Forest Service Approves Plans for New Lift and Terrain Expansion at Aspen Mountain, CO

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The upper section of Aspen Mountain which will be expanded with the new chairlift in the Pandora zone. Credit: USFS

The White River National Forest last week approved a decades-long plan to expand terrain on Aspen Mountain, CO into the Pandora zone and to install enough snowmaking for top-to-bottom coverage, reports the Aspen Daily News.

Construction on phase one of the snowmaking, involving infrastructure and 15 acres of coverage, could even begin as soon as this summer, pending approval. The Pandora lift installation won’t happen until summer 2020, but timber clearing could also begin next summer. The new 1,200-vertical-foot lift off the upper east side of the existing boundary is slated to open for the 2020-21 season, according to David Corbin, Aspen Skiing Co.’s vice president for planning and development.

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Aspen Mountain has had a great start to the 2018/19 season. Photo from opening weekend. Credit: Aspen Snowmass Facebook

The expansion into the Pandora terrain, currently enjoyed as ‘sidecountry’, encompasses some 180 acres to the skier’s right of the expert Walsh’s run. About 80 acres would be traditionally cleared alpine trails and 100 acres would be gladed skiing, where 30 to 40 percent of trees in a natural forest are removed for improved tree skiing. Roughly 30 percent of the gladed terrain will be intermediate friendly, according to Corbin. Of the cleared trails, 47 percent will be rated as “intermediate,” according to documents included in the decision notice, with the remainder rated as ‘expert’. The new lift will be located about 1,500 linear feet below the current end of Walsh’s and it will extend that trail along with Hyrup’s and Kristi. It will top out about 950 feet south of the Sundeck.

“Our guests, both intermediates and experts, express interest in gladed terrain,” Corbin told the Aspen Daily News. “Pandora’s terrain offers the advantages of a northeast aspect to hold snow, different scenery, varied pitches, high elevation and efficient circulation with glades, braided trails and tree pockets which should be attractive to our guests. The lower portion of the Pandora terrain, in particular, should be very appealing to intermediates.”

There is also a plan to add 53 acres of snowmaking coverage to the top of the mountain, specifically the One and Two Leaf, Silver Bell, Dipsy Doodle, Buckhorn, North American, and Copper runs. The current snowmaking system stops about 500 vertical feet short of the top of the mountain.

The Forest Service received 20 written comments on the proposal during the process, both positive and negative in their feedback.

Tuesday’s announcement kicks off a 45-day objection period. If none come forward to object, one must have gotten involved earlier in the process, then the decision becomes final. If objections are submitted, they must be adjudicated through a formal process.

For more details of the plans, check out the full article at the Aspen Daily News.

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