Aspen Rebounds: 1936-1948

In 1936, the first glimmer of hope for Aspen’s economic recovery arrived in the form of a relatively new winter sport that would take advantage of the area’s abundant, light snow and dramatic terrain: skiing. The new potential “boom” would be put on hold with the onset of WWII a few years later.


Billy Fiske, Andre Roch, and Ted Ryan propose a ski area on Hayden Peak up Castle Creek; build Highland-Bavarian Lodge. They hire Andre Roch, Swiss avalanche expert, to layout ski runs and lifts.

Aspen Valley Ski Club begins. A six-passenger “boat tow”, powered by an old mine hoist and truck engine, is constructed at the base of Aspen Mountain and Roch Run is cut on the hill.

Elizabeth Paepcke travels to Aspen for the first time (via train to Glenwood Springs) for a skiing adventure with friends.

Aspen’s first national downhill and slalom championships are held March 8th-9th. Fritz Benedict visits Aspen for the first time.

War Years
The 10th Mountain Division, stationed at Camp Hale near Leadville, uses the Aspen area for training exercises. Friedl Pfeifer “discovers” Aspen during a reconnaissance in 1943, returning as often as possible with his wife and purchasing property at base of Aspen Mountain.

Chicago industrialist Walter Paepcke, president of the Container Corporation of America, visits Aspen at his wife Elizabeth’s suggestion. The couple begins plans for a new cultural center. Paepcke meets with Friedl Pfeifer and plans for Aspen’s first ski lift. Aspen Ski School begins with Friedl Pfeifer as director.

Aspen Skiing Corporation is formed. Herbert Bayer is invited to Aspen by Walter Paepcke to help “rebuild” Aspen, starting with remodeling the Hotel Jerome. Why Aspen is filmed to promote area for skiing. The first Roch Cup is held in March. New runs and lift lines are cut and the sundeck is built during the summer, and Lift-1 unofficially opens December 14th.

Lift-1 is dedicated as the world’s longest chairlift. Refurbished Hotel Jerome opens. Herbert Bayer’s partially refurbished Wheeler Opera House reopens. Dick Durrance becomes Aspen Ski Corp.’s General Manager. A T-Bar on Little Nell is installed for beginner skiers.

Sardy Field officially opens for commercial flights. Walter Paepcke brings Stuart and Isabel Mace to Aspen. Ruthie’s Run is cut in anticipation for FIS races.