No small feat: Aspen Skiing Co. wants to improve Eden at Highlands | AspenTimes.com

No small feat: Aspen Skiing Co. wants to improve Eden at Highlands

Skiers start up the Higland Peak trail on the morning of April 8, 2017. Aspen Skiing Co. is looking at glading terrain in the Olympic Bowl area and down the road perhaps "moving up" the mountain in the Loge Bowl, a Skico official said Tuesday.

Never short on ambition, Aspen Skiing Co. hopes to improve upon Eden for the 2018-19 ski season.

Skico has submitted an application to the U.S. Forest Service for a handful of ski-area improvement projects at Aspen Highlands for next spring and summer. Among them is the selective removal of trees in expert terrain in an area known as Eden. That terrain is to skier's left off the No Name trail in Olympic Bowl.

The extremely steep terrain isn't for the faint of heart, Aspen Highlands Mountain Manager Kevin Hagerty said Tuesday. Skico made it accessible two seasons ago via a gate. It was probably utilized more in 2015-16 than last season because of better snow conditions, Hagerty said.

However, use is never very high. Only the best of the best venture in there.

The Eden area is within the Aspen Highlands special-use permit boundary, but it has been closed for most of the time.

"One of the reasons we are looking at this area is because it is in the boundary and accessible by lift," Hagerty said. "It will attract more of the extreme type of skier."

Recommended Stories For You

Thinning trees would help establish some lines through the Eden terrain, he said. He estimated it would add about 7 acres of skiable terrain at Highlands, but he said because the terrain is so steep it's tough to gauge acreages.

"It's not a big expansion," he said.

Aspen Highlands loyalist Glen Horn said he avoids the "gnarly, nasty rock" of the upper part of Eden by taking a hard left farther down the No Name trail. Doing that, he said, accesses great skiing in Eden that is steep and right down the fall line. Skiers and snowboarders have to bear right at the bottom of Eden to catch the catwalk that serves Olympic Bowl.

Horn said he would welcome the glading for the 2018-19 season.

Because of Eden's pitch, the ski patrol already performs avalanche control to prevent snow from Eden affecting adjacent terrain.

"We're already in there controlling the snow," he said.

There might be additional good news for steep skiing fanatics in future years. Aspen Skiing Co. has been studying snow conditions in Loge Bowl for two seasons and hopes to reach conclusions about the potential for future use within the next three to five years, Hagerty said.

"If we feel the Loge Bowl area is worth pursuing after we look at it some more, then we will keep moving up," Hagerty said. Loge Bowl is higher on the mountain than the Eden area and separated by a ridge.

Skico's 2013 amendment to the Aspen Highlands Master Development Plan identifies creation of Loge Bowl terrain options as a long-term goal.

"Loge Bowl offers yet another exciting pod of extreme terrain that will require a planned program of snow control, snow compaction, with various access points," the master plan says.

The master plan also identifies Eden as one of 15 glading projects that could eventually add about 282 acres of skiable terrain to Highlands. The ski area currently has about 1,028 acres.

Another project proposed for 2018 is the installation of the Goldenhorn platter lift — a project that has been on and off the table for three years. Hagerty said the Aspen Valley Ski and Snowboard Club wants the lift for race training. The project was previously in the review process but was pulled by the ski club. The organization has a funding pledge for the lift, he said.

The master plan outlined objectives for a platter lift installed on the skier's right of the Golden Horn trail, from the top of the Five Trees chairlift to the top of the trail. The revised plan would place it on the same alignment but it would only go about three-fourths of the way up Golden Horn Trail.

"The addition of this surface lift, along with the recently added snowmaking capabilities, makes the Golden Horn slope a premier race training venue for AVSC's nearly 200 alpine athletes and 25 adaptive athletes," the master plan says.

A third proposed project at Highlands would involve removing trees and doing some grading on the Face of Oly area. The prime goal is to more easily remove snow that accumulates in a gully and use it on skiable terrain, Hagerty said. It also would have direct benefits for skiers without adding significant terrain. "It would widen a narrow section," he said.

The Aspen-Sopris Ranger District of the Forest Service has started its environmental analysis of the proposed projects. A public comment period will be opened during the first half of November, according to a representative of the agency.

scondon@aspentimes.com

Start a dialogue, stay on topic and be civil.
If you don't follow the rules, your comment may be deleted.