The City of Aspen is the county seat and the most populous city of Pitkin County, Colorado, United States. The United States Census
Bureau estimates that the city population was 5,804 in 2005. Founded as a mining camp
in the Colorado Silver Boom and named because of the abundance of aspen trees in the
area, the city is now a ski resort and a upscale tourist center. In the late 20th
century, the city developed as an off-beat haven for misfits, attracting such celebrities
as John Denver (who wrote several folk songs about the town, including "Aspenglow", and "Starwood in Aspen") and Hunter S. Thompson. The city was the site of the U.S. Comedy
Arts Festival. Aspen has been declared "The Most Expensive Town in America."
This historic character of the city has been challenged in recent decades by skyrocketing property values and the proliferation of second homes, increasingly shutting low- and middle-income workers out of the city. At the same time, in stark contrast to its historic character, the city has emerged into international fame as a glitzy playground of the wealthy and famous. The downtown has been largely transformed into an upscale shopping district that includes high-end restaurants, salons, and boutiques. The booming real estate market has forced the city to struggle between permitting growth and restricting it. The city today remains a mix of high-end luxury homes and condos intermixed with legacy residences and mobile home parks populated by an old guard of Aspen residents struggling to maintain the unique character of the city. Aspen has become a second and third home to many international jet setters.
The city sits along the southeast (upper) end of the Roaring Fork Valley, along the Roaring Fork River, a tributary of the Colorado River. It is surrounded by mountain and wilderness areas on three sides: Red Mountain to the north, Smuggler Mountain to the east, and Aspen Mountain to the south.
The city has its roots in the winter of 1879, when a group of miners ignored pleas by Frederick Pitkin, governor of Colorado, to return across the Continental Divide due to an uprising of the Ute Indians. Originally named Ute City, the small community was renamed Aspen in 1880, and, in its peak production years of 1891 and 1892, surpassed Leadville, Colorado as the nation's most productive silver-mining district. Despite the price of silver steadily declined during the silver boom in Colorado and the frequent Indian attacks, production expanded due to the passage of the Sherman Silver Purchase Act of 1890, which doubled the government's purchase of silver. By 1893, Aspen had banks, a hospital, two theaters, an opera house and electric lights. Economic collapse came with the Panic of 1893, when President Cleveland called a special session of Congress and repealed the act. Within weeks, many of the Aspen mines were closed and thousands of miners were put out of work. It was proposed that silver be recognized as legal tender and the United States Populist Party that as one of its main issues; Davis H. Waite, an Aspen newspaperman and agitator was elected governor of Colorado on the Democratic Ticket; but in time the movement failed.
Eventually, after wage cuts, mining revived somewhat, but production declined and by the 1930 census only 705 residents remained. There was a fine stock of old business blocks and residences and excellent snow. Aspen's development as a ski resort first flickered in the 1930s when investors conceived of a ski area, but the project was interrupted by World War II. Friedl Pfeifer, a member of the 10th Mountain Division who had trained in the area, returned to the area and linked up with industrialist Walter Paepcke and his wife Elizabeth. The Aspen Skiing Corporation was founded in 1946 and quickly became a well-known resort, hosting the FIS World Championships in 1950. Paepcke also played an important role in bringing the Goethe Bicentennial Convocation to Aspen in 1949, an event held in a newly designed tent by the architect Eero Saarinen. Aspen was now on the path to becoming an internationally known Colorado ski resorts|ski resort and cultural center, home of the Aspen Music Festival and School. The area would continue to grow with the development of three additional ski areas, Buttermilk (1958), Aspen Highlands (1958), and Snowmass (1969).
According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 3.5 square miles, all of it land.
As of the census of 2000, there were 5,914 people, 2,903 households, and 1,082 families residing in the city. There were 4,354 housing units. The racial makeup of the city was 94.94% White, 0.44% Black or African American, 0.24% Native American, 1.45% Asian, 0.08% Pacific Islander, 1.64% fromother races, and 1.20% from two or more races. 6.14% of the population were Hispanics or Latino. The average household size was 1.94 and the average family size was 2.67. In the city the population was spread out with 13.1% under the age of 18, 9.8% from 18 to 24, 42.1% from 25 to 44, 27.6% from 45 to 64, and 7.4% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 37 years. For every 100 females there were 115.1 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 117.5 males.
The median income for a household in the city was $53,750, and the median income for a family was $70,300. Males had a median income of $41,011 versus $32,023 for females. The per capita income for the city was $40,680. About 3.6% of families and 8.2% of the population were below the poverty line, including 4.4% of those under age 18 and 2.6% of those age 65 or over.
Roaring Fork Transportation Authority or RFTA, provides bus service in Aspen, and pay service to the surrounding communities of Snowmass Village, Basalt, Carbondale, Glenwood Springs and Rifle. Local RFTA bus service within Aspen and to the Aspen-Pitkin County Airport is free.
Aspen's only airport is Aspen-Pitkin County Airport also known as Sardy Field. The airport is an FAA Class 1 airport, and has one asphalt runway, 100 ft wide and 7,006 ft long. Its hours of operation with FAA air traffic control is 7am to 10pm MST/MDT. Sardy Field is Colorado's third busiest airport. The airport has a large General Aviation section which can accommodate the many corporate airplanes and private jets which can crowd the airport during the busy holiday seasons. The F.B.O., which operates the General Aviation section, is Atlantic Aviation. The airport also has 4 regular commercial air carriers: United Airlines and Delta Airlines (operated by SkyWest Airlines),US Airways (operated by AmericaWest Airlines), and Frontier Airlines.