Elevated Living Blog

From Log Cabins to Modern Luxury: A History of the Aspen Ski Getaway

Posted on October 27, 2020 by Emilee Kelloff


Aspen’s glamorous reputation as the top luxury ski destination is not by any means happenstance. This high-end mountain town has a long history of being the most premier ski destination for the rich and famous, including world-renowned architects. From as early as the 1930’s, Aspen became a destination for architects from around the world to leave their mark. Over the last 50 years, the luxury ski getaway has been redefined over and over allowing Aspen to always be on the leading edge of luxury real estate in the ski and resort market. Let’s take a look at some of the most definitive eras in the history of Aspen architecture. 

1930’s: Welcoming The Highland Bavarian Lodge

Often considered “Aspen’s Birthplace of Skiing,” the Highland Bavarian Lodge is one of the most iconic buildings in Aspen and the ski industry. In the mid 1930’s T.J. Flynn and Billy Fiske set out to develop a winter sports mecca in the U.S. that could compete with the European resorts that were becoming more and more popular. By December of 1936, the Highland Bavarian Lodge was up and running. Built by the same architect that built the Santa Ana Jockey Club, the lodge featured two bunk rooms, one for men and one for women, a dining room and a living room. There was also a large fireplace built from red sandstone from Arbaney Gulch. Artist Jimmy Bodrero was hired to paint the Bavarian figures seen on the outside trim.

Highland Bavarian Lodge
Photo courtesy of the Aspen Historical Society 

1950 - 1970: Bauhaus Modernism Comes to Aspen

In the 1940’s Chicago industrialist Walter Paepcke and his wife Elizabeth fell in love with the small ski town of Aspen and wanted to restore and grow the town. Paepcke invited Bauhaus-trained architect Herbert Bayer to help him do just that. Known for his modernism and success in graphic design, Bayer worked with Frank Lloyd Wright trained architect Fritz Benedict to design and restore some of Aspen’s most iconic landmarks. Dedicated to the cultural implications of architecture, Bayer went on to restore the famous Hotel Jerome, the Wheeler Opera House and build the Sundeck at the summit of Aspen Mountain. He would later design the Aspen Institute and the Aspen Meadows Resort. Bayer’s impact on architecture is still present today with many Victorian houses boasting his Bayer blue. Some of our properties show hints of Bayer and Bauhaus design. 

500 W. Francis Street, Listed by Matt Holstein

403 W. Hallam Street, Listed by Terry Rogers

470 N. Spring Street, Listed by Susan Lodge
Wheeler Opera House


1980 - 1990: The Rise of Tourism

The mid to late 70’s and the rise in skiing popularity brought more and more skiers and visitors to our once small ski town. With three ski areas and major competitions in town, Aspen was a very prominent ski destination, which brought the need for more lodging options for guests. The Little Nell Hotel was built in 1989, becoming the first 5-star luxury resort in Aspen. More luxury  hotels and resorts soon followed.

The Little Nell Hotel

2000’s - Present: The Edge of Mountain Modernism
Aspen has continued to stay in the conversation around modern architecture. Today, being most well-known for its “mountain modern”  homes, Aspen features a trend in architecture that strives to pay homage to mountain living while focusing on modernism and the need for a more comfortable way of living. Instead of dark, log cabins that used to come to mind when thinking of a ski getaway, Aspen is now a mecca of bright, simple mansions that boast endless views and plenty of space for entertaining. This new thought of home design seeks uncluttered spaces that integrate locally sourced materials and mix of texture that lends itself to indoor/outdoor living. Check out our recent blog featuring Restoration Hardware for a deeper look. Take a look at some of the most iconic mountain modern homes in Aspen.

102 Wood Duck Lane, Listed by Maureen Stapleton

195 Skimming Lane, Listed by Andrew Ernemann

717 S. Aspen Street Unit A, Listed by Maureen Stapleton, Andrew Ernemann & Craig Morris

1000 S. Starwood Drive, Listed by Maureen Stapleton



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