Ski In Ski Out

Inside Gwyn's High Alpine Mid-Life Makeover

Snowmass’s iconic on-mountain dining spot gets a much-needed remodel from Z-Group Architects.

By Cindy Hirschfeld November 23, 2016 Published in the Holiday 2016 issue of Aspen Sojourner

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The revamped entrance to Gwyn's High Alpine.

Since George Gordon and his then-wife Gwyn first took over a Snowmass on-mountain restaurant in 1979, a lot has changed. The establishment, which was renamed Gwyn’s High Alpine, became a local institution; new lifts went up nearby, helping attract more clientele; George and Gwyn divorced but remain business partners; and their daughter, Whitney, is now the manager of Gwyn’s, the more formal, sit-down part of the operation. Through it all, though, a commitment to good food, friendly service, and hands-on oversight by George and Gwyn (now Knowlton) has remained. So when it came time for a much-needed building remodel this year, “we wanted people to see it as different yet the same,” says Jim “Gus” Gustafson, principal of Z-Group Architects, which oversaw the renovation.

The biggest changes were to the cafeteria area and the restrooms. The former now has a more modern “marketplace” configuration for food service, with a center island and assorted stations. The bathrooms were blessedly relocated from the lowest level to the ground floor. The bar, too, was brought upstairs; some 50 guests can now sip cocktails in the glow of a new wood-burning fireplace.

The original lower-level bar has been turned into a lounge area, with coffee and grab-and-go snacks. Outdoor decks were expanded. And everywhere, there’s more light, thanks to ample glass and added dormers in the roofline. “Every level has twice the amount of windows as before,” enthuses Knowlton.

Along with updates to the building came additions to the menu. Diners on the cafeteria side will find old favorites like Brunswick stew joined by more daily soups, an expanded selection of rice bowls and wraps, and specialty flatbreads. At Gwyn’s, new options include lobster fondue, a tenderloin steak sandwich, and grilled peach and caramelized onion burrata. A large outdoor smoker allows for more variety in smoked meats and fish—smoked trout eggs Benedict, for instance, at breakfast.

As for the question that’s on many a regular’s mind: yes, the glider that has long hung from the rafters in the midlevel dining area is still there. In 1980, flying that very plane, Knowlton became the first female pilot to win a stage at the national glider championships—and she remains the only woman to do so. Sometimes, it’s wise not to mess too much with an icon.

Ski in to the $5.9 million dollar remodel of the iconic on-mountain lodge for a grand opening celebration on Sunday at 11 a.m. with complimentary drinks, appetizers, and speeches. Speakers include Aspen Skiing Company’s Mike Kaplan, CEO and David Corbin, VP of Planning & Development, United States Forest Service’s Scott Fitzwilliams and the Knowlton/Gordon family. 


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