

Other restaurants opening this winter include Buchi, a Japanese restaurant run by Jeff Klein, the co-founder of Matsuhisa in Aspen.

The Sweet Life will have more family appeal, and its location is a testament to that. Located across from the Treehouse day care and ski school building, the Sweet Life plans to serve up comfort food like chicken lollipops and Sloppy Joe Sliders. If that won’t get the kids licking their chops (and their fingers), the downstairs creamery with 250 flavors of ice cream will.

Capitol Peak Lodge and Hayden Lodge, comprised of more than 100 residences, will open in the winter of 2008/2009, complete with heated underground parking and decks overlooking the ski hill.

And that’s not all. Related WestPac plans to double the size of the Snowmass supermarket and post office, and the town’s 1970s-era outdoor mall will soon be razed to make way for a European-style ski village.

Times, they are a-changin’ at Snowmass.

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