Fresh perspective: Sculptor creates intricate 3D map of Aspen Mountain |

Fresh perspective: Sculptor creates intricate 3D map of Aspen Mountain

John Doyle learned many of the nooks and crannies, gullies and knolls of the backside of Aspen Mountain through exploration over the decades. Now he’s sharing that knowledge via a 3D map he created.

“It’s something I’ve wanted to do for 25 years,” he said. “I really like maps.”

He took that love and combined it with training from architecture school to create a painstakingly intricate map and model of the beloved mountain. The work required precise math skills, cutting with an X-Acto knife and patience beyond belief. He put in an estimated 150 hours, starting around Halloween and finishing in early December.

Anyone who loves staring at historical dioramas in museums will love this map. It has representations of all the buildings in Aspen, including homes on Red Mountain. The major waterways are depicted — Hunter Creek, the Roaring Fork River and Castle Creek.

The ski lifts of Aspen Mountain are drawn in and the map is of sufficient detail to allow a viewer to see his or her favorite terrain on Ajax in perspective.

The public national forest lands are in green, offset from the private property in white. It drives home the point that Aspen Mountain is largely a jumble of privately held mining claims.

Doyle’s creation stretches from Hallam Lake in Aspen to about where Little Annie Road crawls up the backside. That way, he said, he can show where most of the cabins and a handful of larger second homes are located. Little dots in the vast landscape represent the residences.

The map covers from 7,800 feet in elevation to 11,520 feet in 60-foot intervals. It represents an area 3 miles wide by 5 miles long.

“It’s not a perfect representation, but it’s close,” he said.

Doyle started the project by acquiring large maps from the Pitkin County GIS department. He cut off portions of the maps and glued them to foam core to create the different layers of Aspen Mountain, working up from the lowest elevation. He created 62 levels.

Doyle’s familiarity with the backside helped immensely. He lived full time in various cabins on Aspen Mountain from 1988 to 2004. He and his wife still own a cabin on the mountain and visit frequently. He was an early supporter of Pitkin County’s decision to create a new land-use zone called Rural and Remote in 1994 to prevent the backside of Ajax from becoming another Red Mountain, developed with McMansions, utilities and roads.

The desire to keep the mountain zoned Rural and Remote partially inspired his work on the map. The Pitkin County commissioners are scheduled to revisit Aspen Skiing Co.’s Pandora’s expansion plan in January. The former application, which was tabled, required a zoning change of some land from Rural and Remote to Ski-Recreation. The latest application isn’t available yet so it’s unknown if the proposal has changed.

Doyle said he made the map in part to help the county commissioners better visualize the Pandora’s terrain and proposed chairlift, which is drawn on the map. The 3D view also puts the terrain into perspective, both on the mountain and where Pandora’s sits in relation to the North Star Nature Preserve, down in the valley floor.

Doyle, a wood sculptor, also created the map as a commercial venture. The map is for sale, though he wouldn’t disclose the price. Any perspective buyer needs to look at it to fully appreciate it, he said. He also offers to create custom maps of other favorite local mountains such as Capitol Peak or Mount Sopris. He can be reached at