Hero’s: New Terrain. Legendary Stories.
The Aspen Mountain terrain expansion offers more top-notch skiing and riding while paying homage to the hero’s journey and the many legends who made the project possible.
Standing at the top of the new Hero’s terrain on skier’s far right of Aspen Mountain, views of Independence Pass unfold to the east while the Roaring Fork River flows along the valley floor directly below. These vistas, along with more than 150 acres of high-elevation, northeast-facing terrain, will debut in the 2023-2024 season. The area, called Hero’s, is accessed via a brand-new high-speed quad, also named Hero’s, and includes 1,200 vertical feet of chutes and glades ranging from intermediate to advanced, plus an extension of favorite expert runs such as Walsh’s, Kristi, and Hyrup’s.
The Hero’s area is a not-so-new frontier for many—a local stash of side country packed with history, ski town intrigue, and secret steep turns. In the 1970s, Aspen Mountain Patroller Tim “El Avalanchero” Howe knew opening access to this area could be like opening Pandora’s Box— driving ski bums near and far on an eternal chase for snow-induced bliss and unleashing the inevitable pandemonium around that ever-present quest for untouched powder. Decades later as this dream becomes a reality, Hero’s “El Avalanchero Glade” pays tribute to Howe.
Aspen Snowmass took this kind of lore into consideration when thoughtfully naming the new trails. The first major addition to Aspen Mountain since the installation of the Silver Queen Gondola in 1985 meant an opportunity to pay homage to the area’s people, patrol, history, mining roots, and exceptional terrain—as well as the late Jim Crown, co-owner and visionary of Aspen Skiing Company for nearly four decades. A survey was sent out to the local community in the fall of 2022 calling for ideas, and submissions poured in. All the while, staff sifted through preexisting names used by patrol and operations, the topography’s historic mining claims, and the many personal anecdotes and tales the terrain carries.
You'll see “Loushin's,” honoring the family that owned the mining claim that a large portion of the Hero’s area resides on, as well as “Legal Tender,” after another old mining claim. One of the Hero’s chutes is named “E.e.k.!,” a nickname for beloved patroller Eric Kinsman, who was patrol director from 2004 until he passed in 2010.
“I had this boss, Eric Kinsman, and he sort of let me start kicking around back here around 1994 or 1995,” says 37-year Ski Patrol Veteran Scott Scharin after a sunny lap through nearly knee-deep fluff on Harris’s Wall, a healthy pitch stippled with pine trees in the new terrain addition. “It was during that time that we started to really get a good idea of where a chairlift could go and how this terrain could work. After all these years, it’s cool to see us really getting it done and doing it right so people can feel safe exploring these woods.”
The terrain—with 19 chutes (double black), four main runs (black), and three lower, gladed sections (blue) all making up the area’s two zones, Hero’s Chutes #1 and Hero’s Chutes #2—holds so many stories. Weaving through this rich history is nearly as fun as exploring the topography itself.
“I love that we’re honoring some of the folks that developed and built Aspen,” says Katie Ertl, senior vice president of Mountain Operations at Aspen Snowmass and lifelong Roaring Fork Valley resident. “’Rideout,’ named after Percy Rideout, a 10th Mountain Division soldier who became the co-director of our ski school in the 1940s, cuts through the area, giving skiers and riders a smooth ‘ride out’ of the upper chutes and glades that sit above it.”
Other notable names include “Fat City,” a cheeky reference to the infamous late writer and Aspenite Hunter S. Thompson; “Elli’s” after Elli Iselin, the resort’s first female ski instructor; “Hodge Podge” honoring William Hodges, who helped open Aspen Mountain; “Cory-Bob,” saluting fallen patrolman Cory Brettmann; and "Mike Drop,” which tips a hat to Mike Kaplan, the company’s recently-retired longtime CEO and a key player in making the Hero’s project happen. Names utilized by patrol and operations over the years that will remain include “Harris’s Wall,” “Powerline,” and “D’Kine Bowl.”
One thing all parties involved in the project noted was the passion community members felt in commemorating their loved ones. So, “Here’s To...” was born, aiming to both collectively mourn and celebrate those lost in the community over the years as well as offer an on-mountain space to reflect. In true Aspen Mountain fashion, there will be an official shrine at the top of the run, in the form of a bell provided by Colorado-born artist Joe Allred. The bell will be installed in the summer of 2024 and ready to ring the following season.
Aspen Snowmass announced in September 2023 that the area, originally referred to as Pandora’s, would be called Hero’s to honor the many people who made this project possible—in particular, the late co-owner and patriarch of the company, Jim Crown, who passed away in June. Accordingly, some of the new trail names reflect his life, loves, and amusements.
“Jim was a champion of skiing, of our industry, and of both this expansion and Highland Bowl, which can be seen across the valley,” says Aspen Skiing Company CEO Geoff Buchheister. “So many aspects of what we love about Aspen Snowmass (the resort) and Aspen Skiing Company (the business) trace to the vision and commitment of Jim Crown. He was never about the short-term; rather, he was dedicated to a vision for the company and the ski areas that he knew would outlive him.”
“Jim was a champion of skiing [and] of our industry. So many aspects of what we love about Aspen Snowmass trace to the vision and commitment of Jim Crown."
And with an entire community working to open Hero’s, his legacy will live on. “This project has been a long process and has so many names and hearts attached to it,” notes Ertl, referencing patrollers, operations, legal, and community management personnel who each played a role.
“So many people and groups made this terrain happen” says Travis Benson, lifelong Aspen skier and current mountain manager overseeing operations on Aspen Mountain. “The planning department and the leadership team; the community and our leaders at Pitkin County; the United States Forest Service. And the trails teams that have done the heavy lifting with the timber. Rain, shine, bugs, heat, and dust, for two years they’ve worked hard to give us something truly special.”
The Hero’s project planning and execution included a whole systems approach—considering environmental health, community impact, and skiers’ experience. “The Hero’s terrain gives lift-serviced access to the snowiest terrain on Aspen Mountain,” says Vice President of Mountain Planning, Mak Keeling, who was key in the development of the area, which holds snow better than other aspects of the mountain. “It will double the skiable acres above 10,000-feet in elevation, allowing everyone to spread out while enhancing the experience on Aspen Mountain.”
“The steep chutes and the long glades are unlike anything else on Aspen Mountain, and the views of Independence Pass are second to none,” says Keeling. Adds Ertl, “this terrain offers skiers and riders a new section to explore with its own heartbeat and feel.” Skiers and riders will feel like they’re deep in the backcountry (though only minutes away from town or a meal at the Sundeck) and hopefully, like they’ve become part of this mountain’s layered story—their own hero’s journey.