The Dream Ski House

Mountain Life
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Mountain Life

We asked a noted Aspen architect to design the perfect ski house. The result is versatile, efficient, surprisingly affordable-and even romantic.Skiers are people who revel in the out-of-doors, so it's no surprise that Aspen architect and skier Harry Teague has come up with a dream ski house celebrating the outdoors. No multi-media rooms, libraries or walk-in wine cellars in this getaway-just an innovative execution of classic mountain architecture.

"I try to use the building to create outdoor rooms," says Teague, who, coincidentally, helped the late Fritz Benedict, a renowned ski-country architect, create SKI Magazine's first dream ski house-in the spring 1967 issue.

Teague's 2,200-square-foot home is designed with easy-to-build standard dimensions and would work on a flat site or a long, narrow lot. But it's best suited to a north-facing hill-in other words, the bottom of a ski mountain. The long, east-west axis of the house runs across the hill, while the back (south) side sits into the mountain. That allows arriving skiers to step right onto the striking second-floor deck, an innovation that makes this structure stand apart.

While much of the house is traditional-peaked roof, straight lines, big fireplace-the outdoor deck separating the master bedroom from the kitchen and living room is a novel interpretation of a porch. It's integral to the house, giving hot-tubbers or barbecuers a sense of privacy and protection from prevailing west winds-even while it is open to the sky and surrounding lands.

The upper floor of the building functions as two separate structures. To the east is the 16-by-36-foot main room, a generous, vaulted space that feels like a traditional ski lodge. A fireplace at the east end is visible the length of the room and into the open-plan kitchen. Windows are drawn right up to the corners of the building, which makes the corners vanish and opens the room to the outside.

The master bedroom, 16 feet square, feels like a separate ski cabin. "Hopefully, this has some romance," Teague says. "You can tell you're all by yourself-there's a window in every wall. I think romance is very important." The bedroom may be reached directly off the deck, or by traveling along the lower level hallway and up a set of stairs.Two more bedrooms and a second bath lie beneath the deck and master bedroom. Combined with a loft over the kitchen, these rooms allow the ski house to sleep eight people comfortably on that big group weekend.

Visitors, if they don't ski up to the deck, walk up to a door on the center of the north side of the house, entering an airlock-style mudroom that also opens to the spacious garage. A straight stairway leads them up into the main room.

Borrowing from New England and industrial building traditions, Teague pushes this stairway out from the 16-by-72-foot house envelope, effectively hanging it outside the framework, then enclosing it. This avoids disrupting the framing of the building and keeps construction costs down. He also included lockable storage units under the stairs (handy if you rent your house out).

The balance of the lower floor is dedicated to a generous one-car garage. It is 12 feet wide and 24 feet long, leaving plenty of room for a ski bench and storage for skis, bikes, kayaks and all the other requisite toys. The washer and dryer are set just off the mudroom, which at 8 feet on a side leaves enough space for boot heaters and dripping powder suits.

The long and narrow shape of the house makes for two less apparent benefits. First, excavation costs are kept to a minimum when setting the narrow axis of the house into the hill. Second, the sleeping quarters are well isolated from the main room.

"There's always a group up playing and partying, and there's another group going to bed early to get the 8 am lift," Teague explains.

The architect believes this house would fit into any mountain town in North America, as long as the exterior treatments are locally appropriate: a painted metal roof in New England, for example, and rusted, corrugated steel in the Rockies (both shed snow well). The lower floor is encasedd in local stone to integrate the building into the mountain and further set the wood-clad upper floor and deck apart, emphasizing the sense of two-buildings-in-one that helps make this a true dream ski house.

Construction costs vary from region to region, but in much of ski country this house could be built for about $100 per square foot, or $220,000. In Teague's pricey hometown of Aspen, the home would run about $150 per square foot, or $330,000. Of course in Aspen, the lot would cost four times that much.