A race to the finish for Buttermilk’s base overhaul | VailDaily.com

A race to the finish for Buttermilk’s base overhaul

First goal is to have a fully-renovated Buttermilk Mountain Lodge restaurant open to the public on Dec. 17

Workers walk in front of the new guest services building on Wednesday, Nov. 23, 2022, at Buttermilk Ski Area.
Austin Colbert/the Aspen Times

With less than a month to go before Buttermilk’s Opening Day, a small army is marching toward the completion of a $23-million overhaul of the base of the ski area.

The first goal is to have a fully-renovated Buttermilk Mountain Lodge restaurant, formerly known as Bumps, be open to the public on Dec. 17, according to Dana Dalla Betta, senior project manager for Aspen Skiing Co.

“We are working around the clock; we’re working seven days a week to get ready for opening,” she said, acknowledging that breaking ground in April and being ready for the ski season was an ambitious undertaking just in terms of time.

But then, factor in the challenges of staffing and supply-chain interruptions, along with a rainy summer and an early winter with lots of snow, and it gets more complicated.

As a result, the new guest-services building, which replaces the old green building located across from the lodge, will not be finished in time for opening day.

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The goal for that portion of the base overhaul is to get it open before the X Games in late January.

“It was supposed to be ready for opening, as well, and so it’s tracking roughly a month behind schedule for that mid-January opening,” Dalla Betta said.

She cited one example of the supply-chain challenges the project has faced with a major mechanical piece of equipment.

A view inside the new guest-services building on Wednesday, Nov. 23, 2022, at Buttermilk Ski Area.
Austin Colbert/the Aspen Times

“We were told a week after it was supposed to ship that it was not yet built,” Dalla Betta said. “It was being built in the U.S. and by a major manufacturer, but they just don’t have all the parts and pieces they need to be able to finish it — and that was despite placing orders in January of 2022.”

But, when Skico and its partners CCY Architects and FCI Constructors are finished, it will be a much more cohesive guest experience and a more pleasurable dining and après scene, according to Skico officials.

A much-needed facelift

Besides the construction of The Hideout, a kids’ center, along with improvements to vehicle circulation, pedestrian walkways, and landscaping in 2013, there hasn’t been any redevelopment of the base of Buttermilk for nearly three decades.

Bumps, which remains at its original 21,500 square feet, was built in 1993, and the green building where the new guest-services area is located was built in the mid-1960s.

The guest-services building, at just under 10,000 square feet, will be a one-stop-shop for visitors who need tickets, ski-school services, rentals and day lockers — some of which used to be located in Bumps.

“It will be all under one roof and super easy for a guest to navigate,” Dalla Betta said. “That was intentional because Buttermilk welcomes a lot of newer skiers and people that are not as familiar with the process.”

Temporary tents will be erected as construction continues on the new building for people needing guest services.

A view inside the new guest-services building on Wednesday, Nov. 23, 2022, at Buttermilk Ski Area.
Austin Colbert/the Aspen Times

However, Buttermilk Mountain Manager Buck Erickson said the Skico marketing department will be driving home the message to people with reservations to pre-purchase their tickets and print them at a pickup box onsite, as well as rent equipment at alternative Four Mountain Sports locations and have it transferred by Skico.

“With ticketing, we took this as an opportunity to try some new technology in the self-service model,” Dalla Betta said.

The Buttermilk Mountain Lodge gained some additional space by relocating the staircase outside of the building. Inside, the space has been renovated with light and dark woods, with white and gray accents and new furniture.

The servery — which will still offer the traditional fare like pasta, soups, salads, pizza, and the grill — has a better flow to it and less of a cafeteria feel, Dalla Betta said.

The bar area is larger and features a garage door that opens to an outdoor area called The Backyard, where après drinks, large TVs, grills, and music will be offered to guests on a patio that is 30% larger.

“I think there is a lot that’s familiar about Buttermilk Mountain Lodge that guests will really enjoy,” Dalla Bella said. “We really tried to enhance the space and environment that was there already … the architecture of the beams and wood is all there, so it feels very much like a mountain ski lodge — just refreshed and updated.”

The road to electrification

As part of Skico’s effort to move to electric in all its facilities, there will be no snowmelt on the patio, but there will be electric radiant heaters and natural wood firepits.

“The skiers-services building is also all electric, and we do that intentionally because we support Holy Cross’ grid in fully-renewable energy,” Dalla Betta said. “It performs 20% better than the building code and is a super energy-efficient building envelope.”

Upward of 70% of the old green building demolition waste was recycled, which meets Pitkin County’s new rules aimed at reducing construction and demolition debris from the landfill.

A work in progress

Finishing touches to both buildings will likely occur in the spring as the time frame to get them open closes in the coming weeks.

“We are working towards getting both buildings fully operational, approved by the building department and we’ll fine tune things over the course of the season,” Dalla Betta said. “Hopefully, it feels much more like a cohesive base village and more on par with what a guest expectation would be of an Aspen/Snowmass resort, and, really, the goal here is to take that new skier, the person who’s never had this experience before and make it really easy for them, make it really intuitive, and get them out on the hill as quick as possible and having fun.”

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