Pikes Peak Summit Complex Newsletter 
February 2021
A Different Approach to Construction

Did you see the movie, The Martian? The story is about a stranded visitor and how he used his wits and spirit to survive in harsh environmental conditions on the planet Mars. While the environment "up there" is vastly different than what we have "down here" on Earth, the Pikes Peak Summit is at 14,115 ft. above sea level. And that's about as close to space as most of us will ever get while standing on solid ground. So it makes sense that the design and contractor teams used an innovative approach while constructing the new Pikes Peak Summit Complex Project. They didn't use a "beam me up Scottie" system to transport materials to the top of that mountain, but they are thoroughly tested to see how those components would perform at high altitude. "We didn't just want to get the design right, we wanted to get it ALL right before materials were specified in the final design. We are confident with the decisions that were made and are excited with our solutions." -Alan Reed, GWWO, Inc. Architects of Baltimore, project partner with local RTA Architects.

The harsh environment on top of Pikes Peak requires a very different approach to construction of the new Summit Visitor Center. Pete Jefferson, an engineer on the project team from M.E. GROUP says, "We wanted a proven track record for anything we considered putting up on the summit -- simple and durable. Any vulnerability of materials on the summit were exploited because of the harsh climate and elevation. Things need to perform. Materials are rated for performance up to 10,000 ft., but then the charts just stop. So we requested custom materials from manufacturers." In addition to customized construction materials, the project team worked to manage resources like water and energy with sustainability as a primary goal.

Public comments reflected concerns about the amount of glass in the recommended design. People were wondering if it will hold up. "I'd say that the team has been judicious in our use of glass. The whole building has very little glass relative to the building size. We conducted analysis and modeling on performance of the glass to provide the best possible climate inside the building," said Jefferson.

Stuart Coppedge of RTA Architects offers an additional perspective on windows and glass. "We also worked on window glazing to make it as efficient as possible and control glare. The whole point is to have the great views. We found a glazing system that provides the energy efficiency we need, durability and glare control, while allowing for the views. We're pretty excited about the result," said Coppedge.

A Collaborative Mission Control Project Team
Every successful project involves team members who are clear about the mission and know how to communicate and cooperate. The Pikes Peak Summit Complex team is as organized and professional as they come.

"One of the best thing about the team is that the initial planning meetings involved all the stakeholders from the beginning (2015); it's been great to have all the "major five" permit holders in attendance," said Pete Jefferson, an engineer on the project team from M.E. GROUP. "This was an integrated design and all the stakeholders and team had a different perspective. But it's a very non-bureaucratic process. It was impressive the way the agencies helped the project navigate through the design and construction process. They knew how to get the answers we needed to get things done and keep the process moving forward. This is especially exciting since we are so close to completion," said Jefferson.

Stuart Coppedge of RTA Architects agrees. "Yes, all of the parts and pieces have to work together better than on any typical project, even one that has very aspirational goals for energy conservation. You really don't get any breaks at the top of Pikes Peak and must think through everything carefully. We have worked closely with GE Johnson, the general contractor, and their subcontractors. Together we've defining what will and won't work up there in the harsh environment atop of the summit. It's a collaborative approach from all the teams to get the best possible cost efficiencies and the most durability and energy efficiencies."

Coppedge added, "Aramark, the concessionaire for the Summit Visitor Center, came to the table to look at the menu, not only to provide healthier food but also to reduce the energy impact. But, we won't sacrifice the donuts!"

It's a good bet that the astronauts never got donuts on their journey to the moon. And Pikes Peak isn't outer space. But the challenges faced during all phases of the Summit Complex construction process were taken seriously! Project partners have incorporated materials that support the integrity of the structure, comfort of the public, judicious management of sustainable resources and respect for the environment.

My Mountain | Ambassador

Third-generation Colorado Springs' resident Mel McFarland worked on the Pikes Peak Cog Railway for 16 years as a conductor. McFarland is active in local history pursuits and has worked with newspapers, schools, and historical sources in preserving local railroad history

"Pikes Peak is my mountain because growing up in Colorado Springs it was a landmark. Not only in youth, but growing up on Pikes Peak, the mountain has become a friend."
Mel McFarland - Local Historian
CLICK HERE to find out more

Thank you, Mel for being an ambassador for Pikes Peak - America's Mountain! 
The Drive / James Gilboy

Pikes Peak isn't America's tallest mountain, but it is, without a doubt, its most famous. Hundreds of thousands flock each year to its slopes to witness one of the world's most extreme motor races against a backdrop that inspired the poem and anthem, America the Beautiful, one perhaps best enjoyed from the Manitou & Pikes Peak Cog Railway (M&PPCR). In October 2017, however, the incredible views were no more after rail service was halted to perform a $100-million renovation job that will completed this Spring.

When it is done, it'll be ready to run year-round with the help of a specialized snowblower the M&PPCR ordered from one of the world's most mountainous countries: Switzerland.

Built by Zaugg, the snowblower uses cutting reels nearly four feet across to grind away drifts as deep as 10 and as wide as 20 feet, according to Trains Magazine. These will enable the Swiss-built, Mad Max-looking snowblower to break down up to 4,200 tons of snow per hour - that's 2,333 pounds per second - which it can spit as far as 100 feet from the line.
Officials from Zaugg oversaw the snowblower's final inspection in November, 2020, accompanied by representatives from Swiss rolling stock manufacturer Stadler. Its trainsets will immigrate to Colorado, where they will shuttle passengers up the 14,115-foot Pikes Peak year-round to the newly renovated Summit Visitor Center, famed for its high-altitude donuts.

Though construction on both is still ongoing, the Pikes Peak Summit Complex is expected to reopen at about the same time as the cog railway, which is scheduled to resume service in late May 2021. Given how people will be anxious to get back out following the pandemic, the ticket lines should be expected to last almost as long as the ride up.
Donuts in the Sky: GE Johnson continues to build Pikes Peak Summit Complex

Pikes Peak - America's Mountain is one of Colorado's many 14ers, but the only one with a bustling visitor center that serves scientifically crafted, fresh donuts. A special recipe has traditionally been used to fry donuts at 14,115-feet, where the air is thinner, and water has a lower boiling point. To get the delicious fried treats and experience breathtaking views, visitors can hike, bike, or drive up the mountain.

On an already difficult job, the team never thought that donuts would present an additional challenge. The new donut machine for the Summit Complex weighs more than 1,500 pounds and is too large to fit through most of the door openings, so the team installed the machine early in the project. Rob Clough, GE Johnson superintendent, jokes that the Summit Complex was essentially built around the new donut machine. 

"It's in the building and is a self-contained machine. We also found a backup machine that is smaller in size so it can be moved in and out of storage in the facility when needed to make sure donuts are always available," said Clough. 

The new machine, the highest fryer in North America producing more than 500,000 donuts a year, meets Living Building Challenge (LBC) guidelines that specify requirements to positively impact the place, community, and culture of the project. Concessionaire Aramark will be using the same donut recipe that has been passed down since 1916, which only works at the 14,115-foot elevation or higher. According to Tammy McIntyre, national director of retail operations for Aramark, the fresh donuts can be tossed with the guests' selection of signature seasonings, sugar, cocoa, cinnamon, cardamom and coriander, or sugar and cinnamon and nutmeg. This is a new feature for the Summit's delicious baked good! 
Article submitted by GE Johnson.
The Live Camera Feed is currently not operational due to the construction on the summit. CHECK BACK to view a LIVE camera feed from contractor GE Johnson.

Be part of Pikes Peak forever. Give your family and friends something priceless - their name on America's Mountain - when you support the new Pikes Peak Summit Complex.

How Your Gift Helps
The new Summit Visitor Center is scheduled to open spring 2021. Generous donors have already contributed more than $12.5 million, bringing us over 83% of our $15 million fundraising campaign goal. Several opportunities remain to leave your own lasting legacy through sponsorships at  the new Pikes Peak Summit Complex. For more information, send an email to:  Campaign.dl@coloradosprings.gov 
Your gift will be used to help the Summit Complex reach "Living Building Challenge" certification, the world's most progressive environmental performance standard. Living Buildings safeguard the environment, preserve the surrounding habitat, and contribute to human health.

February construction updates:


As construction crews enter the third and final winter building the Summit Complex on top of Pikes Peak, the project team plans to continue work through the winter, pushing to complete interiors. Instead of using shuttle passenger vans that were used in the summer, 4x4 SUV's will truck workers safely up to the site through wintery conditions. 

The Summit Complex project is approximately 65 percent complete, with the project team having finished all exterior building slabs in October 2020, as well as completing 100 percent of the exterior glazing and roofing systems in early November 2020 to make the building weather tight. The project is currently projected for completion in spring 2021. The old Summit House, constructed in 1963, is now closed to enable safe construction of the new complex.

The following work has been completed: all drywall finishing, curtainwall system, back of house ceiling grid, plaza window shutter protection, interior lobby stairway and main lobby stonework, and elevator installation.
Starting in February:
  • Restroom tile
  • Interior lobby stairway tile finish
  • Tile in lobby, retail and kitchen areas
  • Mechanical, electrical and plumbing systems startups
Clint Vahsholtz crossed the finished line at the summit of Pikes Peak in a time of 9 minute, 35.490 seconds during the 98th running of The Broadmoor Pikes Peak International Hill Climb. Courtesy of Leif Bergerson


Woodland Park native Clint Vahsholtz won the coveted King of the Mountain title during the 98th running of The Broadmoor Pikes Peak International Hill Climb, presented by Gran Turismo.

Vahsholtz, a 1989 Woodland Park High School graduate, long ago established himself as one of the greatest drivers in the history of the famed race. His 23 class victories leading up to the Aug. 30, 2020 event were the most of any competitor since the race was founded in 1916 by philanthropist Spencer Penrose.

Meet the Driver, See the Car and Hear about his experiences.
  • Noon - 2 p.m., Saturday, February 27
  • Location: Vahsholtz Automotive, 116 N. Pine Street, Woodland Park, CO
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