"Learn About Aspen's History"
The Aspen area was originally discovered by the Ute Indians and called "Shining Mountains". The first gold miners arrived in the Roaring Fork Valley in the summer of 1879 and by that fall a small group of entrepreneurs and speculators had staked claims and set up camp at the foot of Aspen Mountain. Prospectors settled in Aspen hoping to strike it rich in silver.
First christened Ute City, the town of 300 residents was renamed to Aspen in 1880. By 1891 Aspen had surpassed Leadville as the nation's largest single silver producing mining district. By 1893, Aspen was a booming silver town with 12,000 people, six newspapers, two railroads, four schools, three banks, electric lights, a modern hospital, two theaters, an opera house, and a very small brothel district. In 1893 however the Sherman Silver Act was repealed which demonetized silver and marked Aspen's decline as a mining town. Ironically, one of the largest nuggets of native silver ever found was mined in 1894 in Aspen from the Smuggler mine, weighing in at 2,350 pounds.
Around 1936, another ore was discovered - SNOW! Three investors sought to establish a ski area above Aspen. Unfortunately World War II halted progress on the ski area, but after the war, Friedl Pfeifer, a member of the 10th Mountain Division, who trained at Camp Hale near Leadville, returned to Aspen and began making plans for Aspen's first chair lift. In 1945, Chicago industrialist, Walter Paepcke and his wife Elizabeth came to Aspen and joined forces with Pfeifer in the development of the Aspen ski area. In 1946 the Aspen Skiing Corporation was founded and in 1950 Aspen hosted the FIS World Championships, which confirmed Aspen's status as an international resort. The rest is history!
(Taken from the City of Aspen Pitkin Website; http://www.aspenpitkin.com/misc/visitors/visitors.cfm)