x
Breaking News
More () »

This Colorado resort hosted the first world ski competition in the United States

Aspen Snowmass is a world-renowned destination for recreational skiing and snowboarding and has hosted one of the largest action sports competitions for nearly 20 years.

ASPEN, Colo. — For the 18th year, the X Games are headed to Aspen.

The action sports and music festival will be taking over the slopes at Buttermilk Mountain January 24 through 27.

The annual event brings some of the world’s top ski, snowboard, snowmobile and snow bike athletes into the town that has long been known for hosting top snow sports competitions.

In 2017, the FIS Alpine World Cup Finals were held at Aspen Mountain. It was the first time the event was held in the United States in 20 years. Aspen also hosted the country’s first worldwide skiing competition in 1950.

The Power of Four endurance races, HiFi concert Series, Freeskiing Open and Spring Jam also draw thousands of people to the historic resort every year.

This story is part of our weekly 9Neighborhoods series, where we take you to different Denver neighborhoods and towns around the state to show off what makes them unique. Join us on a photo tour of Aspen Friday afternoon on Instagram.

Outside of event weekends, Aspen is busy nearly all year. The four mountains of Aspen Snowmass are a world-renowned destination for recreational skiing and snowboarding.

The town is also surrounded by some of the most picturesque hiking destinations, gorgeous fall colors and a quaint downtown.

RELATED: This posh resort town was shaped by skiing soldiers post World War II

The founding of ski resort

Aspen Resort’s earliest history began during the silver rush in the 1870s.

Prospectors braved stark winters and difficult mountain passes to mine the valuable ore, and for 14 years the Aspen area produced 1/16th of the world’s silver.

1908. Miners pose near the shafthouse of the Smuggler Mine near Aspen (Pitkin County), Colorado.

The rush inspired investors to begin building and the town of Aspen boomed.

However, the Silver Panic led to a massive downturn until a second valuable asset was discovered in the 1930s: snow.

The 1932 Winter Olympics in Lake Placid, New York led to a new interest in recreational alpine skiing in the United States.

A precursor to the modern ski and snowboard club, The Roaring Fork Winter Sports Club was formed in 1936 and one of the members gave free ski lessons each week at the base of what would eventually become Buttermilk Mountain.

By the following year, the first ski trail on Aspen Mountain was marked, the Aspen Valley Ski Club was established and a six-person ‘boat tow’ powered by an old mine hoist and a truck engine was built from the borrow of where Lift 1A is today.

During WWII, the growth of recreational skiing was temporarily put on hold, however, the mountains between Leadville and Aspen provided valuable training grounds for soldiers known as the 10th Mountain Division.

1944. A line of about 20 skiers climbs up a slope from the Tenth Mountain Division, Mountain Training Group during winter training designed to test the men's readiness for winter conditions by having them ski from Leadville to Aspen, Colorado.

The team was stationed at Camp Hale near Leadville and would routinely trek with 50 to 60 pound rucksacks from Leadville to Aspen in the snow, on skis.

After the war, one of those former soldiers, Friedl Pfeifer, returned to Aspen with the idea of helping develop recreational skiing in the area.

Pfeifer banded together with an industrialist from Chicago named Walter Paepcke and his wife Elizabeth who were scouting the area to create a mountain destination where people could come to relax and renew their spirits.

In 1945, Paepcke began acquiring both land and the original Aspen ski club and school.

The Aspen Skiing Company was officially incorporated in January 1946.

In its first year, the ski company established a ski patrol and built the area’s first chair lift, Lift-1, which was the longest chairlift in the world at the time it opened.

1930-1940. Two women skiers in Aspen, Colorado stand at the top of the ski hill facing downwards. Both women wear trousers, light jackets and scarves on their head. Trees are on either side of the ski slope, and the town is at the base of the hill.

Buttermilk Mountain and Aspen Highlands opened in 1958 and Snowmass-at-Aspen opened less than ten years later in 1967.

Aspen’s long history of ski competition

In its first year open, Aspen hosted three small races that helped to get the area noticed for having difficult terrain. But it was a competition held in 1950 that put the mountain on the world map.

The United States' first world skiing competition was held at Aspen. The event brought in more than 1,500 visitors and got people around the world talking about the new resort.

After that, Aspen quickly became known as a place to host competitions, festivals and other events.

1943-1944. Clarence Campbell of the Tenth Mountain Division ski jumps from a slope facing Aspen, Colorado. He is wearing his army issue ski uniform.

The Winter X Games came to Buttermilk Mountain for the first time in 2002.

The massive extreme sports event began in 1995 and was held in Stowe, Vermont; Big Bear Lake, California; Crested Butte, Colorado; and Mount Snow, Vermont before it was brought to Aspen in its 8th year.

On Wednesday, it was announced the event will remain in Aspen until at least 2024.

The town also made ski racing history when it hosted the 201 FIS Alpine World Cup Finals in March 2017. It was the first time in 20 years the event has been held in the United States.

Credit: Ezra Shaw/Getty Images
ASPEN, CO - MARCH 17: Patrick Thaler (left) of Italy races against Zan Kranjec of Slovenia during the Alpine Team Event during the Audi FIS Ski World Cup Finals at Aspen Mountain on March 17, 2017 in Aspen, Colorado. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

At the event, local ski hero Mikaela Shiffrin won both the slalom title, her fourth, and the Overall Crystal Globe, awarded by points gained in all alpine skiing races. She was the first American to win the globe at an event held in the United States.  

RELATED: Mikaela Shiffrin makes ski racing history

X Games Aspen 2019

For four days some of the best winter action sports athletes, performers and thousands of guests will flood the slopes and base of Buttermilk Mountain.

RELATED: 9Things to do in Colorado this weekend: January 25-27

RELATED: Winter X Games take over Aspen

Credit: KUSA
2018 Winter X Games in Aspen, Colorado (2018)

The competition began 11AM. Thursday, Jan. 24 and ended with a medal ceremony at 9PM on Sunday, Jan. 27.

There will be more than 75 Olympians including 2018 Winter Olympic hero Red Gerard, Gus Kenworthy, Chloe Kim, Julia Marino and more competing in the various events. There are competitions in ski, snowboard, snow bike and snowmobile.

See the full schedule and list of invited athletes on the X Games Aspen website.

During the X Games, there will also be a festival village at the base of the mountain and musical performances by Lil Wayne, The Chainsmokers, Louis the Child and Kygo.

All of the competitions are free and open to watch. The concerts are sold out.

Check out the other towns and neighborhoods we have featured:



Paid Advertisement

Before You Leave, Check This Out