Aspen Mythbusters

by Roxane Kunkel, an AOL Travel ContributorPosted Sep 23rd 2010 08:40 AM

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Aspen Mythbusters

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Aspen is famous for being the playground of the wealthy and of Hollywood celebrities. Their after-hours antics often make national headlines and fodder for gossip columnists. But Aspen is not just about rich people behaving badly - and besides its reputation for attracting the rich and famous, this small mountain town is the subject of many other urban myths and misconceptions. Aspen mythbusters will bust a few of these urban legends for you and help separate fact from fiction:


1. Nothing is free in Aspen


Nothing could be further from the truth. Aspen's major public transportation service is free. Due to limited in-town parking, the city bus system in Aspen is complimentary. In winter, the ski shuttle buses are free to all four Aspen ski resorts during the day. In summer, the buses have bicycle racks to assist cyclists.


2. Sardy Field fills up with Gulfstream V jet aircraft during the holidays


True. You know that celebrities are in town for the holidays or attending a special event when Gulfstream V jet aircraft start circling Sardy Field. At Thanksgiving and Christmas, one can spot the favorite form of celebrity transportation packed in like sardines from Highway 82. Due to weather restrictions, they sometimes have to fight it out for a landing time slot.


3. There are no beginner runs on Ajax


Unfortunately for beginner skiers, Aspen mythbusters can't bust this one. A quick look at the Aspen Mountain ski trail map and it's clear there are no green circles or green lines. Beginners can, however, take advantage of the vast gentle terrain at Buttermilk or Snowmass. It's easy to catch a free ski bus from downtown Aspen to either resort.


4. Ted Bundy escaped from jail in Aspen


This Aspen urban legend is true. Ted Bundy was attending a hearing for his murder trial at the Pitkin County Courthouse in Aspen in June of 1977. He managed to escape out of a second floor window during a break period. He wandered around lost on Aspen Mountain before finding his way back into town. He was recaptured after being stopped while driving a stolen car.


5. You can't find a room under $100 in Aspen


Aspen mythbusters can confirm this is not true. At the St. Moritz Lodge, at 334 W Hyman Ave in Aspen, one can stay in a room for under $100 in summer and in winter. Call to check current rates at 800-817-2069. Better yet, it's only five blocks from downtown Aspen. As a German vacationer once said "Just head east on Hyman Avenue from downtown and keep walking until you see the giant lighted Christmas tree". It's the perfect base for apres-ski activities.


6. Aspen has a yacht club


True. What began as a joke at a downtown Aspen bar has now been a reality for over 40 years. At a small gathering of friends in an Aspen bar in the 1960s, someone suggested that the only thing Aspen lacked was a yacht club. This resulted in the design and construction of a yacht club flag that was displayed outside an Aspen building. A few years later, it was decided that it would be great to actually have a yacht club and race sailboats. Today the Aspen Yacht Club is headquartered at Reudi Reservoir outside Basalt, Colorado.


7. The millionaires are being driven out of Aspen by the billionaires


An Aspen urban legend that happens to be true. While the recent recession has softened the real estate market in Aspen, the average selling price of new and existing houses in Aspen in 2010 is $1.5 million. Don't be misled by that modest figure; a 3,500 sq. ft. home in Aspen typically sells for well over $4 million and the current cost of living in Aspen sits at 423% of the national average. The poor millionaires are now forced to move to down-valley communities like Basalt, Carbondale, and Glenwood Springs to find affordable housing. This has resulted in home prices skyrocketing in these Aspen bedroom communities. The millionaires are now forcing Aspen's working class to live in cities over 70 miles away.


8. Hunter S. Thompson ran for sheriff of Pitkin County


True. In 1970, the late gonzo journalist and long-time resident of Woody Creek ran for office on the platform of decriminalizing drugs for personal use. He nearly won the election. While Thompson lost, it was the start of a shift in local Aspen culture. In Aspen today, drug enforcement is not a high priority item and undercover drug stings are seldom carried out.


9. The motto of the Aspen Daily News is: "If you don't want it printed, don't let it happen"


True. This quirky motto began in 1978 and continues to this day. The Aspen Daily News shows no favoritism - all have been featured in their finest and worst moments. Actors, celebrities, vacationers, and town citizens have had their lives and blunders documented by the Aspen Daily News.


10. The bears in Aspen know how to open doors to homes


One of the scary urban legends Aspen visitors always ask about. Unfortunately it's true. Aspen bears don't always wait for an invitation to enter. The bears know how to press down on home door handles and are frequently entering homes to snack on food within. Homes in Aspen with lever handles are best kept locked.

Aspen officials have recently given preliminary approval to a ban on lever-style door handles on new and remodeled homes. It remains to be seen how to prevent bears from entering upscale Aspen fur shops and getting in the front display window to escape paparazzi.

As you can see from this Aspen mythbusters article, while there are many urban myths in Aspen, most are based on some element of truth. Aspen has a rich history and continues to build upon it as it attracts the world's wealthiest people. If it happens in Aspen, the world may hear about it.
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