Guest commentary: Public need to get out and voice opinion on Aspen Mountain plans |

Guest commentary: Public need to get out and voice opinion on Aspen Mountain plans

John Doyle
Guest commentary

Our Pitkin County commissioners will be voting today on changing the current zoning from Rural/Remote to Ski/Rec to allow the Pandora expansion as well as a host of other issues that I don’t think have been made clear to the general public.

Some considerations:

1. Snowmaking requires a tremendous amount of water; it also requires a tremendous amount of electricity to pump it uphill to where it is turned into snow. Snowmass will be requesting more snowmaking, too. The fact that Aspen Skiing Co. is asking for more water as we experience a drier climate is troubling.

2. Skico clearly wants as much nighttime use of Ruthie’s Restaurant as they can get. Special events at the Sundeck have been so successful that Ruthie’s is obviously another revenue stream. The Forest Service has only approved daytime use of Ruthie’s. Lights on Aspen Mountain are not permitted under current zoning; allowing night use would change that. Look up at Red Mountain and see for yourself.

Also: Skico’s Dave Corbin has stated, “We may raze Ruthie’s.” If that is the case, why not rebuild Ruthie’s closer to the existing Lift 1A and forgo the proposed realignment and all that entails?

3. Aspen Mountain is currently 699 acres. The Pandora’s expansion is 153 acres; an increase of 23%. For reference, the amount of terrain open for skiing this June was 130 acres served by the Ajax Express lift. Of the 153 acres of new terrain, by my math 105 acres of trees will need to be removed. That is a lot of trees, and that doesn’t include the trees removed for the Lift 1A realignment, the trees removed for the new snowmaking storage pond at the bottom of Lift 7, etc.

4. The top of the proposed Pandora lift is to be 950 feet south of the Gondola building on top of Richmond Ridge. Skico is proposing to haul a tremendous amount of fill dirt to level out the terrain, rerouting the County Road behind the gondola building and building a 1,000-foot-long fence to facilitate their plan. This essentially privatizes the top of Aspen Mountain.

By moving the Pandora’s top station to below the current road, everything is simplified and the current user interface remains the same. A rope tow, mentioned in the Aspen Mountain Master Plan, would satisfy everyone’s needs as far as returning from the top of Pandora’s toward the Sundeck/Gondola building.

5. Skico has proposed razing the current Aspen Mountain patrol HQ and moving it to the north side of the gondola building; no sun, no view. In the event of an emergency at the Sundeck, patrol currently has a relatively level walk; as proposed, patrol would have to walk (run) uphill across ski traffic to get to the emergency.

I feel patrol is an important part of our guests’ experience; they are under appreciated. The patrol shack is centrally located and should remain so for the benefit of patrol and the general public.

6. The recent sale of 167 acres of private land on the backside from Castle Creek Investors to the Crown family and a Walmart heir should be considered before approving the Pandora’s expansion. This $8.15 million purchase shows intent to possibly expand farther.

What isn’t seen in the master plan is how Skico intends to mitigate its increased use of water and electricity, the 105 acres (minimum) of trees removed for Pandora’s, the massive amount of concrete (a major CO2 emitter), etc.

Whether you support this expansion or oppose it, please attend the BOCC meeting today at noon and voice your opinion during the public comment period. Bring water and snacks; these meetings can take hours.

Give a flake and participate.

John Doyle moved to Aspen in 1980 and has had a cabin on the back of Aspen Mountain since 1988. He has attended every BOCC meeting pertaining to the 2018 Aspen Mountain Master Development Plan.