When Snowmass visitors enter its base village plaza starting December 15, the first thing they’ll see is the Limelight Hotel’s rock climbing wall—the visual centerpiece of the resort’s recent $600 million redevelopment. Encased in five stories of glass, the 54-foot behemoth (the state’s second-tallest indoor climbing wall) offers more than size: It was made to resemble part of nearby Independence Pass. How did Boulder-based Eldorado Climbing Walls raise Limelight’s work of art to its full, rock-realistic potential? One foothold at a time.

Rendering courtesy of Eldorado Climbing Walls
  1. Before Eldorado workers arrived in Snowmass, they spent about two weeks welding together 47 steel pieces to construct a skeleton for the wall—in Boulder. The company then shipped the 7,000-pound frame to the Limelight.
  2. In collaboration with the hotel’s HVAC crew, Eldorado employees installed a ventilation system inside the skeleton so all that exertion wouldn’t turn the glass enclosure into a steam room.
  3. Crews wrapped 10 to 12 rolls of four-by-150-foot poultry netting (the material that keeps chickens from flying the coop) around the steel to strengthen the forthcoming concrete.
  4. Two hose operators sprayed five inches of concrete over the mesh, followed by another two inches. The second coat forms the face of the mountain.
  5. Eldorado employs three carvers who’ve received specific training to learn to sculpt concrete into realistic-looking rock. (There’s also a specialty carver who only gets called in for high-profile projects like this one.) These professionals used trowels as well as custom tools—such as kitchen spoons with sharp, grinded-down handles—to mimic the texture of Independence Pass’ weathered granite.
  6. Project foreman Wayne Collins painted the wall himself—in sandstone and cappuccino colors—and sprayed fine black, white, and gray hues on top to create the grainy look of granite. Next, Collins added water and more paint to imitate the trademark water stains at the Grotto, a popular climbing destination on Independence Pass.
  7. East West Partners, the developers behind the base village’s renovation, wanted the wall to be a focal point of the plaza outside. Solution: a glass facade.
  8. Experienced climbers can scale the wall using the cracks and bumps made by the carvers. For those who need a bit more help, Eldorado workers screwed in 750 nuts and attached 250 plastic handholds, creating six different routes of varying difficulties. The myriad nuts mean the holds can be rearranged to form countless ascents.