From a new high-speed quad chairlift to a substantial terrain expansion, here is your ultimate guide to Aspen Mountain’s newly debuted Hero’s.
It’s been more than 35 years since Aspen Mountain’s last addition—the opening of the Silver Queen Gondola in 1985. This winter, Aspen Snowmass introduces a new high-speed quad chairlift and a substantial terrain expansion on the east flank of its flagship mountain, increasing skiable acreage by more than 20%.
Aspen Mountain New Terrain: Hero’s
Named Hero’s to honor all who have impacted Aspen Mountain and helped bring the project to life, the area adds 1,220 vertical feet with 150 acres of new chutes, glades and trails. It’s all north-facing, high-elevation terrain (above 10,000 feet), so Hero’s might hold snow more reliably during future climate-challenged ski seasons when natural snowfall is less plentiful.
The expansion was referred to as “Pandora’s” until September when Aspen Skiing Company (SkiCo) announced the name change aft er the passing of Jim Crown, the former managing partner of SkiCo who perished in an accident at Aspen Motorsports Park in June.
“With Jim’s unexpected passing, we took some time to reflect on the family’s and our company’s enormous loss and the naming of this historic expansion,” says Geoff Buchheister, the new CEO of SkiCo. “Jim’s legacy and broad impact in Aspen stretched over 35 years, alongside many others we are also choosing to honor. We felt it was meaningful and appropriate to recognize all heroes tied to this terrain as we unveil this new project.”
Jim’s family named trails to honor his life loves and amusements. Historical trail names include Powerline and Harris’s Wall. Other runs honor people like the first female ski instructor, Elli Iselin; 10th Mountain soldier Percy Rideout; and celebrated ski patrollers Eric Kinsman and Cory Brettmann.
Late patroller Time Howe originally coined the area “Pandora’s Box” in the 1970s, referring to his worries if the public was ever allowed into the steep, forested, avalanche-prone terrain. That was before Aspen Mountain’s boundary included Walsh’s, Hyrup’s and Kristi’s. And long before that, the area comprised a complex web of mining claims. Over the years, countless skiers and snowboarders have been rescued from the area that will now be avalanche-controlled and part of the ski area.
Not everyone was all in. When SkiCo proposed the expansion, opponents wrote the Pitkin County Planning and Zoning Commission saying the expansion was unnecessary (that Aspen Mountain’s existing lifts rarely had long lift lines) and harmful to the environment, citing the removal of trees and the fragmentation of elk habitat, among other reasons.
“I will miss skiing back there as a semiprivate powder stash,” says Mikey Wechsler, a fixture on Aspen Mountain for 42 years who skis there around 140 days a year. “The best thing is that it will spread skiers out, especially on powder days.”
Many Aspenites supported the update to their beloved town hill, including Alison Wente, who has been skiing Aspen Mountain for 36 years. She compared the expansion to the Tiehack Express lift replacement on Buttermilk Mountain in 2011.
“People had low confidence the lift would enhance skiing on Tiehack, but it made for faster laps on still-quiet slopes. The Ajax expansion gives the world’s best ski area more terrain and makes it safer. The steep area holds cold snow and offers a lifetime of entertainment.”
Photography by: PHOTO COURTESY OF ASPEN SNOWMASS