Aspen’s Silver Mining History

It fought for its fortune in mines of silver, then rose to new fame on a pair of skis. Welcome to Aspen.

Every Owner and guest at Timbers Resorts' luxury fractional properties knows they're stepping into scenarios of comfort and good health — carving out valuable time to revive the senses and mind.

But they're also mindful that their homes are a part of places and times that carry with them the power of community. And when we talk about this Rocky Mountain setting — site of Dancing Bear Aspen and The Timbers Club in Snowmass, we talk about a place that is rich in American history and innovation.

It is a story of a frontier, and of the men and women who worked to claim it for their own. As we enjoy the slopes, trails, rivers, and people that make this place such a welcoming destination in the present, let's take a moment to better understand where Aspen comes from — appreciating what it offers in the context of a storied past.

The Silver Years: Aspen's Rises, Aspen's Falls

They came at the end of a century, searching the mountains of a place that first saw settlers in the form of Ute Indian camps. What those newcomers found put a town on the map for the rest of the nation.

Silver prospectors came to the peaks surrounding Aspen in the late 1800s. In a mine called Compromise they first tapped veins of silver — at the time it was the very ore to which U.S. currency was attached. As they pulled the silver from the ground, they built fortunes. The Smuggler Mine opened soon after, site of one of the largest finds of all time: a nugget of silver some 2,000 pounds in size. By 1891, Aspen was the largest producer of silver ore in the country. Its population climbed to 8,000.

Though Aspen prospered — witness the opulence of the older architecture still here, erected by those mining moguls of yore — the windfalls would not last. Two years after it achieved its status, legislators demonetized silver. A long slide down began, leading to the region's Quiet Years. It would take ranchers of the hardiest type to help Aspen through the lean times. It would take a visionary pair to bring its fortunes back.

Forties Forward: From Silver to Skis

Late in the decade that brought an end to World War II, the couple that would reawaken Aspen arrived in town. Walter and Elizabeth Paepcke saw not only a new future for a sport called skiing — helping to bring the practice to modern times — but they saw a seat for it on the slopes over town. So, starting in the 1940s, as it had been before, Aspen was again ascendent. In the decades to come, it rose to a premier position for skiers, and it's there still.

History, however, remains. Owners and guests at Dancing Bear Aspen can explore the honeycomb of mines and see the silver-lined story of the Aspen that first emerged amongst these mountains.

And, should you find it a bit difficult to leave at the end of a given stay, history could have something to do with that as well. For when the miners claimed the land around (and under) Aspen for themselves, all those years ago, the Ute people were forced to leave. As they were relocated to Utah, it is said that the tribe placed a curse upon the place they left. New settlers, it is said, would never be able to break away from Aspen and environs, unless they threw some of the sand from the land behind them as they went.

While we can't vouch for the veracity of the tale, we can say that many locals and visitors take care to toss a few grains before they go.

Then again, at Timbers Resorts, we like to think there's an altogether different draw that keeps bringing back our Owners and guests.

To learn more about ownership opportunities at Dancing Bear Aspen, please contact us at 855.920.2510 (toll free in the US) or 970.920.2510 (direct) or via email at info@dancingbearaspen.com.