SNOWMASS - Aspen Skiing Co. is planning some special activities this winter to help the new Elk Camp Restaurant become a focal point of Snowmass Ski Area.
The restaurant is scheduled to open at the start of the season at Thanksgiving, though a grand opening will take place Dec. 21, according to David Perry, Skico senior vice president of mountain operations. Starting Dec. 28, the restaurant will be open Friday nights and will make a special effort to cater to families.
"Every Friday night for the rest of the winter (after the grand opening), we're going to have apres night for families: dining, sledding, skating. We're going to build a giant ice castle," Perry said.
During the 14 Friday nights that the restaurant will be open to the public, sledding will be offered in the Meadows beginner area, according to Skico's plan. Ice skating will be offered at Rayburn's Pond. The sledding and skating will be available only on the Friday nights that the restaurant is open to the public. Skico will evaluate opening the ice castle to its customers during the day. That snow structure will be tucked into a nook in the Meadows beginner area.
Skico invested $13 million in the Elk Camp Restaurant, which was constructed over the past two summers. The 14,769-square-foot structure replaces the 17,500-square-foot Cafe Suzanne. While the new restaurant is smaller, Skico officials said it is designed better. Nearly all operations are on one floor. It seats 250 in the main dining room, 150 on an outdoor deck, 25 at the bar and 90 in a special place reserved for kids in ski school.
The restaurant also will be the centerpiece of Skico's summertime activities on the mountain starting in 2013.
In addition to completing the restaurant, Skico's main summer projects featured thinning dead and dying trees in areas such as Hyde Park Traverse at Aspen Highlands, the Tiehack Glades at Buttermilk and on Burnt Mountain.
The company envisioned thinning trees to connect natural parks on 230 acres on Burnt Mountain. The intent was to add skiing and riding with a backcountry feel similar to Long Shot, the only existing trail on Burnt Mountain. The terrain is accessible after a short, uphill hike.
Skico had permission from the White River National Forest supervisor's office to thin areas on Burnt Mountain, but the project was challenged by a Pinedale, Wyo.-based environmental organization. The Forest Service asked Skico to put the project on hold, at least temporarily. A federal judge is expected to rule this fall on the Ark Initiative's request to block the project.
Perry said the glading at Highlands and Tiehack provides better access through the targeted areas.
"There's more to be done. As we go year by year, there's more and more opportunities to glade some of the forests, which improves the forest health and gives better skiing," Perry said. "We get expanded terrain without moving boundaries."