Aspen: ‘A gem in the mountains, a crystal city in the Rockies’

Private jets, $40 million mansions, and streets lined with boutique clothes stores — welcome to Aspen, a ski resort tucked away in the Rocky mountains that’s long been a playground for celebrities.

The average house price in Aspen is $5 million, and according to Forbes it’s one of the top 10 most expensive zip codes in America.

No surprise, then, that the likes of Lance Armstrong, Elle Macpherson, Heidi Klum and Seal have all been known to grace the town’s ski slopes over the years.

Kevin Costner married Christine Baumgartner at his ranch in Aspen, illustrious golfer Jack Nicklaus has a house there, and John Denver lived in the town until his death.

The numerous celebrities past and present who fell in love with the resort — including Denver — are remembered by a shrine tucked away on one of the ski slopes.

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Aspen, though, hasn’t always been a popular spot for the rich and famous. It was in the 19th century following a silver mining boom that it began to prosper, before taking off as a ski resort in the 1940s.

“It was like a gem in the mountains, a crystal city in the Rockies. It became world famous, and the fame of Aspen has just continued on,” Tony Vagneur, a Colorado native who is now president of the Aspen Historical Society, told CNN Alpine Edge.

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It was when Aspen first hosted the skiing world championships in 1950, explains Vagneur, that its reputation as one of the world’s premier ski destinations started to blossom.

“That got the attention of all of Europe,” he adds. “So many people came and got to ski the mountain. That was the catalyst for everything we have today.”

Today, crowds continue to flock to Aspen for major skiing events. It is thought that 70 private jets arrive at the airport each day during weeks that the town hosts the skiing World Cup.

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Aspen’s popularity, however, has also made it a victim of its own success, something local radio host Tony Egan knows all to well.

“Deny it or not, when you live at 8,000 feet in a ski business climate change is real,” Egan tells CNN Alpine Edge.

“There are billions of dollars worth of jets in the airport, they can’t even all fit here. The town changes a bit, not a lot, but the mountains, they don’t change a lot.”