Aspen: From mining to skiing, arts mecca |

Aspen: From mining to skiing, arts mecca

Aspen Times Staff Report
Aspen, CO Colorado

ASPEN ” Founded as a mining camp in the Colorado silver boom during the 1880s and named because of the abundance of aspen trees in the area, the city is now a ski resort and cultural mecca.


 The city emerged as a skiing mecca following World War II and the foundation of the Aspen Skiing Co. by Walter Paepcke, a Chicago industrialist who sought to create a utopian community of the mind and body. Paepcke’s legacy of the Aspen/Snowmass resorts, along with such institutions as the Aspen Institute and the Aspen Music Festival and School, have made the city a year-round international destination for recreation, arts, business, and intellectual discourse.

In the late 20th century, the city developed as an off-beat haven for misfits, attracting such free spirits as John Denver and Hunter S. Thompson, who was glorified by many locals for his embodiment of the “freak power” ethic of the community.

This historic character of the city has been challenged in recent decades by skyrocketing property values and the proliferation of second homes. As a result, low- and middle-income workers have moved to nearby bedroom communities such as Basalt and Carbondale, which are booming culturally and economically.

At the same time, in stark contrast to its historic character, the city has emerged into international fame as a glitzy playground of the wealthy and famous.


Downtown Aspen has been largely transformed into an upscale shopping district that includes high-end restaurants, salons and boutiques. The booming real estate market has forced the city to struggle between permitting growth and restricting it. The city today remains a mix of high-end luxury homes and condos intermixed with legacy residences and mobile home parks populated by an old guard of Aspen residents struggling to maintain the unique character of the city.

The city sits along the southeast, upper end of the Roaring Fork Valley, along the Roaring Fork River, a tributary of the Colorado River about 40 miles south of Glenwood Springs. It is surrounded by mountain and wilderness areas on three sides: Red Mountain to the north, Smuggler Mountain to the east, and Aspen Mountain to the south.

According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 3.5 square miles and sits at 7,908 feet. Aspen has a population of 6,000 full-time residents. The median income for a household in the city is $53,750, and the median income for a family is $70,300. Males had a median income of $41,011 versus $32,023 for females. The per capita income for the city is $40,680.

About 3.6 percent of families and 8.2 percent of the population are below the poverty line, including 4.4 percent of those under age 18 and 2.6 percent of those age 65 or over.

The city of Aspen operates under a city manager form of government. The city manager is appointed by and serves at the pleasure of the City Council. The mayor is elected for a two-year term. There are four council members who are elected at-large for four-year terms. All employees report to the city manager.


City of Aspen:

Aspen Chamber Resort Association:

Aspen Skiing Co.:

White River National Forest, Aspen District:

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