No good deed goes unpunished. That’s how I see the current kerfuffle over SkiCo’s Pandora plan. SkiCo has done a better than good job at planning a modest expansion of the mountain, which would greatly improve intermediate circulation and open some great terrain, which is currently enjoyed by a few powder hogs, to more skiers. So of course the torch and pitchfork crowd are out for blood.
But the simple fact is that Aspen Mountain is getting, has gotten, a little long in the tooth. And it’s small. By itself and without the support of Buttermilk, Highlands and Snowmass, it’s debatable whether it would rank in even the second tier of destination ski mountains. Heresy, but true. Ajax is a bump lover’s paradise, but that’s part of the problem. Bumps, after all, are an urban phenomenon, the result of piste overcrowding. A poor man’s terrain park. Unless you’ve skied here all your life or are under 25, they’re a pain. And entirely artificial. You don’t find bumps in the wild.
Ask yourself how does Aspen Mountain compare to Jackson, Sun Valley, Telluride, Crested Butte, Steamboat or the dreaded Vail? You can’t really say with a straight face that they’re following our lead. Not if you’re honest. And don’t even think about the Canadians, because they’re miles ahead.
Unless we want to throttle back and sink into a somewhat more comfortable obscurity, we’ve got to keep up. It’s not about residential development on Richmond Ridge, or how many snowmobiles you can park on the top of Ajax, or uphilling on blackout days, or climate change, or any of the other red herrings Pandora opponents are throwing at the proposal. It’s about skiing.