Aspen Skiing Co. taps into development potential on 54 acres it owns on Richmond Ridge

Pitkin County officials and members of the public tour Pandora’s land on Aspen Mountain on September 1, 2021. Skico has placed a covenant on Pandora’s land and 54 acres nearby to eliminate development concerns for residences or d tourist accommodation.
Aspen Times file photo

Aspen Skiing Co. is keeping its promise not to capitalize on the expansion of the Aspen Mountain ski area by developing luxury chalets on adjacent land.

Skico registered a pledge in February that sets out voluntary restrictions on approximately 54 acres of vacant land on Richmond Ridge at the back of Aspen Mountain. The restrictions were accepted by Pitkin County commissioners in a 4-0 vote on Wednesday.

Skico’s 54 acres are on land zoned rural and remote, where development is already limited to 1,000 square foot cottages. Some people, including some county officials, were concerned that when county commissioners approved Skico’s proposed expansion at Aspen Mountain’s Pandora land last fall, Skico was considering the big picture of the development. Critics suspected that Skico would build and market luxury accommodation in the remote outback.

Skico Chairman and CEO Mike Kaplan assured commissioners in November that was not the case. He said Skico would give up its ability to develop cabins on its rural and remote lands.

Tom Todd, an Aspen land use attorney representing Skico, said the covenant registration codifies that commitment.

“It’s the full belt and suspenders of what the ski company represented last fall,” Todd said.

The covenant also defines development potential on Skico’s lands which have been rezoned to allow for expansion onto 153 acres on Pandora’s land. Skico can build a ski lift, shelter for ski lift staff and patrollers, restrooms and utilities.

Restaurants and bars, accommodations and recreational facilities such as roller coasters are prohibited on Pandora grounds.

“The way I see this alliance is a structural reinforcement of the commitment that Aspen Skiing Co. made to you last fall,” Todd said.

“It’s the full belt and suspenders of what the ski company represented last fall.” — Tom Todd, Lawyer

County Commissioner Steve Child credited the covenant with accomplishing what was discussed with Skico officials last fall.

“I think it protects the spirit and intent of the rural and remote district,” he said.

Commissioner Kelly McNicholas Kury noted that she did not vote to approve Skico’s rezoning application for the Pandora project, but would accept the covenant because it provides additional protections for Pitkin County.

Commissioners Greg Poschman and Francie Jacober also voted in favor of Skico’s offer.

Skico plans to start cutting trees for the ski slopes and the lift line this summer. The lift will be installed next year before the opening of the Pandore pitch for the winter of 2023-24. Commissioner Patti Clapper withdrew from the vote.

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