Aspen, Colorado

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Aspen, Colorado
Downtown of Aspen, Colorado.jpg
Downtown Aspen (2005)
Flag of Aspen, Colorado.png
Aspen, CO Logo.png
Pitkin County Colorado Incorporated and Unincorporated areas Aspen Highlighted 0803620.svg
Location within Pitkin County and Colorado
Usa edcp location map.svg
Red pog.svg
Location within the United States
Coordinates: 39°11′42″N106°50′13″W / 39.194951°N 106.837002°W / 39.194951; -106.837002 [2]
CountryUnited States
State Colorado
County Pitkin County seat [3]
Incorporation 1881
Named for Aspen trees around the city
  Type Council–manager
  City managerSarah Ott
  Total3.858 sq mi (9.992 km2)
  Land3.858 sq mi (9.992 km2)
  Water0.000 sq mi (0.000 km2)
8,000 ft (2,438.4 m)
Highest elevation
(At SW corner of city boundary)
8,460 ft (2,580 m)
Lowest elevation
(Roaring Fork at N corner of city)
7,660 ft (2,330 m)
 (2020) [4]
  Density1,815/sq mi (701/km2)
Time zone UTC−07:00 (MST)
  Summer (DST) UTC−06:00 (MDT)
ZIP Code
81611, 81612 (PO Boxes)
Area code 970
FIPS code 08-03620
INCITS place code 0803620
GNIS feature ID 0204686
Wikimedia CommonsAspen, Colorado

Aspen is a home rule municipality that is the county seat and the most populous municipality of Pitkin County, Colorado, United States. [5] [6] The city population was 7,004 at the 2020 United States Census. [4] Aspen is in a remote area of the Rocky Mountains' Sawatch Range and Elk Mountains, along the Roaring Fork River at an elevation just below 8,000 feet (2,400 m) above sea level on the Western Slope, 11 miles (18 km) west of the Continental Divide. Aspen is now a part of the Glenwood Springs, CO Micropolitan Statistical Area.


Founded as a mining camp during the Colorado Silver Boom and later named Aspen for the abundance of aspen trees in the area, the city boomed during the 1880s, its first decade. The boom ended when the Panic of 1893 led to a collapse of the silver market. For the next half-century, known as "the quiet years", the population steadily declined, reaching a nadir of fewer than 1000 by 1930. Aspen's fortunes recovered in the mid-20th century when neighboring Aspen Mountain was developed into a ski resort, and industrialist Walter Paepcke bought many properties in the city in the 1950s and redeveloped them. Today it is home to three institutions, two of which Paepcke helped found, that have international importance: the Aspen Music Festival and School, the Aspen Institute, and the Aspen Center for Physics. [7]

In the late 20th century, the town became a popular retreat for celebrities. Gonzo journalist Hunter S. Thompson worked out of a downtown hotel and ran unsuccessfully for county sheriff. Singer John Denver wrote two songs about Aspen after settling there. Both figures popularized Aspen among the counter-cultural youth of the 1970s as an ideal place to live, and the city continued to grow even as it gained notoriety for some of the era's hedonistic excesses (particularly its drug culture).[ citation needed ]

Aspen remains popular as a year-round destination for locals, second-home buyers and tourists. Outdoor recreation in the surrounding White River National Forest serves as a summertime counterpart to the city's four ski areas. Prime residential real estate in Aspen is the most expensive of any ski resort in the world on a per-square-foot basis, according to a study of 44 global ski resorts. [8] Aspen is the world's second-highest-rated ski resort in terms of "the quality and reliability of their conditions and their capacity to withstand climate change." [9]


Silver mines in Aspen (1898) Silver mines, Aspen, Colorado, 1898.jpg
Silver mines in Aspen (1898)
Aspen (1962) Aspen, 1962, Kodachrome by Chalmers Butterfield.jpg
Aspen (1962)

The city's roots are traced to the winter of 1879, when a group of miners ignored pleas by Frederick Pitkin, Governor of Colorado, to return across the Continental Divide to avoid a Ute uprising. The Utes were fighting to maintain possession of their land and communities. Originally named Ute City, the small community was renamed Aspen in 1880, and, in its peak production years of 1891 and 1892, surpassed Leadville as the United States' most productive silver-mining district. [10] Production expanded due to the passage of the Sherman Silver Purchase Act of 1890, which doubled the government's purchase of silver. In 1883, the Apostolic Vicarate of Colorado's Bishop Machebeuf had the Reverend Edward Downey establish the first Catholic mission in Aspen. [11]

By 1893, Aspen had banks, a hospital, a police department, two theaters, an opera house, and electric lights. Economic collapse came with the Panic of 1893, when President Cleveland called a special session of Congress and repealed the act. Within weeks, many of the Aspen mines were closed and thousands of miners were put out of work. It was proposed that silver be recognized as legal tender and the People's Party (populists) adopted that as one of its main issues. Davis H. Waite, an Aspen newspaperman and agitator, was elected governor of Colorado on the Democratic ticket, but in time the movement failed.

Eventually, after wage cuts, mining revived somewhat, but production declined and by the 1930 census only 705 residents remained. Remaining, however, were stocks of old commercial buildings and residences, along with excellent snow. Aspen's development as a ski resort began in the 1930s when investors conceived of a ski area, but the project was interrupted by World War II. Friedl Pfeifer, a member of the 10th Mountain Division who had trained in the area, returned to the area and linked up with industrialist Walter Paepcke and his wife Elizabeth. The Aspen Skiing Company was founded in 1946 and the city quickly became a well-known resort, hosting the FIS World Championships in 1950. Paepcke also played an important role in bringing the Goethe Bicentennial Convocation to Aspen in 1949, an event held in a newly designed tent by the architect Eero Saarinen. Aspen was then on the path to becoming an internationally known ski resort and cultural center, home of the Aspen Music Festival and School. The area would continue to grow with the development of three additional ski areas, Buttermilk (1958), Aspen Highlands (1958), and Snowmass (1967).

In the 1970s, Aspen became known as a playground for the rich and famous. Notable celebrities frequented the town and ski slopes, also John Denver was one of the more famous permanent residents. In 1978, Aspen was thoroughly photographed for the Aspen Movie Map project funded by the U.S. Department of Defense. The Movie Map is one of the earliest examples of virtual reality software. [12]

In 1999, the city council passed a resolution to petition the US Congress and President Clinton to restrict US immigration. Aspen residents cited concerns about the environmental impacts of increased immigration on their community, including urban and suburban sprawl, pollution from the older automobiles typically driven by immigrants, and litter accumulating in the mountains attributable to the increasing population. The impetus for the resolution was the increasing number of trailer parks that housed the migrant workers employed locally in the service sector and ski industry. The parks were perceived to be degrading to the town's image, property values, and environment. The move was led by Terry Paulson, an Aspen City Council member, and supported and guided by national groups such as the Carrying Capacity Network, and the Center for Immigration Studies. The resolution was discussed on the American Patrol Report website, contributing to a controversy over whether or not the resolution was racially motivated. Councilman Terry Paulson and some Aspen citizens insisted that it was motivated entirely by environmental concerns. [13]

Aspen is notable as the smallest radio market tracked by Arbitron, ranked number 302.

Local media in Aspen include a public radio station, KJAX, [14] a public television station, the Grassroots TV network; [15] three commercial radio stations, KSNO, KTND, and KSPN; two daily newspapers, The Aspen Times and The Aspen Daily News ; three local lifestyle magazines, Aspen Sojourner, [16] Aspen Magazine [17] and the biannual Aspen Peak ; and a local, live, commercial lifestyle television channel, Aspen 82. [18]


Aspen Art Museum (2015) Aspen Art Museum by Shigeru Ban.jpg
Aspen Art Museum (2015)

The city's character has transformed dramatically in recent decades by skyrocketing property values and the proliferation of second homes, increasingly shutting low- and middle-income workers out of the city and creating a large pool of commuters from nearby bedroom communities such as Snowmass, Basalt, Carbondale, and Glenwood Springs. 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. Aspen has become a second and third home to many international jet-setters. Many people from the U.S. and abroad vacation in Aspen, especially during the winter. [19]

The downtown has been largely transformed into an upscale shopping district that includes high-end restaurants, salons, and boutiques. [20] Stores such as Gucci, Prada and Fendi dot South Mill Street and act as a "Rodeo Drive" of Aspen. [21]


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 (64 km) south of Glenwood Springs, Colorado. 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.

Aspen is located at 39°11′32″N106°49′28″W / 39.192297°N 106.824470°W / 39.192297; -106.824470 , [22] along State Highway 82.

At the 2020 United States Census, the city had a total area of 2,469 acres (9.992 km2), all of it land. [4]


Under the Köppen climate classification, Aspen has a humid continental climate (Köppen: Dfb) owing to its high elevation. There is a large diurnal temperature variation between daytime and nighttime temperatures, rendering summer days moderately warm and winter nights very cold for the latitude. Summer lows and winter highs are relatively moderate, and frosts are rare in summer and winter days often averaging above freezing.

Climate data for Aspen, Colorado, 1991–2020 normals, extremes 1980present
Record high °F (°C)58
Mean maximum °F (°C)48.6
Mean daily maximum °F (°C)32.0
Daily mean °F (°C)20.9
Mean daily minimum °F (°C)9.9
Mean minimum °F (°C)−6.4
Record low °F (°C)−20
Average precipitation inches (mm)1.93
Average snowfall inches (cm)28.1
Average extreme snow depth inches (cm)29.1
Average precipitation days (≥ 0.01 in)12.712.711.313.011.06.911.312.510.09.49.912.2132.9
Average snowy days (≥ 0.1 in)
Average relative humidity (%)62.960.
Mean daily sunshine hours 7889101110998668
Average ultraviolet index 24681011111085327
Source: NOAA [23] [24] Weatherbase (humidity) [25] Weather Atlas (daily sunshine hours and UV index) [26]


Henry Webber House (2010) Henry Webber House, Aspen, CO.jpg
Henry Webber House (2010)
The John Denver Sanctuary in Rio Grande Park The John Denver Sanctuary in Rio Grande Park, Aspen, Colorado.jpg
The John Denver Sanctuary in Rio Grande Park
Historical population
1890 5,108
1900 3,303−35.3%
1910 1,834−44.5%
1920 1,265−31.0%
1930 705−44.3%
1940 77710.2%
1950 91617.9%
1960 1,10120.2%
1970 2,437121.3%
1980 3,67850.9%
1990 5,04937.3%
2000 5,91417.1%
2010 6,65812.6%
2020 7,0045.2%
U.S. Decennial Census

As of the census [27] of 2003, there were 5,914 people, 2,903 households, and 1,082 families residing in the city. The population density was 1,675.4 inhabitants per square mile (646.9/km2). There were 4,354 housing units at an average density of 1,233.5 per square mile (476.2 per km2). The racial makeup of the city was 94.94 percent White, 0.44 percent Black or African American, 0.24 percent Native American, 1.45 percent Asian, 0.08 percent Pacific Islander, 1.64 percent from other races, and 1.2 percent from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 6.14 percent of the population.

There were 2,903 households, of which 16.5 percent had children under the age of 18 living with them, 28.8 percent were married couples living together, 5.6 percent had a female householder with no husband present, and 62.7 percent were non-families. Single individuals composed 43.8 percent of all households, and 4.8 percent had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 1.94 and the average family size was 2.67.

The ages of the population were 13.1 percent under the age of 18, 9.8 percent from 18 to 24, 42.1 percent from 25 to 44, 27.6 percent from 45 to 64, and 7.4 percent who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 37 years. For every 100 females, there were 115.1 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 117.5 males.

The median income for a household in the city was $53,750, and the median income for a family was $70,300. Males had a median income of $41,011 versus $32,023 for females. The per capita income for the city was $40,680. About 3.6 percent of families and 8.2 percent of the population were below the poverty line, including 4.4 percent of those under age 18 and 2.6 percent of those age 65 or over.


Aspen's single-family home prices are among the highest of any town in the country. Real estate supply is restricted due to a moratorium on new housing construction, housing renovation and short-term rentals. [28] [29] The median sales price of a single family home in 2021 in Aspen was $9.5 million. [29] A 2021 study by Savills, a global real estate broker, declared that prime Aspen real estate was the most expensive on a per-square-foot-basis of the 44 global ski resort markets it studied. [8]

Relatively less expensive housing can be found outside the city limits, in nearby Snowmass Village (median single family home price $5.2 million in 2021), [29] or in the city's condos, many of which date to the 1960s and 1970s. [30]

Affordability of housing is a severe challenge for workers in the Aspen area. [31] [28] The Aspen Pitkin County Housing Authority oversees an extensive program of properties intended for people who primarily live and work in the Roaring Fork Valley and whose income falls below certain limits, known as Employee Housing. [32] Homes purchased through Employee Housing programs typically contain deed restrictions to maintain a degree of affordability for local residents, but even deed-restricted properties in the area can cost close to $1 million. [33]


Ski Run from the 2017 World Cup 2017 World Cup Ski Run, Aspen.jpg
Ski Run from the 2017 World Cup

The Winter X Games sports event has been held in Aspen at Buttermilk (ski area) since 2002. Aspen natives Torin Yater-Wallace and Alex Ferreira are both freestyle skiers who compete in the Winter X Games and have very successful careers. Both Torin and Alex have represented the United States of America in Men's Ski SuperPipe at the Olympic Games.

The Gentlemen of Aspen is the local rugby team. The Gentlemen of Aspen won the Rugby Super League several times: 1997, 2001, 2002.


City Hall, formerly Armory Hall Aspen City Hall.jpg
City Hall, formerly Armory Hall

Aspen is a home rule municipality [1] under Colorado law. It has a council-manager government. An elected council of four members and the mayor supervise the city's operations, managed on a day-to-day basis by the city manager, an appointed official who serves at their pleasure.

The city's main office is at City Hall, the former Armory Hall listed on the National Register of Historic Places at the intersection of South Galena Street and East Hopkins Avenue. Because of its expansion in the late-20th century, it has outgrown that space. Several city departments are housed in satellite offices around the city.


As of 2012, based on data from the 2009–10 school year, according to U.S. News & World Report , Aspen High School, the only high school in the Aspen School District, is the top ranked high school in Colorado and ranked 59th in the United States. The high school has grades 9 to 12, 540 students, and 41 teachers. Olympic cross-country skier Noah Hoffman is a 2007 graduate.

Minorities, mostly Hispanic, make up 13 percent of the school's enrollment. Four percent of the students are economically disadvantaged. The school has a high rate of participation in the International Baccalaureate program. [34]


Historic buildings

Sister cities

Aspen's sister cities are: [36]

Notable people

See also

Related Research Articles

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Pitkin County, Colorado</span> County in Colorado, United States

Pitkin County is a county in the U.S. state of Colorado. As of the 2020 census, the population was 17,358. The county seat and largest city is Aspen. The county is named for Colorado Governor Frederick Walker Pitkin.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Basalt, Colorado</span> Town in Colorado, United States

Basalt is a home rule municipality located in Eagle and Pitkin counties, Colorado, United States. The town population was 3,984 at the 2020 United States Census with 2,917 residing in Eagle County and 1,067 residing in Pitkin County. Basalt is a part of the Edwards-Glenwood Springs, CO Combined Statistical Area.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Carbondale, Colorado</span> Town in Colorado, United States

The Town of Carbondale is a home rule municipality located in Garfield County, Colorado, United States. The town population was 6,434 at the 2020 United States Census. Carbondale is a part of the Glenwood Springs, CO Micropolitan Statistical Area.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Glenwood Springs, Colorado</span> City in Colorado, United States

Glenwood Springs is a home rule municipality that is the county seat of Garfield County, Colorado, United States. The city population was 9,963 at the 2020 United States Census. Glenwood Springs is located at the confluence of the Roaring Fork River and the Colorado River, connecting the Roaring Fork Valley and a series of smaller towns on the Colorado River.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Snowmass Village, Colorado</span> Town in Colorado, United States

Snowmass Village is a home rule municipality in Pitkin County, Colorado, United States. The population was 3,096 at the 2020 census. A popular winter resort location for skiing and snowboarding, the town is well known as the location of the Snowmass ski area, the largest of the four nearby ski areas operated collectively as Aspen/Snowmass. In 2010, the accidental discovery by a bulldozer operator of fossilized elements of a Pleistocene ecosystem in the ice age lake bed at the Ziegler Reservoir put Snowmass Village prominently on the paleontological map of North America.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Roaring Fork River</span> Tributary

Roaring Fork River is a tributary of the Colorado River, approximately 70 miles (110 km) long, in west central Colorado in the United States. The river drains a populated and economically vital area of the Colorado Western Slope called the Roaring Fork Valley or Roaring Fork Watershed, which includes the resort city of Aspen and the resorts of Aspen/Snowmass.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Woody Creek, Colorado</span> Census Designated Place in Colorado, United States

Woody Creek is an unincorporated town, a post office, and a census-designated place (CDP) located in and governed by Pitkin County, Colorado, United States. The Woody Creek post office has the ZIP Code 81656. At the United States Census 2020, the population of the Woody Creek CDP was 290. The Woody Creek Metropolitan District provides services. The CDP is a part of the Glenwood Springs, CO Micropolitan Statistical Area.

Snowmass is an unincorporated community and a U.S. Post Office located in Pitkin County, Colorado, United States. It is situated in the valley of the Roaring Fork River, near the mouth of Snowmass Creek along State Highway 82 between Aspen and Basalt. It consists largely of a post office, several commercial businesses, and surrounding houses and ranches. The Snowmass Post Office has the ZIP Code 81654.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Independence Pass (Colorado)</span> Highest paved crossing of North Americas Continental Divide

Independence Pass, originally known as Hunter Pass, is a high mountain pass in central Colorado, United States. It is at elevation 12,095 ft (3,687 m) on the Continental Divide in the Sawatch Range of the Rocky Mountains. The pass is midway between Aspen and Twin Lakes, on the border between Pitkin and Lake counties.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Elk Mountains (Colorado)</span> Mountain range in Colorado, United States

The Elk Mountains are a high, rugged mountain range in the Rocky Mountains of west-central Colorado in the United States. The mountains sit on the western side of the Continental Divide, largely in southern Pitkin and northern Gunnison counties, in the area southwest of Aspen, south of the Roaring Fork River valley, and east of the Crystal River. The range sits west of the Sawatch Range and northeast of the West Elk Mountains. Much of the range is located within the White River National Forest and the Gunnison National Forest, as well as the Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness and Raggeds Wilderness. The Elk Mountains rise nearly 9,000 ft. above the Roaring Fork Valley to the north.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Aspen Mountain (ski area)</span> Ski area in Colorado, United States

Aspen Mountain is a ski area in the western United States, located in Pitkin County, Colorado, just outside and above the city of Aspen. Situated on the north flank of Aspen Mountain, its summit elevation is 11,212 feet (3,417 m) above sea level. Aspen Mountain forms the end of Richmond Ridge, a long ridge that extends ten miles (16 km) south at approximately 11,000 ft (3,350 m) to join the main spine of the Elk Mountains.

The Aspen Skiing Company, known locally as Ski Co, is a commercial enterprise based in Aspen, Colorado. The Aspen Skiing Company operates the Aspen/Snowmass resort complex, which comprises four ski areas: Aspen Mountain, Aspen Highlands, Buttermilk, and Snowmass.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Roaring Fork Valley</span> Place in Colorado, United States

The Roaring Fork Valley is a geographical region in western Colorado in the United States. The Roaring Fork Valley is one of the most affluent regions in Colorado and the U.S. as well as one of the most populous and economically vital areas of the Colorado Western Slope. The Valley is defined by the valley of the Roaring Fork River and its tributaries, including the Crystal and Fryingpan River. It includes the communities of Aspen, Snowmass Village, Basalt, Carbondale, and Glenwood Springs. Mount Sopris and the Roaring Fork River serve as symbols of the Roaring Fork Valley.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Colorado State Highway 82</span> State highway in Colorado, United States

State Highway 82 is an 85.3-mile-long (137.3 km) state highway in the U.S. state of Colorado. Its western half provides the principal transportation artery of the Roaring Fork Valley on the Colorado Western Slope, beginning at Interstate 70 (I-70) and U.S. Highway 6 in Glenwood Springs southeast past Carbondale, Basalt and Aspen. From there it continues up the valley to cross the Continental Divide at Independence Pass. On the Eastern Slope, it follows Lake Creek past some of Colorado's highest mountains to Twin Lakes Reservoir, where it ends at US 24 south of Leadville.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Roaring Fork Transportation Authority</span> Public transport agency in the Roaring Fork Valley, Colorado

The Roaring Fork Transportation Authority is an agency that operates public transportation for the Roaring Fork Valley in Colorado. RFTA's service area stretches 70 miles (110 km) from Aspen to Rifle, serving major cities of Basalt, Snowmass Village, Carbondale, and Glenwood Springs in between. RFTA also operates seasonal ski shuttles, guided bus tours to Maroon Bells, paratransit, and manages the Rio Grande Trail.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Maroon Creek Bridge</span> Bridge in CO, USA

The original Maroon Creek Bridge is a steel trestle along State Highway 82 at the western boundary of Aspen, Colorado, United States. It was designed by George S. Morison in 1888 for the Colorado Midland Railroad, one of the last viaducts in Colorado built for a standard gauge mountain railroad in the 19th century. Of the five steel bridges the Midland built, it is the only one still extant. Due to the later removal of most track and the rail depots, the bridge is the most visible remnant of rail service to Aspen. In 1985 it was listed on the National Register of Historic Places along with other highway bridges in the state, including the Sheely Bridge, also in Aspen.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Ski Lift No. 1</span> United States historic place

The former Ski Lift No. 1 begins on Aspen Street in Aspen, Colorado, United States, and climbs up the slopes of Aspen Mountain. It was built in the late 1940s on the site of Aspen's first ski lift, known as the Boat Tow. In 1990 it was listed under that name on the National Register of Historic Places, one of only two ski lifts in the country so recognized.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Hotel Jerome</span> Historic hotel in Aspen, Colorado

The Hotel Jerome is located on East Main Street in Aspen, Colorado, United States. It is a brick structure built in the 1880s that is often described as one of the city's major landmarks, its "crown jewel". In 1986 it was listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It is operated by Auberge Resorts.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Newberry House</span> Historic house in Colorado, United States

The Newberry House, also known as the Judge Shaw House, is located on Lake Avenue in Aspen, Colorado, United States. It is a wooden structure in the Shingle Style built around 1890. In 1987 it was listed on the National Register of Historic Places along with other properties in the city.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Shilling–Lamb House</span> Historic house in Colorado, United States

The Shilling–Lamb House, also sometimes referred to as Victoria House, is located on North Second Street in Aspen, Colorado, United States. It is a wood frame structure in the Queen Anne architectural style built around 1890. In 1987 it was listed on the National Register of Historic Places.


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  33. Williams, Kaya (January 13, 2021). "Coffey Place lottery to offer deed-restricted housing in Snowmass". Retrieved January 16, 2021.
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  35. "Bike sharing comes to Aspen |". The Aspen Times. Retrieved August 1, 2016.
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Further reading