This historic mining town --
situated at the head of the Roaring Valley -- is
Colorado's top ski resort, and summer cultural center.
The combination of antique buildings, chic shops, and
social activities is hard to resist, and few - including the very well-to-do can resist.
summer months, the resort busies itself with ballet,
drama, music concerts, food and wine festivals and other
kinds of arts and gustatory activity. In the winter, skiers from around the world come to enjoy the two major ski areas here: Aspen and Snowmass.
With wilderness all-around, visitors have
no reason for neglecting their favorite outdoor
interests: fishing, hiking, and water sports. The rainy
spring months are fairly quiet, but people flock to Aspen
for the annual fall color display, in the huge aspen
groves which surround the town. Fall is also a
particularly good time to drive to Independence Pass,
with many fine scenic vistas along the way.
The Aspen Ski Area -- inaugurated in 1936
-- brought a very sleepy village back to life, after an
up and down period since silver was first sighted in
1879. By 1880, the town had a population of more than
1,000. The Denver & Rio Grande Railroad arrived in
1887. Aspen grew again, and by 1892, the town bulged with
12,000 inhabitants, but like all other mining towns, the
ore ran out. By the early 1930s, the town had a
population of only 700. The ski boom began after the end
of World War II, and the town became a magnet for skiers
from around the world. The Snowmass Ski Area is a more
Downhill skiing is Aspen's life blood, and the
mountains which have runs cut into them are the most
popular set of hills in the state. Three of the four
skiing operations are owned by one company, the Aspen
Skiing Company. These are: Aspen Mountain, Buttermilk, and Snowmass. The fourth ski
operation is Aspen Highlands. Aspen Mountain (or Ajax
Mtn.) looms 11,300 feet above the town, and the ski runs
here are for expert and senior-intermediate skiers. The
Silver Queen Gondola takes skiers to the top.
Buttermilk is two miles west of town, and has
miles and miles of bunny hills, novice and intermediate
runs., Cross-country skiers can receive telemark ski
instruction at Buttermilk. Snowmass is located 12
miles southwest of Aspen, and is a well-rounded family
skiing operation. There are four peaks within the ski
area, and many runs, a majority of them intermediate.
There is dining on the mountain, or at the base. For
information on the three jointly-owned hills, call (970)
925-1220. Snowmass may also be reached at (970) 923-2000.
Aspen Highlands provides a good mix of beginner,
intermediate, and advanced skiing. Highland's Bowl offers
a large powder area for experts only. For information,
call (970) 925-5300.
Cross Country Skiing
For cross-country skiers, there are groomed and
backcountry trails at Aspen. The backcountry trails are
mostly in the national forest. Groomed trails are
available at the Ashcroft Ski Touring Center, in
the little town of the same name, 12 miles from Aspen.
There are 19 miles of groomed trails, warming huts, and
food at the Pine Creek Cookhouse. The Aspen/Snowmass
Nordic Trail System features almost 50 miles of
groomed trails between the two towns, coordinated by the
nonprofit Nordic Council. Use of the trail is free, and
maps are available at the Aspen Visitors Center
(downtown), the Wheeler Opera House, or in sports stores.
Summer is a time for sight-seeing, and for the arts. The Aspen Music Festival stages its season from
late June through August, with the music ranging from
jazz to symphony, with seating in the famous tent, or on
the grass. For festival information, call (970) 925-3254.
Sightseeing is another favorite summer activity,
including trips to view the peaks of the Maroon
Bells. Fishing is best on the Fryingpan Lakes, the Fryingpan River, and Hunter Creek.
There are golf courses in Aspen and at Snowmass. Conundrum Hot Springs are located at the end of a
nine-mile hike from Forest Road 128. There are two pools
(three and five feet deep), beside Conundrum Creek, near
Triangle Pass. To get there, drive up Castle Creek Road
from Aspen for about five miles, and turn right onto FR
128, driving one mile to the trailhead.
Cultural facilities in Aspen include the Aspen Arts
Museum (on North Mill St.), featuring touring shows,
as well as exhibits by local artists and crafts people.
It is located in a park beside the Roaring Fork River.
The Wheeler Stallard House Museum, a large
Victorian home on West Bleeker Street, is operated by the
Aspen Historical Society, and houses Victorian
collections including clothing, children's toys, and room
While aspen is known for its jet-setters, people on a
budget can also enjoy the striking ambiance of the
resort. Hotel rates are lower in summer, and there are
several low-cost places to stay in town during the ski