On Tuesday, The Pitkin County Planning and Zoning commission voted unanimously to give Skico the opportunity to pursue an amendment to the East of Aspen/Independence Pass Master Plan which could give Skico the go-ahead for the Pandora expansion project. Skico will pursue the amendment, although they will not be allowed to assist in the zoning process which could be lengthy. Skico wants to move the process forward in a timely manner.
The Pandora area is popular among side country users and the resort wants to capitalize on this. Expanding into this zone would give 1,220 vertical feet of skiing, 153 more acres, and a variety of cut and gladed runs. Skico would install a 4,191-foot high-speed quad to access the terrain. About 75% of the terrain is expert and 25% is intermediate. The terrain choice accompanied by a reliable 10,000-foot northeast aspect would give it premium conditions throughout the winter.
Skico officials are frustrated as they are not permitted to help in the planning of the East Aspen area. Despite this, Skico is still pushing for expansion. President and CEO Mike Kaplan wants to keep Aspen competitive in the ski industry and expanding into the Pandora area will do this. Kaplan remarked, “Aspen Mountain has to change and evolve to remain relevant.”
The Pandora expansion would be Aspen Mountain’s first expansion in 40 years. The Planning and Zoning commission already approved to move forward in March 2019, although Skico tabled the plan in August 2019 when they realized the county commissioners were not going to vote for the expansion. They have worked on their argument and are now going through the same process of approval.
In the coming meetings, debates will include if Skico should be able to rezone Rural and Remote Lands. Other arguments include if zoning laws were just made to prevent residential expansion and if ski areas are included in this. Skico has to go back to the Planning and Zoning commission for another approval, then through the county commissioners. If this passes, Skico can move forward with their expansion.