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Aspen's Pandora Expansion Given Final OK

Aspen-Steep-Cover More steep glades are in store at Aspen Mountain after getting a final OK for Pandora expansion. (Aspen Snowmass/Facebook)

Pitkin County Commissioners gave Aspen Mountain the go-ahead to add 150 acres of upper-mountain glade skiing and riding to its trail map.

The 3-1 vote ended a two-year process that included assessments by the U.S. National Forest, an updating of the resort's 1997 master plan, and an initial turndown vote by the commissioners in 2019. The new area is expected to be ready for the 2022-2023 season.

Located to the skier’s right of Walsh’s Run, the expansion has long been a favorite “side country” stash for skiers and riders who get to it through a gate at the top of the Silver Queen gondola. The return has been along the traverse Lud’s Lane. The area is beyond the ski area boundary and has not been patrolled.

The proposed chairlift would be 4,300 feet long and rise1,260 in vertical, and would allow for lengthening of Walsh’s, Hyrup’s and Kristi's double-diamonds off the summit. The new layout will open up several black-rated glades up the ridge off the existing summit, as well as blue runs tracking into the base of the new Pandora chair.

In defending Aspen SkiCo's application, CEO Mike Kaplan said the project would spread skiers and riders out over the entire mountain -- currently covering 673 acres -- by adding 22% more of patrolled terrain.

The new chairlift would allow expert skiers and 'boarders to make laps on the Pandora steeps without having to traverse out to go lower on the mountain to get back to the area.

The company’s application with USFS notes that glades are a key component: "While the cleared trails remain popular, an increasing number of users enjoy gladed terrain within more natural settings. This trend is evidenced by the increased use of side-country terrain — the areas immediately adjacent to the ski area boundaries.

Also in the plan is an expansion of snowmaking on the upper reaches of Aspen Mountain. Like most Rocky Mountain resorts, this season’s low snowfall highlighted the need to make snow over as much of a mountain. Consequently, Aspen Ski Corp. wants to install snowmaking from 10,600 feet to the summit to assure coverage on the uppermost trails and slopes, such as Silver Bell, Dipsy Doodle and Buckhorn.

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