Making Aspen Mountain Better
Friends of Pandora’s

Aspen is a ski town.

Some say the best in the world, and we want it to stay that way. So when the team at Aspen Skiing Company (ASC) explored improvements to Aspen Mountain, it was natural to include terrain and lift additions in Pandora’s. 


Pandora’s proposal was part of the 2017 Aspen Mountain Master Plan but was split from the plan for additional BOCC consideration. The balance of the plan, approved by the BOCC in 2019, is a comprehensive, skier-first roadmap for the practical evolution of Aspen’s marquee mountain over the coming years. Approving the Pandora’s proposal is the final step in ensuring the full potential of the 2017 master plan.


The Big Picture

Friends of Pandora’s believes ASC applies a whole systems approach to their big picture planning efforts. Skier experience is just one of many interconnected elements. Their ultimate goal is finding the sweet spot where the natural environment is respected, recreational opportunities continue to be world-class and the community thrives from seeing beyond today by anticipating and adapting to future realities.

Project Overview / Skier Experience

Aspen Skiing Company is proposing an additional 153 acres of in-bounds, lift-served terrain on the upper, eastern aspects of Aspen Mountain. This area, known as Pandora’s: 

  • Includes 1,220 vertical feet of groomed trails and easy glades for intermediates, as well as additional steep terrain and glades for advanced skiers, plus an extension of Walsh’s, Kristi and Hyrup’s
  • Allows for improved repeat skiing on existing terrain. No more hiking out of Walsh’s!
  • Improves overall skier circulation, reducing congestion and crowding, particularly at the Ajax Express lift
  • Places the top terminal just south of the Silver Queen Gondola

Pandora’s terrain is not an expansion, but is within ASC’s United States Forest Service Special Use Permit and would be the first significant addition to Aspen Mountain since the December 1985 gondola opening.



Referenced in the 1997 Aspen Mountain Master Plan and depicted on that plan’s map.


Described in the 2002 White River National Forest Plan for use as a potential ski area.


Proposed as part of the original 2017 Aspen Mountain Master Plan.

March 2019

New terrain and lift were accepted unanimously by the P&Z as part of the Aspen Mountain Master Plan.

September 11, 2019

BOCC approved the Aspen Mountain Master Plan Resolution and Rezoning Ordinance Process with Sundeck improvements, snowmaking to
the top, reactivation of Ruthie’s Restaurant, etc., but pulled out the Pandora’s component to review technical zoning concerns.

P&Z Meetings

ASC requested P&Z to further consider technical conditions required for rezoning. They also wanted to reaffirm P&Z’s recommendation that Pandora’s be included in the Aspen Mountain Master Plan. On 6/1/21, P&Z approved the rezoning 4-0.

Next Steps

The application will come back to the BOCC this summer. P&Z will have proposed language for an amendment to the East of Aspen Master Plan, which will resolve the zoning issue raised in 2019.

Climate Change / Adaptation

It’s important for the Aspen community to view climate change as a threat to our way of life as a ski town. When it comes to environmental action, no other ski resort does more to fight climate change than Aspen Skiing Company, from bringing large-scale renewables online to advocating for state and national policy changes.

  • The Pandora’s lift will be powered by Holy Cross Energy, whose energy portfolio will be 100 percent renewable by 2030.
  • In addition to slowing global warming, adaptation is key to ensuring that skiing is alive for the next generation of skiers.
  • Opening the north-facing, high-elevation terrain of Pandora’s is a smart, sensible adaptation.

Economic Sustainability

Aspen’s winter livelihood is dependent on a vital and diverse ski product – thus our four best-in-class ski areas are the anchor experience of the Roaring Fork Valley’s economy. Studies show that guests choose their destinations on the basis of snow quality first, then terrain variety. Pandora’s addition will give us a competitive edge to help Aspen remain a distinguished ski town.

US Regional Forester Rick Cables says he chose an alternative for future management of the forest where “existing sites may be expanded to provide concentrated recreational use…This alternative will honor our commitment to provide options for future generations.”

—2002 Revision Final, EIS White River National Forest Land and Resource Management Plan

Forest & Wildlife

The United States Forest Service (USFS) conducted Environmental Assessments of National Forest land within ASC’s four ski areas in 2012 and specifically within Pandora’s in 2019.  As supporters of the project, USFS concluded that changes to Pandora’s would:

  • Minimize effects to wildlife and not impact critical habitat
  • Reduce risk of forest fires
  • Not result in unacceptable effects to NFS land
  • Glading will open skiable lines while maintaining age and species class diversity of the tree stands

“—The project will not result in any unacceptable effects to NFS land.
—Some areas are naturally gladed and will require little tree removal.
—I feel my decision [Finding of No Significant Impact] will improve the experience of guests to the forest…with stated environmental impacts.
—2012 USFS Forest Health Environmental Assessment for the four Aspen Snowmass ski areas.”

—Scott Fitzwilliams, Forest Supervisor WRNF – 2019 USFS EA

The Pandora’s terrain and lift addition will require a portion of Rural and Remote (RR) and Agricultural/Residential (AR-10) zoning to be rezoned as SKI-REC. 

  • Commercial recreational skiing was historically allowed in RR zones pending a “Special Review”
  • Land Use Code was inexplicably changed and no longer included commercial recreational skiing
  • NO potential exists to make similar changes elsewhere on ASC’s ski areas from RR to SKI-REC
  • The RR zone was enacted by the BOCC in 1994. Its clear intention was to prohibit uncontrolled residential expansion in remote areas typically held privately as historic mining claims, and NOT to prohibit commercial recreational skiing where it was appropriate.

Aspen’s Legacy

Aspen has a history of trailblazing — from hosting the first FIS World Championships in 1950 to the world’s longest single-stage gondola when the Silver Queen opened. Allowing Pandora’s to open will carry on that spirit of leadership and pursuit of excellence.