Roger Marolt: The emperor’s new Aspen ski terrain has no pitch
It feels so un-Aspeniteish, but I don’t have strong feelings one way or another about the Pandora’s expansion on Aspen Mountain. On one hand, it’s just not very interesting terrain and I can’t picture myself going out there often. It will be a lot like Vail’s Back Bowls off steroids. On the other hand, I don’t see it as being wild or remote. You can practically smell the steaks sizzling at the Aspen Mountain Club from there. It already gets skied a bunch. What are we actually preserving?
In Greek mythology a jar (later changed to a box by progressive mythologists) was presented by Pandora as some kind of fake gift to Prometheus who stole fire from Zeus. It was a payback or something like that. Anyway, when Pandora opened the jar all kinds of nasty disease, evil and death was unleashed into the world. I mean, you do realize that Skico is presenting this ski mountain expansion as a gift to us, right? Of course I don’t believe Skico will unleash all kinds of toxic crap into the atmosphere by opening up Pandora’s. Then again, where there’s money to be made, you might forgive them for loosening the lid just a teensy-weensy bit.
It’s interesting that so many are so worked up about this plan. Compare it to Highland Bowl. You see my point — there is no comparison. That was a big deal. Then, Deep Temerity was kind of like a cup of strong coffee next to The Bowl, so that addition was a huge thing, too. Now we have the Pandora threat and I can’t work up a decent yawn.
I’m telling you, if that terrain was worth skiing, they would have developed it long ago, before there were serious regulations about ski area expansion or review processes to grind through. It would have been so easy, and still nobody bothered.
Highland Bowl and Deep Temerity at least have good reason they were developed so relatively late in the game. They needed technology to catch up and make them semi-safely skiable. Skiers had been looking across the valley from the Sundeck at The Bowl for as long as I can remember, sighing before saying something like, “Can you imagine ever being able to ski that?” A few powder hounds have probably fallen asleep in a snowcat heading toward Pandora’s, but I doubt any have ever dreamed about it.
Enough about good skiing, though. A friend of mine was a big fan of the Pandora’s area. I resisted his invites to go and “explore” the “terrain.” I said I didn’t think it was steep enough to make turns on. He proceeded to show me the first pair of fat skis I had ever seen. “You can make turns with these,” he said, eyes gleaming. I told him I had to work late. He assured me we could go in the dark, under the full moon. I was out of excuses and wondered how good the skiing could be if you could do it in the dark. The outing ended up being fun, but it did not surpass anything we could have done wearing snowshoes.
All right, all right, settle down, Pandora fans. I will admit there are a few steep pitches back there, but only if you admit they are shorter than the bottom half of Short Snort.
Do you believe in magic? I do, but I realize a lot of people are uncomfortable with that term, so let’s use “mojo” as a substitute. The historical mojo of Aspen Mountain is its reputation as an “expert” area; an enticing linkage of black and blue runs — bump a little, take a dump, cruise some, find yourself in gladed steeps and then Little Nell. It is a unique mix of great and varied terrain on every lap. Pandora’s will sew a baby blue patch on the map. They will probably label it black trying to save the mojo, but it’s not. It is more like Buttermilk black. Maybe they can institute a double-blue square symbol for the trail sign. It will create an isolated pocket for intermediates. It’s like watering down the whiskey at the Red Onion — you might as well go to a fern bar and puff e-cigs.
All said, I’m sure the Pandora’s ski area expansion will be a big hit. But, that begs another question: If a new hotel is required to provide parking and employee housing to compensate for all the new tourists it will attract and resulting jobs created, why does a ski area expansion get a pass on these issues? I don’t know what came over me to mention this. I guess I am trying to liven up the conversation.
Roger Marolt believes you can be a proud Aspen Mountain snob without holding your nose up at Highlands. Email at email@example.com.