Roger Marolt: Pandora’s box is now open for business

Roger Marolt
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Now that everyone else has chimed in, I’ll tell you what I really think. I thought I was neutral on this Pandora’s matter but after what happened Wednesday evening, a strong opinion sprouted. It was then Aspen Ski Co. threatened to launch a nuclear development bomb of new mansions on the Panadora’s site, if their proposed ski area expansion isn’t approved. Wow!

It’s an interesting strategy. My hunch is ski area expansion is the more environmentally hazardous of the two possibilities, but it is more enticing to skiers. This is the premeditated diversion. Environmental responsibility is clearly not the priority. So, is this really a zero-sum plan coming from the self-proclaimed environmental stewards of the ski industry? Shockingly, the answer is undeniably “yes.”

This was framed as a skiing issue. Don’t relax. It’s Aspen. We can go deeper than that. For Skico this is about making the biggest bang for buck, regardless of the resultant impacts on this community or the globe. Skiing is what we do for fun, even if we form our identities around it. This has larger implications than threatening our egos.

What we do with Pandora’s will reveal Aspen’s latent identity: Are we a ski resort only reacting to global warming by expanding our skiing terrain higher as the winters get milder, or are we finally ready to say “enough is enough.”

The spin going around fast enough to sound like a whine is whirling in the counter clockwise direction that we are a world class ski resort first, therefore we need to expand further. Never mind that more terrain doesn’t necessarily translate into a better ski area. Dumbing down a classic like Aspen Mountain with new intermediate runs on its backside is like pouring water in your best bottle of scotch to make it look full. There are no iconic runs in Pandora’s, only Ikon terrain. It’s not conducive to epic days, only Epic Pass days.

The talk in the opposing direction sees a clock ticking forward. It’s coming from loose nuts, the freakin’ yay-hoos who believe global warming is happening, not interested in talk unless there’s a plan for doing something, convinced we should take responsibility for private jets flying in and out of here, and who don’t believe refilling plastic bottles before yoga class is enough to save the planet, but do it anyway because it is better than not for. If nothing else, it is a symbolic gesture, which goes further than many think.

The timing of this could hardly come at a more tense time. This summer town was as packed as ever, and what is the takeaway from that? It’s that lots of places for locals to live got gobbled up by online bookings, which led to more traffic on Highway 82, which caused a severe worker shortage and, even though a few business owners made more money, nobody seemed to enjoy the chaos.

We endured blankets of smoke that will likely reappear every summer for the rest of our lives. We had mudslides, as a result of local fires last year, triggered by 100-year thundershower events. We had stretches of searing heat with intermittent monsoonal rains. All of which are warnings that more people will eventually starve, lose homes and even die from climate change. Is this finally enough to realize that what we have built here already is plenty?

This leaves us standing on a slippery slope steeper than anything in Pandora’s. Ignoring the immediate and future compounding negative impacts of this proposed development will compromise our town’s credibility in communal environmental leadership. This development is not a one-and-done impact. What harm it causes today will continue occurring next year and the year after that and on and on.

Can this community endure any pain to save our planet? I can’t recall a single moment when we chose to do that. Will the mandatory 25-cent impact fee for a plastic bag at the grocery store stand as the greatest sacrifice we have ever made for the sake of humanity?

Protect Our Powder or Protect Our Profits. POW! or POP! There’s going to be a lot of noise. The decision over Pandora’s is truly about how Aspen views the concept of “enough is enough.” Is it something we should have embraced long ago, love to say now, and maybe will act on someday when it is more convenient, or is it an ethos we choose now to demonstrate how serious we are about the environmental crisis at hand?

Roger Marolt believes Aspen is already an all you can eat buffet for skiers and his belly is pleasantly full. Email at