Aspen, Colorado
Downtown Aspen (2005)
Downtown Aspen (2005)
Flag of Aspen, Colorado
Etymology: Aspen trees around the city
Location within Pitkin County and Colorado
Location within Pitkin County and Colorado
Aspen is located in the United States
Location within the United States
Coordinates: 39°11′42″N 106°50′13″W / 39.194951°N 106.837002°W / 39.194951; -106.837002Coordinates: 39°11′42″N 106°50′13″W / 39.194951°N 106.837002°W / 39.194951; -106.837002[3]
Country United States
State Colorado
CountyPitkin County seat[2]
 • TypeHome rule municipality, council-manager
 • City managerSarah Ott
 • MayorTorre
 • 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)
 • Total7,004
 • Density1,815/sq mi (701/km2)
 • Metro
 • CSA
Time zoneUTC−07:00 (MST)
 • Summer (DST)UTC−06:00 (MDT)
ZIP Code
81611, 81612 (PO Boxes)
Area code970
FIPS code08-03620
INCITS place code0803620
GNIS feature ID0204686
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 wire specimens from the historic Mollie Gibson Mine near Aspen
Silver wire specimens from the historic Mollie Gibson Mine near Aspen
Aspen Lumber Company, built in 1882
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.[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.

Aspen, 1962
Aspen, 1962

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 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]


City Hall, formerly Armory Hall
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.


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]

Real estate market

The John Denver Sanctuary in Rio Grande Park
The John Denver Sanctuary in Rio Grande Park

Aspen's single-family home prices are among the highest of any town in the country. Real estate supply is restricted because most of the land around Aspen is public land, conservation land, or part of large private ranches, while demand for housing around Aspen soared during the COVID-19 pandemic.[22] The median sales price of a single family home in 2021 in Aspen was $9.5 million.[22] 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),[22] or in the city's condos, many of which date to the 1960s and 1970s.[23]

Affordability of housing is a severe challenge for workers in the Aspen area.[24] 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.[25] 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.[26]

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.[27]


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″N 106°49′28″W / 39.192297°N 106.824470°W / 39.192297; -106.824470,[28] 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, with frosts being rare in summer and winter days often averaging above freezing.

Climate data for Aspen, Colorado, 1991–2020 normals, extremes 1980–present
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Record high °F (°C) 58
Mean maximum °F (°C) 48.6
Average high °F (°C) 32.0
Daily mean °F (°C) 20.9
Average low °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 (mm) 29.1
Average precipitation days (≥ 0.01 in) 12.7 12.7 11.3 13.0 11.0 6.9 11.3 12.5 10.0 9.4 9.9 12.2 132.9
Average snowy days (≥ 0.1 in) 12.0 11.6 9.5 8.4 2.5 0.2 0.0 0.0 0.7 4.0 8.3 11.3 68.5
Average relative humidity (%) 62.9 60.0 54.1 50.1 46.9 42.8 47.4 52.3 50.6 52.3 59.7 64.5 53.6
Mean daily sunshine hours 7 8 8 9 10 11 10 9 9 8 6 6 8
Average ultraviolet index 2 4 6 8 10 11 11 10 8 5 3 2 7
Source: NOAA[29][30]Weatherbase (humidity)[31]Weather Atlas (daily sunshine hours and UV index)[32]


Henry Webber House
Henry Webber House
Historical population
Census Pop.
U.S. Decennial Census

As of the census[33] 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.



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.

Ski Run from the 2017 World Cup
Ski Run from the 2017 World Cup

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.[35]


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.

Historic buildings

Sister cities

Silver mines in Aspen, 1898
Silver mines in Aspen, 1898

Aspen's sister cities are:[36]

Notable people

Main article: List of people from Aspen, Colorado

See also


  1. ^ a b "Active Colorado Municipalities". Colorado Department of Local Affairs. Retrieved October 15, 2021.
  2. ^ "Colorado Counties". State of Colorado, Colorado Department of Local Affairs, Division of Local Government. Retrieved January 25, 2021.
  3. ^ "2014 U.S. Gazetteer Files: Places". United States Census Bureau. July 1, 2014. Retrieved January 5, 2015.
  4. ^ a b c d "Decennial Census P.L. 94-171 Redistricting Data". United States Census Bureau, United States Department of Commerce. August 12, 2021. Retrieved September 2, 2021.
  5. ^ "Find a County". National Association of Counties. Archived from the original on May 31, 2011. Retrieved June 7, 2011.[not specific enough to verify]
  6. ^ "Colorado County Seats". State of Colorado, Department of Public Health and Environment.[not specific enough to verify]
  7. ^ "Aspen Center for Physics". Aspen Center for Physics. Retrieved 12 July 2017.
  8. ^ a b "Savills Global Prime Price League". Retrieved 2022-04-04.
  9. ^ Savills (November 30, 2021). "Which ski resort is most resilient?". Savills. Retrieved April 2, 2022.
  10. ^ Charles W. Henderson, 1926, Mining in Colorado, U.S. Geological Survey, Professional Paper 138, p.176, 201.
  11. ^ Howlett, W.J. Life of the Right Reverend Joseph P. Machebeuf, D.D. Denver. p. 392.
  12. ^ SM '07, Erica Naone. "Déjà View". MIT Technology Review. Retrieved 2019-12-14.
  13. ^ Park, Lisa Sun-Hee; Pellow, David Naguib (2011). The Slums of Aspen. New York University Press. ISBN 978-0-8147-6803-7.
  14. ^ "Aspen Public Radio".
  15. ^ "GrassRoots Community Network". GrassRoots Community.
  16. ^ "Aspen Sojourner". Aspen Sojourner.
  17. ^ "Maintenance".
  18. ^ "Aspen 82, About us". Aspen82. Retrieved 2019-12-14.
  19. ^ Seal, Mark (23 January 2014). "How Aspen became the billionaire's retreat". Vanity Fair. No. March.
  20. ^ "Shopping Aspen CO Colorado + Outlet Mall - City Guide".
  21. ^ "How to Shop Aspen, the West's Weird Luxury Oasis". February 2017.
  22. ^ a b c Small, Lori and William. "Small: 2022 real estate predictions: Is the market about to shift?". Aspen Daily News. Retrieved 2022-04-04.
  23. ^ "Estin Report Aspen Snowmass Real Estate 2021 ws". Tim Estin. 2021-01-08. Retrieved 2021-01-16.
  24. ^ "Skyrocketing Real Estate Prices Could Bring "Significant Cultural Change" To Aspen And Snowmass". Aspen Public Radio. 2021-05-17. Retrieved 2022-04-04.
  25. ^ "APCHA, CO | Official Website". Retrieved 2021-01-16.
  26. ^ Williams, Kaya. "Coffey Place lottery to offer deed-restricted housing in Snowmass". Retrieved 2021-01-16.
  27. ^ Malviya, Hitesh (2017). "Blockchain for Commercial Real Estate". SSRN Working Paper Series. doi:10.2139/ssrn.2922695. ISSN 1556-5068. S2CID 168880555.
  28. ^ "US Gazetteer files: 2010, 2000, and 1990". United States Census Bureau. 2011-02-12. Retrieved 2011-04-23.
  29. ^ "U.S. Climate Normals Quick Access – Station: Aspen 1SW, CO". National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Retrieved November 26, 2022.
  30. ^ "NOAA Online Weather Data – NWS Grand Junction". National Weather Service. Retrieved November 26, 2022.
  31. ^ "Aspen, Colorado Travel Weather Averages (Weatherbase)". Weatherbase. Retrieved 2019-07-05.
  32. ^ "Aspen, CO - Detailed climate information and monthly weather forecast". Weather Atlas. Yu Media Group. Retrieved 2019-07-05.
  33. ^ "U.S. Census website". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved 2008-01-31.[not specific enough to verify]
  34. ^ "Bike sharing comes to Aspen |". The Aspen Times. Retrieved 2016-08-01.
  35. ^ "Aspen High School Overview". U.S. News & World Report. Retrieved June 4, 2012.
  36. ^ "Aspen's Sister Cities". Aspen Chamber Resort Association. Retrieved 2020-07-10.

Further reading