Think of Aspen, Colorado, and surely a few vivid images come to mind: the mountains, skiing, and (of course) that notorious upper-crust reputation, just to name a few. From Hunter S. Thompson to that "Dumb and Dumber" movie to the "Aspen Secrets" reality show on VH-1, this small mountain town rarely runs short on characters ... or stereotypes. But seriously, is that all that Aspen is? An exclusive rich man's getaway with wealthy ski-bunny debutantes around every corner? Ask any local and they'll set you straight. While Aspen does sport its share of ski bunnies, the high-brow attitudes (and price tags) are a thing of the past, and more young couples and families are flocking to Aspen than ever before - both for vacation pleasures and for permanent residency.
So what makes Aspen such an attractive draw? We've covered what you already know - the mountains, the skiing, the snow bunnies - but what about what you don't know? This week, our blog team breaks down a few of the lesser-known facts about Aspen, Colorado. Take a look at these hidden gems of Aspen, and you'll quickly discover why so many people want to spend more and more time here. Aspen is a cultural and intellectual Mecca, offering art, music, lectures and seminars year round. Annual events such as the Aspen Ideas Festival bring social and civic leaders from around the world to Aspen to share ideas and information. Past guests have included a number of heads of state, as well as Tenzin Gyatso, the 14th and current Dalai Lama. The renown Aspen Institute offers local seminars and presentations, as well as offering young-leader fellowships around the globe. Built in 1889, the historic Wheeler Opera House is also a popular cultural stop, offering a number of concerts and shows throughout the year. For a calendar of events, CLICK HERE. Aspen has more national designated wilderness area surrounding our valley than anywhere in Colorado. Aspen is surrounded by the White River National Forest, providing a beautiful natural landscape that brings visitors from around the world. There is no shortage of hiking and biking trails in and around Aspen. Maroon Bells consists of two peaks - Maroon Peak and North Maroon Peak - in the Elk Mountain range, about 10 miles outside of Aspen. Only accessible during the summer months, guests flock to "The Bells" for biking, hiking and sightseeing. Many say Maroon Bells is one of the most photographed spots in North America because of its natural beauty, especially during the "fall colors turn." For hiking and biking info, CLICK HERE. The Aspen Music Festival offers world-class classical music performances by up-and-coming and renown artists and composers. The Aspen Music Festival offers an eight-week summer festival with more than 300 events, including opera, orchestral concerts, contemporary music, symposiums, lectures and kids' programs. The 2000-seat Benedict Music Tent is a popular spot in the summer, when art, ideas, beauty and music all intersect. Harris Concert Hall also offers a fine selection of performances. Many events are free of charge. Lawn seating is always free at outdoor performances. Aspen has more deed-restricted employee housing in our city and county per capita than anywhere and this helps ensure a stable work force. Stable and affordable housing for Aspen's workforce ensures a stable economy and keeps our locals very busy. Aspen offers a low unemployment rate and a high starting salary for its residents. The local real estate market also thrives. Aspen High School was rated the top Colorado school in 2012. Aspen High School came in No. 1 (and the 59th highest-rated high school in the nation) according to a 2012 ranking complied by U.S. news & World Report, a national news magazine. The ranking, called the "U.S. News Best High Schools" placed Aspen above much larger schools in Colorado Springs and Denver, as well as many academic and charter schools. Read more here... Aspen Valley Hospital is a national service award winner through Avatar International. Aspen Valley Hospital was identified as being in the "top 5 percent of hospitals" and has received the Best Performer Award for quality healthcare improvement services. The award is given for exemplary quality service for it patients throughout the organization. Long known for their commitment to service excellence, the hospital has garnered a reputation for achieving consistency and maintaining high levels of patient satisfaction over a long period of time.