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8 Reasons Why Aspen is Famous

Posted: 26 Feb 2019

Colorado natives say that if you visit Aspen during the winter, you're likely to stay for the Colorado mountain summer. This small mountain community is famous for the four Aspen ski areas surrounding the town (Aspen Mountain, Aspen Highlands, Snowmass and Buttermilk), and even more adventure awaits once the snow melts and the greenery emerges. The warm, sunny days and cool, refreshing nights in the Roaring Fork Valley -- without the suffocating humidity of the south or the east coast -- provide the perfect summertime conditions for exploring every inch of this famous town, again and again.

Aspen is famous for:
1. Skiing in Aspen
2. Aspen Skiing History
3. Aspen Mining Fame
4. Aspen Film Festival
5. Aspen Music Festival
6. Aspen Ideas Festival
7. Aspen Celebrities
8. Shopping in Downtown Aspen

Skiing in Aspen

Aspen, Colorado is nestled high in the Rocky Mountains at around 8,000 feet, so you'll find snow in Aspen nearly half the year. And not just any snow -- the snowfall in Aspen is the fine, powdery stuff that's perfect for skiing. Ski season in Aspen varies from year to year, but you can usually count on skiing from November through mid-April and sometimes into May.

With a whopping four ski resorts nearby, it's no wonder Aspen is famous for its skiing. People travel from all over the world to ski here (and not just the rich and famous). Several of the local ski resorts also host professional-level (and famous) ski events, like the annual X Games Aspen at Buttermilk and the Audi Power of Four challenge that starts at Snowmass. Even if you're not the competing type, you'll find plenty of more social ski events scheduled throughout the season around Aspen, including ski instruction for all levels -- from beginner to Olympic-ready. And when you're done skiing the slopes for the day, you'll find out that Aspen is just as famous for its apres.

Aspen Skiing History and Tours

Aspen's famous ski hills are part of its history -- long before there were lifts, locals hiked up to ski down. Skiing has been such an important part of Aspen's growth that it has even spawned a local cottage industry in ski history tourism: the Aspen Historical Society hosts a ski history tour that takes visitors through the birth of skiing as a hobby and its growth through the "Maverick" period in the '70s to the rise of outlaw snowboarding. Visit Aspen's local museums on your next visit to find out how the famous Aspen skiing culture and traditions developed in and around the town itself.

Aspen Mining Fame

Before people discovered how much fun it is to go downhill, hundreds of prospectors mined the local mountains for shiny treasures. For the first 50 years of its existence, Aspen was famous for silver mining, which was the heart of the local economy until the Great Depression.

Aspen began as a mining town in 1880 and quickly turned into a real Wild West boom town when the federal government began paying top dollar to stockpile silver from local Aspen mines. Those purchases stopped under President Taft, which is when the mining industry declined. Several locals attempted to enter politics and get silver recognized as legal tender; to this day, some locals still use the famous Aspen Dollar, a pure-silver coin that can be used to barter for goods and services only in Aspen.

Today, Aspen is still partly famous for its role in national politics during the Roosevelt years. Aspen's famous Smuggler Mine no longer produces silver, but it does offer guided mining tours for tourists in the summer. Summer visitors learn about the mechanics, economics, politics and history of the silver mining that was Aspen's first claim to fame.

Aspen Film Festival

Since 1979, Aspen has been famous for its annual film festivals. The first of these, the annual Aspen Film Festival, hosts 200 films from scores of artists and aspiring independent filmmakers each year. An incredible 90 percent of events associated with the festival are free to the general public. Up to 30,000 visitors enter this small mountain town every year (population just 6,000) and sit in the famous Wheeler Opera House to see the newest cinematic trends (and spot a celebrity or twenty).

Aspen Music Festivals

Movies aren't the only celebrated arts in Aspen and Snowmass. Live music can be found in and around Aspen year-round, though the most famous live music events occur in the summer.

Since 1949, the Aspen Music Festival and School has been welcoming visitors with stirring classical music performances. Events are held year round, but the main festival runs from the end of June to the middle of August.

If classical music doesn't resonate with you, Snowmass offers a summer series of professional performances at its annual Jazz Aspen Snowmass (JAS) festival, as well as a free summer concert series on (mostly) Thursday nights. You'll find many famous names headlining every summer. Events peak in June, but multiple concerts and shows are held all year.

Aspen Ideas Festival

Since 2005, the Aspen Institute for Humanitarian Studies has been doing some intellectual heavy lifting at the annual Aspen Ideas Festival. This annual series of events features dozens of famous speakers in the realms of politics, entertainment, academia and the arts. Ideas Festival Participants get up close and personal with some of the most influential modern minds while attending a number of lectures and interviews. In any given year, festival guests may be treated to talks given by prominent politicians (Hillary Clinton, for example), Supreme Court justices, well-known authors, former presidents and VPs (Bill Clinton has spoken, as has Al Gore), and foreign heads of state.

Aspen Celebrities

With all the famous movies, music performers and intellectuals being celebrated in Aspen, it's inevitable that celebrities abound. They fly their private jets into Aspen Pitkin County Airport, and even own homes in Aspen -- Colorado mountain homes of the rich and famous. While the town of Aspen -- with its luxury real estate, big name performers, and vibrant nightlife -- is truly a celebrity magnet, one of the most exciting things is how ordinary people can bump right into world-famous celebs, simply standing in line at Carl's Pharmacy. In 2019, Jeff Bezos rode his horse into one of his favorite local Western shops downtown, and there are times when it's hard to cross E. Main St., near the Aspen Brewing Company, without running into a Kardashian or five.

Shopping in Downtown Aspen

All those celebrities need to get their shopping on, and Aspen is famous for its abundance of luxury boutiques and exclusive art galleries. Aspen boasts a Gucci and a Prada on the Aspen Pedestrian Mall downtown, as well as Kemo Sabe, where celebs can find the finest Western wear (horse optional).

See Aspen's Famous Attractions for Yourself
Frias Properties has Aspen's largest selection of vacation rentals that offer world-class lodging and foot-distance access to the shopping and sights of Aspen's exciting downtown district. Browse our locations to find out what we offer, or contact a booking agent to schedule your next adventure and to find out for yourself why Aspen is famous.