Skico master plan for Aspen Mountain includes 160-acre expansion into Pandora’s

This map shows the general line Aspen Skiing Co. considered in the past for a new chairlift that would serve the Pandora's terrain on Aspen Mountain.
Aspen Skiing Co. image |

Aspen Skiing Co. is considering the first addition of terrain at Aspen Mountain in decades.

Skico recently prepared an updated master plan for Aspen Mountain that features the long-anticipated expansion into the Pandora’s terrain to skier’s right of Walsh’s trail, which is near the top of the mountain.

Skico is contemplating adding 100 acres of glades and 60 acres of cut trails, according to a Nov. 6 presentation to the Aspen City Council.

Either a fixed-grip or high-speed chairlift would be added to serve the terrain, which is within the Aspen Mountain special-use permit but hasn’t previously been actively managed. The ride would take four to eight minutes, depending on the lift selected, according to David Corbin, Skico’s senior vice present of planning and development.

“The lift will be very similar to what you see at Temerity at Highlands,” Corbin said.

The Pandora’s terrain “adds a whole new aspect to that mountain for people to enjoy,” Corbin added.

There is no timetable on the expansion, which would add about 1,250 vertical feet of skiing and riding on the mountain’s east side. The new terrain would be a mixture of expert and intermediate. In addition to new terrain, the Walsh’s, Hyrup’s and Kristi trails could be extended farther down slope.

Skico officials spent 2015 and 2016 clearing ownership issues on private land needed for the expansion. Aspen Mountain is a jumbled mixture of public and private lands.

“We’re finally there,” Corbin said, “and ready to advance a plan.”

Skico recently submitted an update to its 1997 master plan to the White River National Forest. Corbin said Skico officials hope to meet within the next few weeks with the U.S. Forest Service to determine if all information has been submitted to allow a review to proceed.

The Forest Service requires the master plan, which is a wish list or blueprint, for future improvements. The plan also will be submitted to Pitkin County for review, Corbin said.

Even if the Forest Service endorses the master plan, Skico must still apply to pursue individual projects such as the Pandora’s expansion. Those proposals get reviewed under the National Environmental Policy Act. The Aspen City Council will get an opportunity to submit comments to the Forest Service and Pitkin County as part of their reviews.

Skico officials have declined in the past to put a timeline on the expansion into Pandora’s because it depends on a number of factors. Those include the length of review, capital improvement funds and other priorities, which include replacement of Lift 1A and expanded snowmaking (see related story).

Councilman Ward Hauenstein said he looks forward to the expansion into Pandora’s. It will add terrain that is currently gated and popular among side-country skiers and snowboarders just outside the managed terrain.

“I remember when Walsh’s was out-of-bounds skiing,” Hauenstein said.