The storied Colorado ski resort has become synonymous with a jet-set crowd and as a destination for the world’s billionaires, but what attracts this crowd to the tiny town and keeps them coming back for years?
Today, Aspen’s success and reputation is largely due in part because of its world-class skiing, dining, shopping, and real estate. However, the former silver mining town was not always the destination for the world’s elite as it is today.
Aspen has a storied history, including the name of “richest silver mining town in the world” in the 1880s. Celebrities began being attracted to Aspen as early as the 50s, falling in love and calling the Colorado town their second home, and staying for decades to come. Aspen also saw a wave of interest from urbanites from cities across the country that became fed up with urban life and all its perils, seeking that “calling out west.” Many say that once you go to Aspen, you either stay or always come back.
This sense of allure that Aspen has on its visitors attracted key celebrities and entrepreneurs that began the transformation of the town into a world-class destination. Efforts of entrepreneurs led to the building of, what many regard as one of the best hotels in the world, The Little Nell, the Silver Queen Gondola at Aspen mountain to elevate the lift experience, and the arrival of luxury shops. Entrepreneur Harley Baldwin secured Dior as a tenant in his building which led to the arrival of Gucci, Louis Vuitton, and other renowned designers. Today, you can buy almost any luxury brand you desire in Aspen.
In addition to the arrival of prominent individuals, luxury shopping, and hotels, Aspen also saw the arrival of elite membership clubs that added to this seemingly new clientele of the town. The Caribou Club and Aspen Mountain Club remain some of the most prestigious members only clubs today.
You are probably thinking, the arrival of a few celebrities and hotels can not be the only thing that transformed Aspen into the town it is today, which is correct. Much of Aspen’s “success” is also a real estate story. Since the 70’s or so through the present, real estate prices in the Roaring Fork Valley have skyrocketed. There are countless stories of those that fell in love with Aspen decades ago, purchasing property for $200,000 that could now be worth in excess of $2 million. Increasing property values also leads to homeowners “trading up” to their next home.
Today, there is not much land left that can be built on, and restrictions have been put into place regarding the size of new homes that can be built. The real estate boom of Aspen has created the simple story of “money is attracted to money.” For those that can get into the Aspen real estate market, they do, however, a report stated that for Q3 2016 the average sale price was $3.1 million in Aspen, so its all about being able to get into this exclusive market.
Why do people love Aspen so much? It offers a sense of allure that other U.S. ski resorts simply do not. Those that call Aspen their second, third, or fourth home come back year after year, and many residents get to know each other, creating a sense of community. Aspen offers a sense of peace and quiet- an escape from the busy corporate world of many homeowners. Of course there is the obvious, skiing. There is world-class skiing in and around Aspen. Snowmass alone is 3,300 acres of skiing terrain, and if it were stand alone, it would be the second largest ski resort in the U.S. Aspen is equally as popular in the summer as it is in the winter, offering hiking, biking, fishing, picnics, festivals, and concerts in the beautiful mountain setting.
Did you Know?
Compass is present in Aspen! If you are interested in viewing and purchasing property in the Aspen area, we can connect with the best agents on the ground.
Getting to Aspen:
Aspen has a small airport that services both commercial airlines and a large population of private jets. It is said that on major holidays, a private jet is either taking off or landing every 6 minutes from Aspen.
Because the airport is small, and at high altitude, only certain aircraft are permitted to land. As a result, many east coast cities cannot offer a direct flight, as you need to switch to a smaller plane in a nearby city. West Coast cities as well as hubs such as Chicago, Houston, Dallas, and Denver offer nonstop service to Aspen.
Another option is flying to Denver, and driving to Aspen. The approximately 4 hour drive on Independence Pass can be quite treacherous in the winter, but offers beautiful scenery in the summer.
Where to Stay:
If you are visiting Aspen on vacation, there are an array of options for accommodations in Aspen as well as neighboring Snowmass. Here are some topic picks:
- The Limelight- 355 S Monarch Street
- The Little Nell- 675 E Durant
- The St. Regis- 315 E Dean Street
- Hotel Jerome- 330 E Monarch Street
- The Viceroy- 130 Wood Road, Snowmass Village
Aspen offers multiple different mountains, each with varying terrain. They are all interconnected with one, easy lift pass.
- Buttermilk: Buttermilk is regarded as one of the best beginner mountains in the world, and one of the best places to learn how to ski. They offer a mix of beginner terrain and a great ski and snowboard school.
- Highlands: A favorite among locals and avid skiers, Highlands offers some beginner terrain but is more suited for advance skiers. It is also home to the famous Cloud 9 Bistro- a great ski party scene.
- Ajax: Also referred to as Aspen Mountain, Ajax is the go-to mountain for advanced skiers. The mountain utilizes the famous Silver Queen Gondola. It does not have any beginner green runs.
- Snowmass: Snowmass is the furthest from Aspen town, however it is like its own little resort town with places to stay as well. Snowmass is huge, offering various terrain for beginners all the way to advanced skiers.
Taking a break from the mountains? Aspen offers a variety of world class shopping from fashion and jewelry to fine art.
- Kith- 430 E Cooper Avenue
- Gorsuch- 419 E Cooper Avenue
- Moncler- 432 E Hyman Avenue
- Incline Ski Shop- 555 E Durant Avenue
- Ralph Lauren- 501 E Cooper Avenue
Where to Eat:
From Italian to American, and some of the best Japanese, Aspen appeals to foodies. It is home to the Aspen Food & Wine Festival after all!
- Casa Tua- 403 S Galena Street
- Wild Fig- 315 E Hyman Avenue
- Aspen Kitchen- 515 E Hopkins Avenue
- Matsuhisa- 303 E Main Street
- Element 47- 675 E Durant Avenue