Ski CO terrain expansion into Pandora’s area on Aspen Mountain


Photo by Kaelyn Kroeger

The area that Ski CO is planning for expansion, located at Pandora’s.

Ski Co has decided to expand terrain onto Pandora’s run and back side of Aspen Mountain in order to create a wider variety of difficult terrain.

The Pandora terrain expansion covers 180 acres and is located directly south of Walsh’s run. Approximately 71 acres will be gladed terrain, similar to Canopy Cruiser on Highlands. The need to diversify terrain has become inevitable as a greater number of tourists flock to Aspen to ski and enjoy the small town’s beautiful snow-capped mountains. Expansion into the Pandora area has been in the last two master plans. That means that for the last 25 years, they have been working towards this goal.

David Corbin is the Senior Vice President of Planning and Development for Aspen Skiing Company and has been heavily involved in the terrain expansion plans.

“We hope to timber the terrain and clear trails in the summer of 2019 and construction of the chairlift would [happen] in summer of 2020”, Corbin said.

The expansion project was approved by the U.S. Forest Service on Wednesday, November 28. The White River National Forest Supervisor considered factors like the improvement of recreational opportunities on public lands, enhancement of the overall ski experience, better skier circulation, more consistent snow coverage due to snowmaking, and more ski terrain.

The area is also ideal for skiing. It gets lots of snow loading, is at a high altitude above 10,500 feet, and has an appealing glimpse of Indy Pass.

Rich Burkley, the Senior Vice President of Strategy and Business Development, hopes that the terrain expansion will help to slowly increase ticket sales, similar to Deep Temerity’s effect on Highlands.

“We believe that by consistently added terrain and lifts and improving our facilities, we keep Aspen Mountain relevant to the skiing community and that drives pass sales for locals and tickets sales for our guests”, Burkely said.

The project was first able to move forward only after making sure the terrain was suitable. The Forest Service employed researchers to consider the environmental effects to soil, water, and other resources.

“The Forest Supervisor’s [delivery note] said that some impacts to watersheds and wildlife might happen but it concluded that the effects [have] no significant impacts on the environment”, Corbin said.

The cut trails will become meadows for grazing deer and elk and biologists provided by the Forest Service will watch the process to ensure a minimal wildlife disruption.

“We will revegetate all disturbed lands and use a native high alpine seed mix to return the area to a more natural state”, Burkely said.

There was limited opposition to the project: only about 20 public comments (pro/con)  were filed. However, there are the few local skiers that enjoy the area as a secret powder stash.

Johnny Love is a local skier who enjoys skiing on Aspen Mountain and thinks the Pandora’s area gets more snow than other parts of the mountains.

“In the past, I had enjoyed the secret powder there but lately hardly ever go.  If they build the lift I am sure that I would be psyched to ski there”, Love said.

As for those that have environment-related concerns, the Forest Service sends for specialists in the field of hydrology, biology, archeology, history, and birds. They also work with the Colorado Wildlife Department and a few other groups.

“It is very fun skiing, much of it low angle glades so intermediate skiers can enjoy it”, Burkley said.