Winter Park Resort builds new 16,000 square-foot facility at favorite picnic spot |

Winter Park Resort builds new 16,000 square-foot facility at favorite picnic spot

A new Lunch Rock facility at Winter Park Resort may be open by December of 2014, in celebration of the resort's 75th Anniversary.
Winter Park Resort |

New Lunch Rock by the Numbers

16,000 square foot interior space

2,300 square foot deck

$8 million budget (including infrastructure for sewer line, etc.)

250-seat indoor restaurant

150-seat surface heated deck

1985: The year the now demolished original Lunch Rock was built

Track progress and see more photos at

Visitors to Winter Park Resort will be dining at a much larger and more modern Lunch Rock restaurant by next Christmas. Construction to replace the dated eatery and warming hut at the Mary Jane complex began in April.

“It’s a pretty tight schedule,” said Gary DeFrange, president of Winter Park Resort. “We started before the resort even closed.”

Demolition of the old facility, which was built in 1985, began April 21.

Lunch Rock sits near the convergence of three lifts—two from Mary Jane and the High Lonesome lift from Winter Park. According to DeFrange, the previous restaurant’s 40-person capacity did not suit the traffic levels, nor were the restrooms sufficient for the high volume of skiers and riders.

“It’s been on the books for a while and we decided this was the year to do it.”
Gary DeFrange, president, chief operating officer of Winter Park Resort

“That drove the decision [to rebuild],” he said. “It’s been on the books for a while and we decided this was the year to do it.”

The new Lunch Rock’s opening will coincide with Winter Park Resort’s 75th Anniversary celebration.

The Winter Park Resort master plan approved in 2005 proposed the new lodge/restaurant. Detailed plans of the 16,000 square foot structure were submitted to the Sulphur Ranger District of the United States Forest Service, which owns the land on which the ski resort operates, in January of 2014.

The location and name of Lunch Rock have historical significance. The spot has a natural spring nearby and was a popular picnic destination for hikers long before the ski resort existed.

Because of that, changing the name was never under consideration.

“We’ve had calls from people who know we’re building a new restaurant,” DeFrange said. “One of the things they tell us is: ‘Don’t change the name.’”

Design and build at 11,200 feet

The new design began with a concept developed by Winter Park Resort with input from the United States Forest Service and CalCon Constructors, the contractor designee for the project.

“The building will fit into the environment,” said DeFrange, adding that they’ve chosen lots of stone, reclaimed wood and beetle kill to reflect the natural surroundings.

The design takes advantage of the natural features of the site, including spectacular views of James and Parry peaks and Parsenn Bowl. The outdoor deck is sheltered from prevailing winds that can cause frigid temperatures during the colder months.

Nick Schade, ski-area permit administrator for the Sulphur Ranger District, was impressed with Winter Park Resort’s awareness of their impact on the fragile alpine habitat that exists at 11,200 feet.

“They take the sensitive alpine plants and sediments aside and water them and keep them alive,” he said. Some of the large natural boulders have also been saved to reincorporate into the landscape.

“Winter Park Resort is great to work with,” he said. “They try to design their projects so they are as environmentally friendly as possible.”

The original environmental impact assessment for the project was done in 2006, after the master plan was submitted to the U.S. Forest Service. A public comment period was part of that process, according to Schade. To his knowledge, no major objections were raised at that time.

CalCon, an Englewood-based company with an office in Steamboat Springs, was selected to oversee the project after successfully completing a similar structure, “I had a known budget put together. We knew we could do a similar building in a similar timeline,” said project manager Jim Kohler. “Which is ridiculous,” he adds jokingly of the demanding construction schedule.

Kohler descibed several steps they took to expedite the project.

“If you clear the snow before it melts, you can get a relatively dry job site,” he said.

They also use steel as the structural base.

“The reason we go with steel: snow loads are 200 pounds a square-foot at that location. With steel it’s easier to design for those loads. We can pre-fabricate it in a shop. As soon as footings are done, we can stand steel,” Kohler said.

But building at such a high altitude with limited road access brings challenges.

Transporting materials up to the remote site was one hurdle. Kohler said they determined semi-trucks were not an option but concrete trucks and other vehicles could navigate the steep road and tight turns.

The road will be unavailable for recreation this summer from Tunnel Hill to Lunch Rock, unless otherwise posted or as part of resort-sanctioned events. A written statement from the resort advises: “With heavy construction traffic on the road, it is simply not safe to allow either uphill or downhill bike riding, hiking, unauthorized vehicles or other activities.”

The weather at tree line is another factor to weigh as the building goes up.

“It was still snowing up there three weeks ago,” said DeFrange. “The schedule allows for weather delays.”

The major infrastructure work being done are new sewer and gas lines that will tie in at Sunspot, replacing the dated septic system the old structure used. It “They call them the Rocky Mountains for a reason,” joked DeFrange of the massive amounts of rock they have to remove to lay the lines.

Kohler is confident that it will be done on time.

“It has to go fast. We’ve got a very good team and they understand the sequence of events. You have to have a lot of people working at the same place at the same time,” he said. “It will be ready for ski season.”

The final product is something that all parties involved feel will better serve the guests. DeFrange described the interior bar with artesian beers on tap, seating with Continental Divide views, as well as some 21st Century necessities.

“There will be a place to charge cell phones all around the perimeter of the dining room. And the building will have Wi-Fi,” he said.

The restaurant will be operated by the resort with a varied menu that is still being planned, but will be more extensive than the hot dogs, burgers and chili formerly served there. The new Lunch Rock will also be available for summer events such as weddings.

Schade explained that, even though it may seem counterintuitive for the forest service to have million dollar buildings on its land, it does fit with their values.

“With a ski area, it’s a little bit different,” he said. “One of our values is getting people recreating on U.S. Forest Service Lands,” he said. In this case, the infrastructure and building support the recreation of skiing and other snow sports.

“So it’s really a win-win for the ski resort and the Forest Service,” he said.

At the time of publication, the Sky Hi News could not find anyone who was willing to go on the record saying they would miss the old Lunch Rock.

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