Celebrating Our 75th Anniversary Season
Join us in counting down to our 75th anniversary, as we turn down a trail of memorable moments celebrating the values, people and good times that have defined our past and will shape our future. Here’s to 75 years of creating possibilities.
75 Years of Our History
Buttermilk joins ASC
Originally opened in 1958 by Friedl Pfeifer as a learning area, Buttermilk was acquired by Aspen Skiing Company five years later for its approachable terrain. In addition to co-founding ASC, Pfeifer helped establish the Aspen Ski School and was inducted in the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Hall of Fame in 1980. Over time, Buttermilk has expanded to the 470 acres of mostly intermediate and beginner terrain. Pfeifer, ever a champion for ski education, would surely be proud.
ASC welcomes its third mountain
Aspen Skiing Company opened Snowmass during a skiing boom when resorts were popping up at an exponential rate across the country. Originally called Snowmass-at-Aspen, the mountain started with just five chairlifts and a single restaurant. Today, Snowmass has 22 total lifts, eight restaurants operated by ASC, more than 3,330 acres of skiable terrain (making it larger than the three other mountains at Aspen Snowmass combined), and an increasingly vibrant base village.
All are welcome at Aspen Snowmass
In 1977, local John Busch and gay ski clubs from Chicago, Los Angeles and beyond pushed to secure space in restaurants and public spaces (where historically they had faced discrimination) to accommodate a wide range of visiting gay ski clubs—marking the official start to the longest running Gay Ski Week in America. Three years later, Aspen became the first municipality in Colorado to secure gay rights protections, kicking off a long history of LGBTQ advocacy.
The Queen begins to spin
When the Silver Queen was installed on Aspen Mountain, it was the longest single-stage gondola in the world. Connecting downtown with the 11,211-foot summit of Aspen Mountain—and allowing foot access to the Sundeck Restaurant and amazing views—the Silver Queen’s ride time to the summit was fourteen minutes, less than half the 30 it took on the combination of existing chairs. In 2021, the gondola system’s cables were replaced for the first time since its installation in ‘86—a big job for operations but a small price to assure the Queen reigns for decades to come.
And then there were four
ASC became a family of four mountains with its acquisition of Aspen Highlands, first opened in 1958 by ski industry pioneer Whipple Jones. Jones donated the ski area to Harvard University (his alma mater) in 1993, and ASC purchased it shortly thereafter. Highlands allowed snowboarding in 1983, when the sport was still avant-garde, helping to modernize Aspen Snowmass and legitimize its role in the larger world of snow sports. Today Highlands is known as the “locals mountain,” loved for its legendary Highland Bowl and ever-present renegade spirit.
ASC commits to climate action
Recognizing the threat of climate change, ASC formed the first Environmental Affairs Department in the ski industry. Since then, the company has installed solar arrays on its mountains and in the community, transformed a decommissioned coal mine into a plant that converts leaked methane into electricity, and much more. In 1997, the company launched the employee-led and funded Environment Foundation, which has granted more than $4 million to sustainability initiatives and nonprofits in the Roaring Fork Valley. Today, ASC continues to green its operations while aggressively advocating for the large-scale policy changes needed to effectively combat climate change.
X Games, meet Buttermilk
After debuting in 1997, ESPN's Winter X Games found its way to Buttermilk four years later—and promptly settled in for the next two decades and counting. The 2001 event was televised internationally with 100 of the world’s top winter athletes competing in freestyle skiing and snowboarding, SuperPipe, slopestyle, bikecross, and more. Over the past 21 years, X Games Aspen has garnered global attention as the marquee proving ground for alternative winter sports—creating a unique footprint for athletes, brands, and fans alike.
Accessible in-bounds backcountry
Highland Bowl, a steep, wide-open swath of 270 acres of skiing and riding bliss, officially became part of Aspen Highlands during the 2002-2003 winter season, adding 18 runs to the mountain’s map. The terrain had been in the ski area's permitted boundary since 1958—and it's rumored people were skiing the Bowl as far back as the mining era—but it wasn’t until the aughts that patrollers made the entire avalanche-prone area safely accessible to the masses. The expert-only, hike-to terrain summits at 12,392 feet and is considered a rite of passage for many top skiers and riders, contributing to Aspen Highland’s reputation as a maverick mountain.
Art in Unexpected Places begins
In an effort to bring contemporary art to wider audiences in innovative ways, ASC partnered with the Aspen Art Museum to create Art in Unexpected Places. The program has included on-mountain activations including giant dice rolled down the halfpipe at Buttermilk and 150 unique hand-painted plaster sculptures of red Solo cups, as well as commissioned artwork for display on lift tickets and passes by artists such as Jim Hodges, Susan Te Kahurangi King, and Takashi Murakami. Three books document the program’s history, proof that ArtUP has sparked conversations and discovery for nearly 17 years.
Converting methane to clean energy
After learning that a nearby coal mine was leaking methane—a super-potent greenhouse gas—ASC helped convert it into a power plant that turns those emissions into clean energy. A 2021 analysis determined that the plant prevents 250 billion cubic feet of methane from entering the atmosphere annually and churns out 24 million kilowatt hours of energy. That’s the same amount of energy as ASC uses to power all four of its ski mountains and all three of its hotels. Even better, the operation stands as a model for what’s possible in methane capture and renewable energy at coal plants across the country.
50 years of World Cup in Aspen
Aspen Mountain hosted the FIS Ski World Cup Finals in March of 2017. The weeklong event coincided with the 50th anniversary of the World Cup ski racing circuit and was met with a community enthusiasm that locals still marvel about today. The world’s greatest skiers competed across five disciplines—including the return of America's Downhill, one of the most revered courses in ski racing. From hosting the first World Championships held outside of Europe to decades of town races, Aspen Snowmass has long viewed on-snow competition as central to its identity as a ski town.
Bringing the industry together
With only five weeks of preparation, Aspen Snowmass successfully hosted the FIS Snowboard and Freeski World Championships and US Grand Prix at Buttermilk in the midst of a global pandemic. The globally televised, two-week event brought together athletes from more than 38 countries to compete for the World Champion titles in Men’s and Women’s Ski and Snowboard Halfpipe, Slopestyle and Big Air—as well as to qualify for the 2022 Winter Olympics in halfpipe. During a year of isolation and despair, the industry was united and uplifted through the love of sport.
The start of something great
The founding of Aspen Skiing Corporation—later Aspen Skiing Company (ASC)—coincided with the opening of Aspen Mountain's Lift-1, then the world's longest chairlift. The idea that skiing could pull Aspen out of its post-mining "quiet years" had been percolating since 1936, the birth year of the Roaring Fork Winter Sports Club. Skiing’s biggest champion was Austrian immigrant and 10th Mountain Division WWII veteran Friedl Pfeifer. He worked with Chicagoans Walter and Elizabeth Paepcke, who helped finance the new ski corporation, to pave the way for a modern Aspen—a place where mind, body, and spirit could be equally engaged.
First FIS World Championships stateside
Aspen Mountain hosted the first FIS Alpine World Championships held outside of Europe. Italian Zeno Colò won the downhill and giant slalom, while Austria dominated the women’s races. Aspen had been hosting the Roch Cup, started by Swiss skier Andre Roch in 1937 and featuring a famously difficult downhill course on Aspen Mountain, nearly a decade before the resort began. But the FIS event takes racing to the next level, putting Aspen on the global map as a ski destination and establishing a tradition of hosting world-class sporting events.
At 75-years-young, we’ve mastered the art of celebrating, and we invite you to join us. Toast to our 75th anniversary all season long with the Aspen 75 cocktail (a spin-off of the original French 75), available for $7.50 in all on-mountain restaurants. Cheers to 75!