High Points: We can be Hero’s

Paul E. Anna
High Points
New Aspen Skiing Co. CEO Geoff Buchheister talks during the annual Afternoon Blend event on Tuesday, Sept. 12, 2023, at Buttermilk Mountain Lodge in Aspen.
Austin Colbert/The Aspen Times

The revelation blew in with the forceful feeling of a fresh, September snowstorm.

On Tuesday, Aspen Skiing Co. made an official announcement that will reverberate long into the future, as they introduced the world to the new names for the ski runs in the area on Aspen Mountain that was formerly known as Pandora’s and will now be known as Hero’s.

The new section of the mountain, which will make its debut this ski season, represents the biggest upgrade for skiers on Aspen Mountain since the introduction of the gondola back in 1986. It came about as a result of the efforts of many in Skico, led by the late Jim Crown, along with current and past employees, including recently-retired President Mike Kaplan and Vice President Rich Burkley, who worked with the U.S. Forrest Service to permit the new, double-black-diamond expert ski terrain. 

While skiers have for years skied the out-of-bounds region, reveling in runs like the sweet and steep Harris’s Wall and Powerline, this season, the area has been gladed, and a new high-speed quad chairlift was added to provide access to a north-facing gem of an area that holds powder throughout the season. The addition will add 150 acres of new chutes, glades, and trails with 1,220 vertical feet on a ski hill that many have long considered to be the best in the world.

It has always amazed me that Aspen Mountain, which until this season had right around 675 in-bounds acres (tiny by resort standards), could ski so big. But the way the mountain is situated with the runs falling off the sides of dramatic steep ridges like Bell Mountain has always made it feel bigger than it actually is. Now, with 20% more inbounds skiing in Hero’s, Ajax only gets better.

The announcement came at an annual gathering called “Afternoon Blend” hosted by the Aspen Chamber Resort Association and Aspen Snowmass held at the newly-remodeled Buttermilk Mountain Lodge. New Aspen Skiing Co. CEO Geoff Buchheister — who is in charge of all mountain operations — took to the podium to announce that Pandora’s will now be known as Hero’s. A ski map rendition was revealed that showed 26 (by my count) named runs. The majority of the runs empty into three gladed areas: Pancake House Glade, El Avalanchero, and E=MSK12 Glade.

He also announced a series of new names for the double black diamonds — led by Jim’s — obviously an homage to the late Jim Crown, who for 37 years was the managing partner of Skico prior to his untimely death this past summer at the Woody Creek racetrack.

In a statement, Buchheister noted, “With Jim’s unexpected passing, we took some time to reflect on the family’s and our company’s enormous loss and the naming of this historic expansion, Jim’s legacy, and broad impact in Aspen stretched over 35 years, alongside many others we are also choosing to honor. We felt it was meaningful and appropriate to recognize all of the heroes who are tied to this terrain as we unveil this new project.”

Other runs are named for Aspen historical figures including Elli Iselin (Elli’s) — the first female ski instructor in Aspen and a longtime purveyor of ski clothing — and 10th Mountain soldier Percy Rideout. Three, late, pivotal ski patrol members, Eric Edward Kinsman (E.E.K.!) Cory Brettmann (Cory Bob), and Tim Howe (El Avalanchero), who originally coined the name Pandora’s Box, will be remembered with named runs, as well. The past melds with the present. But I think the most popular selfie just may be at the signpost for the run called Legal Tender.

It has been a sad summer following the death of Jim Crown. Tuesday’s announcement feels like a turn to a brighter future.

Let’s all look forward to a great winter ski season. It’s getting closer.

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