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History of Snowmass

50 Years of Mountain Spirit

When Snowmass director of skiing Stein Eriksen loaded the first chairlift on December 16, 1967, all eyes were on Snowmass-at-Aspen, then the country’s largest and most complete winter resort. Former Olympic ski racer Bill Janss had spent the previous nine years buying up ranches in the pastoral Brush Creek Valley for the project, spurred by a tip from his friend, a local ski instructor who had searched the state and realized that the slopes of Baldy Mountain were ideal for skiing. Public and private snowcat ski tours confirmed this, generating nationwide buzz for the deep powder and endless vertical.

Inspired by his years spent skiing in Europe, Janss planned Snowmass to emulate ski villages in the Alps, nestled against the slopes and with nature as their defining principle. After just nine months of construction, Snowmass opened in December 1967 with five chairlifts and 50 miles of trails during a festive and frenzied weekend of last-minute preparations and celebrations, with journalists on hand from nearly every major media outlet in the country. Lift tickets were $6.50 and rooms in the seven slopeside lodges were $20.

Over 50 years, Snowmass has grown into a year-round family resort and vibrant community, with a mountain whose possibilities continue to be explored. Ski-terrain expansions have included the powder fields and steeps of the Hanging Valley and the vast above-treeline bowl of the Cirque, as well as three impressive terrain parks. On-mountain investments including the Elk Camp Gondola and Meadows beginner area have topped $100 million in the last 12 years alone. Next summer, recreation opportunities increase with the new Lost Forest complex of new hiking and biking trails, an alpine coaster, canopy tour and more. And with construction continuing on the final phases of Snowmass Base Village — the largest ski resort development underway in North America — we look forward to what the next 50 years will bring.

*Photos/videos Courtesy of Aspen Historical Society

Aspen Historical Society (AHS) actively preserves and passionately presents local history in an inspired and provocative manner that continues to anchor the community and its evolving character. AHS maintains the largest public archives in the region and operates four historic sites: Wheeler/Stallard Museum, Holden/Marolt Mining & Ranching Museum, and the ghost towns of Independence and Ashcroft. Join AHS for year-round tours, programs, and community events for all ages to explore the history of the Aspen/Snowmass area.

If you enjoy the historical images featured on this site, there are many more where they came from. The AHS photographic collection features nearly 40,000 images from slides, negatives, glass plates and prints. This includes the Aspen Times archives, Mary Eshbaugh Hayes’ library of images, and more. With a newly renovated archives building and one-click access to Mary Eshbaugh Hayes images, our collections are more accessible than ever before. The public can search and purchase more than 17,000 images online at www.aspenarchives.org. For access to our complete collection or for research assistance, book an appointment with the Archives Department at 970.925.3721 x 103 or email archives@aspenhistory.org. Visit our www.aspenhistory.org or follow @historyaspen on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter for more information.