The City of Aspen is the Home Rule Municipality
that is the county seat
and the most populous municipality
of Pitkin County
, United States
Its population was 6,658 at the 2010 United States Census
. It is in a remote area of the Rocky Mountains
' Sawatch Range
and Elk Mountains
, along the Roaring Fork River
at an elevation just below above sea level on the Western Slope
, west of the Continental Divide
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
In the late 20th century, the city 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
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. Demand for real estate has made Aspen one of the most expensive places in the country to buy a home.
thumb|left|300px|Aspen Lumber Company, built in 1882
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. Production expanded due to the passage of the Sherman Silver Purchase Act
of 1890, which doubled the government's purchase of silver. 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
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
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.
Aspen is notable as the smallest radio market
tracked by Arbitron
, ranked number 302.
Local media in Aspen include a public radio station, KJAX, a public television station, the Grassroots TV network; three commercial radio stations, KSNO
, and KSPN
; two daily newspapers, ''The Aspen Times
'' and ''The Aspen Daily News
''; three local lifestyle magazines, ''Aspen Sojourner'', ''Aspen Magazine
'' and the biannual ''Aspen Peak
''; and a local, live, commercial lifestyle television channel, Aspen 82.
Aspen is a home rule municipality
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 mayor is the mononymous
Torre, who became mayor in 2019.
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.
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
, 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.
The downtown has been largely transformed into an upscale shopping
district that includes high-end restaurants, salons, and boutiques.
Real estate market
Aspen's single-family home prices are among the highest in the US. In 2020, the average single-family home in Aspen sold for $11 million, and nine sold above $25 million. As of January 2021, according to Zillow, the least expensive single-family home for sale in Aspen without deed restrictions was offered at $4.95 million.
Aspen's real estate is exceptionally expensive in comparison to other ski resort communities. In a 2019 broker's analysis covering 12 high-profile western ski resort towns, Aspen's average home price (including single family and condos) was more than twice the next-most expensive resort town. In a 2015 survey of US ski resort towns, Aspen had the second most expensive rentals, with a one-bedroom averaging $1,750.
Relatively less expensive housing can be found outside the city limits, in nearby Snowmass Village, or in the many condos around the city, many of which date to the 1960s and 1970s.
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. 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 Aspen area can cost close to $1 million.
In 2018, Stephane de Baets
facilitated the first major commercial real estate transaction using blockchain technology to sell ownership stakes in the Aspen St. Regis Resort.
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 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 ,
along State Highway 82
According to the United States Census Bureau
, the city has a total area of , all land.
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, with frosts being rare in summer and winter days often averaging above freezing.
As of the census
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 people 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
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.
* Roaring Fork Transportation Authority
, or RFTA, provides free bus service within Aspen and Snowmass Village, and pay service to the surrounding communities of Basalt, El Jebel, Carbondale, Glenwood Springs, and Rifle. Amtrak
serves Glenwood Springs
, offering in conjunction with RFTA an environmentally friendly way to travel to Aspen.
* Aspen's airport is Aspen-Pitkin County Airport
, also known as Sardy Field. The airport is an FAA Class 1 airport and has one asphalt runway, wide and long. The airport is commercially serviced by American Airlines, Delta Airlines, and United Airlines.
* State Highway 82
is the only major road that provides access to Aspen. There are some mountain pass roads that lead to the city, but those require all-terrain vehicles and are typically impassable during the winter. Highway 82 east of Aspen is also impassable due to snow on Independence Pass
, leaving Highway 82 west of Aspen as the only means of motor vehicle access during the winter. Highway 82 east of Aspen is typically closed from approximately the end of October to Memorial Day, depending on snow conditions.
* The bike-sharing system
WE-CYCLE serves Aspen and Basalt
with 16 stations and 200 bikes. Docking stations and bikes are built by PBSC Urban Solutions
, 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
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.
File:Aspen Community church south facade.jpg|Aspen Community Church
File:Aspen Wheeler Opera House.jpg|Wheeler Opera House
File:Pitkin County Courthouse Aspen 2015.jpg|Pitkin County Courthouse
File:Aspen Armory Hall or Fraternal Hall.jpg|Armory Hall or Fraternal Hall (Aspen City Hall)
File:Aspen Elks building.jpg|Elks building
File:Aspen Cowenhaven Ute City Banque building.jpg|Cowenhoven Ute City Banque building
File:Aspen Independence building.jpg|Independence building
File:Aspen Hotel Jerome.jpg|Hotel Jerome
Aspen's sister cities
* Abetone Cutigliano
, New Zealand
* Aspen anomaly
* Smuggler Mine
* Colorado Silver Boom
* Aspen Center for Physics
* TV Aspen
* Berger, Bruce. ''The Complete Half-Aspenite'' WHO Press, 2005,
* Rohrbough, Malcolm. ''Aspen: The History of a Silver Mining Town 1879–1893'' Oxford University Press, 1988,
* Wentworth, Frank L. ''Aspen on the Roaring Fork'', Sundance Publication, hardcover, (earlier editions exist)
City of Aspen websiteCDOT map of the City of AspenAspen Chamber of CommerceAspen Pitkin County Housing AuthorityAspen Fire Protection District
Category:Cities in Colorado
Category:County seats in Colorado
Category:Cities in Pitkin County, Colorado
Category:Roaring Fork Valley
Category:Ski areas and resorts in Colorado
Category:Populated places established in 1879