Historic Hotel Jerome, circa 1930, Aspen Historical Society
Every autumn, as Labor Day Weekend passes and the kids return to school, locals in Aspen relish in the annual slow-down known as off-season. The Aspen groves turn from green to gold and snow begins to fall in the high country. While the dog-days of summer make way for cooler weather and quieter streets, Aspen’s year-round residents take a communal deep breath and begin to get excited about the approaching winter.
Before Aspen became an iconic ski town, the community of miners and ranchers that called Aspen home experienced a period known as “The Quiet Years.” After the repeal of the Sherman Silver Act in 1893, Aspen’s booming mining economy quickly turned towards bust with the demonetization of Silver. With cruel irony, a year later a 2,350 pound silver nugget was mined from Smuggler Mountain. Over the next 35 years, Aspen endured a wide range of hardships including the bankruptcy of the Colorado Midland Railroad and a Flu epidemic that forced the closure of most of the town. However, the end of America’s silver age ushered in a new era of ranching and farming to Aspen and the Roaring Fork Valley that began to shape the landscape we recognize today. This quiet time likely prepared the valley for the broader economic hardships that would begin to affect the country starting with the stock-market crash of 1929.
A Map of Aspen, 1896, Aspen Historical Society
As the country came out of the depression and Americans sought new ways to recreate, skiing began gaining relevance in the United States. The arrival of a Swiss avalanche expert named Andre Roch and the foundation of the Aspen Valley Ski Club in the 1930’s mark the beginning of Aspen’s emergence from The Quiet Years. Following World War II, members of the 10thMountain Division returned to Aspen with significant Alpine experience and helped to popularize our favorite sport. With the help of some incredibly insightful folks by the name of Walter & Elizabeth Paepcke, skiing plotted a new course for the town that we’re proud to call home.
Ted and Lillian Cooper, circa 1925, Aspen Historical Society Cooper Collection
This autumn, as we take a moment to relax and enjoy some quieter days in the Elk Mountains, we’ll pause and remember those who came before us and shaped the history of our hometown, through good times and hard times. If you’d like to learn more about Aspen’s unique and storied past, check out our friends at the Aspen Historical Society.