PeakSeason’s Guide to Living in Aspen, Colorado

1/22/2020 by by admin


Come to a place where the beer flows like wine…

Few places live up to their reputation quite like Aspen does. For a small, former mining town, Aspen has something to offer for everyone: outstanding skiing, breathtaking beauty, diverse summer recreation activities, a full breadth of cultural activities, world class restaurants, unparalleled nightlife, and plenty of seasonal and resort town jobs for the PeakSeason crowd. Look nowhere else; this is your go-to guide for living in Aspen, Colorado!

Key Statistics


Cost of Living Index290.1 (VERY HIGH)
Median Gross Rent$1,247
Average Monthly Rent$2,411
Average Studio Monthly Rent$1,108
Median Household Income$64,594
Average Commute Time16.3 minutes
Median Age42.7
Livability Score64
Walk Score85

Climate & Weather

  • Average Sunny Days: 215
  • Summer 
    • Months: June-August
    • Highs: 74-77°F
    • Lows: 40-46°F
  • Winter
    • Months: December-February
    • Highs: 33-37°F
    • Lows: 8-9°F


Number of Companies3,033
Minimum Wage$12.00 ($8.98 for tipped employees)

Getting Around

Public Transportation

Maintaining a car in Aspen can be expensive (not to mention wasteful), but luckily you probably won’t need one. The Roaring Fork Transportation Authority (RFTA) provides safe, reliable transportation throughout the region.

  • Bus: Roaring Fork Transportation Authority (RFTA)
  • Snowmass Shuttle: Free transportation inside Snowmass Village
  • Bikeshare: Coming in Spring of 2020
  • Rideshare: Uber & Lyft

Closest Airport: 

  • Aspen/Pitkin County Airport (ASE) – Local
  • Eagle County Regional Airport (EGE) – 1 hr 25 min drive
  • Denver International Airport (DIA) – 4 hour drive

Winter in Aspen

World Class Skiing/Snowboarding

The Aspen Snowmass ski scene is unlike any other, with four mountains to choose from and over 5,500 acres of terrain. Needless to say, you could live there for several winter seasons without touching it all. That terrain covers beginner to expert, so there’s plenty to offer skiers of every ability.

Here’s a quick summary for each of the four mountains.

Aspen Mountain:

Aspen Mountain is one of the most iconic ski mountains in the world, with its Silver Queen Gondola rising up from Gondola Plaza right in the center of downtown Aspen. Known locally as Ajax, Aspen Mountain has the most glamorous vibe of the four, due to its long history, proximity to town, and abundance of movie stars and other high profile vacationers who frequent its slopes. It is also relatively difficult, with no beginner runs, and expert terrain interlaced throughout the mountain.

    Vertical: 3,267 ft.

    Acreage: 675 acres

    Difficulty: 0% beginner, 48% intermediate, 26% advanced, 26% expert

    Longest run: 3 miles

    Annual snowfall: 300 inches

    Snowmaking: 210 ares

    Terrain park: No

Aspen Highlands:

Aspen Mountain might be the most famous, but Aspen Highlands is where locals head on their day off. A short bus ride from town, Highlands offers some of the best skiing in Colorado. While the traditional terrain is up to par with any resort, the real showstopper is the Highland Bowl, quite possibly the best inbounds skiing in the lower 48. While some lower zones can be accessed directly without hiking, the best runs require a ~30-minute hike to the top of the bowl. Believe us, it’s well worth the effort.

    Vertical: 3,635 ft.

    Acreage: 1,040 acres

    Difficulty: 0% beginner, 23% intermediate, 12% advanced, 65% expert

    Longest run: 3.5 miles

    Annual snowfall: 300 inches

    Snowmaking: 121 acres

    Terrain park: No


What has long been considered one of the best ski resorts in Colorado for beginners, could now be the most famous destination for park skiers in the world. That’s thanks to Buttermilk’s relationship with ESPN’s Winter X-Games, which it has hosted since 2002. Thus, Buttermilk really has two personalities, blending its traditional focus on families and skier development, with a new school dedication to progressing the sport towards new freestyle frontiers.

    Vertical: 2,030 ft.

    Acreage: 470 acres

    Difficulty: 35% beginner, 39% intermediate, 21% advanced, 5% expert

    Longest run: 3 miles

    Annual snowfall: 300 inches

    Snowmaking: 108 acres

    Terrain park: Yes


Snowmass may be known as the best family ski resort in Colorado, but those families are made up of serious skiers. The mountain itself is massive, at over 3,300 skiable acres and 4,400 feet of vertical. And the skiing is balanced, with ~50% intermediate, but 30% dedicated to extreme skiing in areas like Snowmass’ famous Hanging Valley and the Cirque. Put simply, there’s something for everyone in Snowmass, including a world-renowned ski school to get those noobs up to speed.

    Vertical: 4,406 ft.

    Acreage: 3,339 acres

    Difficulty: 5% beginner, 48% intermediate, 17% advanced, 30% expert

    Longest run: 5.3 miles

    Annual snowfall: 300 inches

    Snowmaking: 256 acres

    Terrain park: Yes

Aerial photo of Aspen lit up at night.

World Class Aprés Ski

Perhaps the only thing Aspen does better than skiing is partying, so much so that Conde Nast Traveller magazine voted it the best apres ski scene in all of North America. Here are a few favorites:

  • At the Base – Ajax Tavern: Located at the base of Aspen Mountain, directly adjacent to the gondola, it’s tough to beat Ajax Tavern on location. Ajax is part of the Little Nell however, so bring your wallet.
  • On a Budget – The Red Onion: Are you not a hedge fund billionaire visiting on vacation? You may find The Red Onion’s happy hour specials are much more accessible. Don’t miss “double” happy hour and Monday Night Football specials.
  • What’s a Budget? – Cloud Nine Bistro: If spraying $125 bottles of Veuve Clicquot like you just won the World Series is your thing, well Aspen has a place for that, too. This uber-wild lunch spot is located at the top of the Cloud Nine Lift at Aspen Highlands. 21 and over only for the 2pm lunch seating.
  • New Kid in Town – Wet Deck: The new W Aspen opened in August 2019, on the footprint of the former Sky Hotel. The modern vibe has been maintained, exemplified by the rooftop bar Wet Deck. It’s open to the public, but get there early.
  • Live Music Fix – Belly Up: For the aprés aprés party, head over to Belly Up to enjoy Aspen’s best live music scene, featuring a lineup as good as you’ll find anywhere.

Summer in Aspen

Come for the winters, stay for the summers. That local motto exists thanks to so many locals who came out for a winter season, and then discovered how special the summers are and never left. The landscape, weather, and people make for a truly magical environment. Here’s just a handful of activities you can fill your free time with. If you play your cards right, you might even get a job associated with one of these as well.


Aspen’s hiking scene is second to none with plenty of options either in town or a short drive away. 

  • Quick Exercise Hikes – Smuggler, Ute Trail, Sunnyside, and The Rim Trail
  • Maroon Bells – There’s a reason Maroon Bells is the most photographed area of the local wilderness, but it’s also very easily accessible by public transportation.
  • Backpacking – For the more adventurous (experienced), Aspen’s local wilderness offers several overnight trips 


Locals enjoying Snowmass Concert Series


Rafting & Kayaking

There’s plenty of kayaking and rafting accessible within an hour or two of Aspen. Check out our Colorado whitewater rafting guide for more info on the best spots. 
Need a guide? Here are two local options:

Pro Tip: Whitewater rafting companies like these hire and train new guides every summer. You don’t need experience, just a positive attitude and a willingness to learn. A summer outdoors guiding rapids is far more attainable than you probably think. There’s no better way to spend a summer.

Fly Fishing

Aspen’s fly fishing scene might be one of its more underrated activities. Few areas offer better beauty and waters than the Roaring Fork River and nearby Frying Pan River.

Aspen Area Housing

Okay, so we’ve finally reached the elephant in the room. Housing in Aspen doesn’t come cheap, but there are some workable options.

  • APCHA Employee Housing – Aspen Pitkin County Housing Authority (APCHA) oversees employee housing in Aspen and Pitkin County. For basic eligibility, you must work full-time in Pitkin County (defined as 1,500 hours), use the residence as your primary residence (at least nine months per year) and must not own any other property within the Ownership Exclusion Zone (basically anywhere downvalley between Aspen, through Glenwood Springs and all the way to Rifle).
  • Aspen Skiing Company Housing  Aspen Ski Co also maintains employee housing, with about 800 beds managed. Winter housing is for Skico employees only, and priority is given to full-time employees. During the summer, seasonal housing is also available for the public, but availability is limited.
  • Downvalley – Full price rentals in Aspen or Snowmass are probably not going to be affordable unless you cram in with 50 roommates. Fortunately, nearby towns like Basalt, Carbondale & El Jebel are on the public transportation system and fetch far lower rents.