Local History

The town of Aspen was born of a distinctive legacy that saw this small mining town transformed into one of the world’s premier luxury destinations.

The Aspen landscape has transformed drastically over the years, but its humble beginnings are rooted in the history of the Ute Indians over 8,000 years ago that called the Roaring Fork Valley home. When the settlers of the new world embarked over the Continental Divide in 1879, they discovered what is still considered one of the largest payloads of silver ever recorded in history. A mining camp was quickly formed and named after the original occupants, Ute City, but the camp was soon renamed and the town of Aspen was born.

With the influx of mining, and the abundance of silver in the area, Aspen became a prosperous, industrial community that supported two competing railways, rich architecture, and drew the attention and backing of several venture capitalists, including Jerome B. Wheeler and David Hyman.

Numerous newspapers, banks and schools were just a few of the modern day amenities that attracted many to this remote mining town. With electricity being among the newest of luxuries available in Aspen, the town was able to expand even further with hospitals, two theaters and an opera house.

Although the sudden boom of the silver industry had caused many in the area to become wealthy, soon after, the Sherman Silver Act returned the US government to the gold standard, thus causing many to loose the fortunes they had so recently obtained. With silver markets not as lucrative as they had previously been, Aspen residents were forced to survive as a ranching center for many years after.

In the year of 1935, at a time when the population of Aspen was around 700 residents, the remote land was discovered by a group of outdoor enthusiasts that were in search of an ideal location for skiing. Aspen’s rise as a top skiing destination was temporarily stalled with the start of WWII. Though, with the Army’s 10th Mountain Division being stationed nearby, the area quickly became a ski retreat for soldiers who were on leave from nearby Camp Hale.

When the war ended, the ground work was laid for the Aspen known today. When a well-known 10th Mountain Division member, Austrian Friedl Pfeifer, along with Walter and Elizabeth Paepcke returned to the area in 1947, Aspen began to cement itself as one of the world’s best ski resort towns. Aspen Mountain opened with what was then, the world’s longest ski lift, and the Paepckes, a few years later, spearheaded The Goethe Bicentennial Convocation. The introduction of music, dance, art and theater at the Bicentennial was the beginning of the cultural significance that Aspen has become so well known for.

By 1968 Aspen had solidified its reputation as one of the world’s premier ski, and cultural destinations which continues to hold true to this day.