One of the best places for skiing and enjoying other outdoor pursuits is in Aspen, CO.
Although Aspen first saw its boom in the 1800s due to the discovery of a silver mine, it has since evolved into the go-to winter destination.
Those who choose to live in Aspen year-round, however, find that the city comes with high prices and a high cost of living.
It may make you wonder why that’s the case.
Here are 10 reasons Aspen is so expensive.
Why Is Aspen So Expensive? (Top 10 Reasons)
1. Celebrity Status
When winter hits, a lot of celebrities will head to Aspen to retreat from stardom.
It’s a remote area where only a few houses are ever available for sale.
When there are homes for sale, then the prices for them are so high that it keeps out the vast majority of people.
It’s something that celebrities and other elite members of society prefer.
It keeps Aspen for themselves.
The city is a haven for celebrities.
It allows them to escape their busy lives in California or New York and be themselves among their peers.
Because many celebrities have homes in Aspen, it immediately makes the city more expensive.
That’s because it draws other people to the area, too.
Even if they can’t afford the mansions in Aspen, they can try and rent an apartment with some friends or live on the outskirts of the town.
Celebrities have expensive tastes.
They expect the best food, gyms, and culture.
Where celebrities go, the rest follows at celebrity prices.
That means those who live in Aspen full-time and work minimum wage or average-income jobs have to contend with the high prices that celebrities set.
It’s also a place where normal tourists have a chance to rub elbows with famous people.
That draws a lot of people to the city both during winter and outside of it.
Since celebrities have made Aspen famous, everyone wants to either live there or visit there.
That drives up the prices in Aspen and makes it expensive.
2. Victorian Architecture
One of the reasons that many find Aspen attractive is the Victorian architecture.
The original houses built in Aspen come from the Victorian era.
They housed those who owned the silver mines and other bustling businesses that struck it rich because of the mines.
They were then left behind or sold when the mining stopped.
When new celebrities or social elite “discovered” Aspen, they took notice of the beautiful Victorian homes.
The city itself made it difficult to change the architecture.
They want to preserve as much of the city as they can.
That makes buying or even renovating homes in Aspen difficult and expensive.
Everything has to follow a specific code.
If it doesn’t follow the code, then the city won’t permit it.
This also makes existing Victorian homes expensive.
The style is rare which adds to the price tag.
Upkeep is also expensive, though.
Since they’re old, they require a bit of help, but you can only use the materials and methods approved by the city.
If you get the chance to build your own mansion in Aspen, it also needs to follow the strict regulations passed by the city.
You have to build it in a certain way and make it look a certain way.
This further preserves the sort of Victorian aesthetic that the city wishes to maintain.
All these factors make the city more expensive.
3. Low Supply In Housing
There’s also a shortage of housing in Aspen.
There are only a few areas where they permit zoning for residences.
Because there are only ever a few houses for sale at a time, there’s never enough to meet demand.
Even smaller houses can sell for several hundreds of thousands above the usual asking price.
When there’s a limited supply of homes, the seller can ask for a high price.
This makes Aspen expensive because buying a home at a high price means you also have to pay high property taxes and mortgage rates.
Your housing costs contribute to how expensive Aspen is.
The existence of mansions in the area also increases housing costs.
Since they’re desirable and make the area affluent, they also increase the property tax.
That means your monthly payments on your home also increase.
Any time a new mansion enters the neighborhood, there’s always a risk of a property tax increase, too.
Aspen is expensive because housing is extremely limited in the city.
Aspen has a reputation for high-end and classy resorts.
In particular, their ski lodges tend to service the wealthy.
Although other winter enthusiasts can also use their services, they’ll find them quite expensive.
Resorts make Aspen expensive because they drive up the price of other services.
They need products and external services to run their business.
Since they’re selling their own services at expensive prices, other businesses price theirs high, too, to match them.
They also attract a certain clientele that has the money to spend on expensive services.
This reinforces the high prices.
Since resorts also attract tourists, even if they didn’t have a wealthy clientele, they’d still be able to sell at tourist prices.
These prices tend to run higher because they know that tourists don’t really have a choice.
They’re not at home or in their own neighborhood, so they don’t have many options of buying elsewhere.
They’ve also specifically chosen to travel to that area for their vacation, so they’re more accepting of those high expenses as part of their vacation.
This makes living in Aspen expensive, however, because the high prices remain throughout the year.
Even if a resident of Aspen wants to enjoy the ski lodges or resorts during the off-season, they’ll face high prices.
The presence of resorts drives up prices in the area which makes Aspen expensive.
5. Limited Access
Aspen does not have a major airport.
It has a regional one which takes traffic from a nearby major airport.
It’s also a long drive from the nearest city.
Because it’s hard to reach, it’s also hard to receive supplies.
Suppliers have to send trucks specifically to Aspen to stock the businesses in the city.
It isn’t a stopping point or a transfer point that allows them to pick up some profit along the way.
It costs more money to supply Aspen with food, products, and fuel.
Since it costs suppliers more money, it also costs buyers more money.
Fuel costs, for example, are higher in Aspen than in other parts of Colorado.
That’s because it costs the truck more fuel to reach Aspen than it does other cities.
Since there are only a few gas stations in Aspen as it is, they also have little competition between each other.
That allows the station to keep its price at a high point.
They can’t raise it too high to the point where buyers won’t buy from them at all, but since there aren’t many other options, buyers often have no choice but to fuel up at the expensive gas station.
Having a regional airport also adds to the expense of Aspen.
It doesn’t have a large airport like in Denver.
Since it’s smaller, it can only bring in so many planes a day.
It also has limited capacity on those planes and a small number of pilots.
With minimal access to flights to Aspen, the prices for them increase.
From the very start, either going to or leaving Aspen is expensive.
Due to its remote location and difficulty in accessing it, the price for certain things is higher.
6. Environmentalist Haven
Aspen draws a lot of thinkers and environmentally-conscious people.
That’s because Aspen is a relatively clean city.
Since its residents are wealthy, they can afford greener ways of living.
Many mansions use various green technologies to keep their homes running.
Since Aspen is all about communing with nature and getting away from the masses, it draws certain groups of people to it.
These people have an interest in conservation and preserving the environment.
They’re also usually wealthy.
They go to Aspen to breathe in the fresh air and think of new ways that they can help fight climate change.
With the arrival of influential people with money, the area around them also becomes naturally more expensive.
Other people start to share their views and make changes to their lifestyle.
That costs money as well.
The environmentalists may encourage the city to develop more recycling centers or have a recycling service that’s paid for by taxpayers.
That means taxes increase which also adds to Aspen’s high cost of living.
When an area attracts wealthy people of a certain mindset, then they often end up changing certain things about the community as a whole.
In Aspen’s case, it means more conservation and reducing its carbon footprint.
That isn’t cheap to do.
To pay for it, the taxpayers have to pay even more taxes.
That makes Aspen an expensive place to live.
7. Sophisticated Schools, Medical Centers, And Art Centers
While many know Aspen for its winters, many inhabitants live in the city year-round.
These residents need certain facilities like schools, hospitals, and cultural centers like art galleries and museums.
Since the bulk of residents, or at least the influential ones, are wealthy, those facilities have to be high-end and sophisticated.
You’ll find several wealthy public schools and even wealthier private schools.
They also have excellent hospitals and other medical centers.
Aspen has grown culturally, too.
It’s no longer only the place where ski bums and snowboarders come to play in the winter.
It’s also a seat of art and music.
Aspen even has its own opera house.
These kinds of facilities don’t come cheap, especially when they’re geared towards having a sophisticated outcome.
They want to be the best school in the state, if not the country, or have the best doctors in their hospitals, or even attract world-famous art to its galleries.
To do so, Aspen has to be a place for the wealthy.
It does so by having high taxes and charging expensive prices to take part in some of these centers.
Since affluent people live in Aspen year-round, they’ve transformed it into a mecca of sophistication during the off-season.
As a result, being a resident of Aspen is expensive.
8. It’s Trendy
You may not think it’s possible for a location to be trendy or to go viral, but that’s exactly what’s happening with Aspen.
It used to be a place where ski bums, those who enjoy skiing, would go to have fun skiing.
Gradually, over time, however, the wealthy took notice of the beauty and privacy of Aspen and started to buy its mansions and lots.
As they started posting pictures of their incredible mansions and adventures in Aspen, more celebrities and wealthy people wanted to follow suit.
Now Aspen has many homes that are the second or third homes of wealthy individuals.
It also attracts those who aren’t as wealthy because they want to experience that sort of lifestyle even if for a short while.
It’s similar to going to Disney.
It’s overpriced, but you want to go there because everyone has gone there.
You don’t want to miss out on that experience.
As with anything that trends or goes viral, it becomes more expensive.
A certain food that’s trending with celebrities and chefs increases in price because the demand for it increases.
As more people want to experience the food for themselves, sellers are able to increase the price because the supply doesn’t meet the demand.
This applies to Aspen, too.
Everyone wants to either live in Aspen or stay there for a while.
Because there’s limited housing, limited rentals, and limited hotels and resort space, visitors have to pay expensive prices.
If Aspen ever stops trending, then the prices might go down a little.
However, until that point, Aspen’s trendiness makes it an expensive place to live and visit.
9. Lack Of Land Development
One of the biggest problems with Aspen, and a major reason it’s so expensive, is the lack of land development.
Aspen is a mountainous area which makes developing the land difficult, if not impossible.
For safety reasons and to provide utilities like electric and sewer, only certain types of land qualify.
In Aspen, those areas are rare.
Some of the land is also already owned by the wealthy.
Their mansions or homes sit on large lots.
They could sell some of the lots to the county and let them develop it, but they don’t want anything to ruin their view.
Besides that, the county is also very picky about giving out land for development.
Buying land from them is expensive.
If they do decide to give you a parcel of land to build a home or a business on, then you can expect to pay an extremely high price.
That makes Aspen expensive because you’re going to have either high rental fees or a high mortgage that can make your cost of living high.
It can make affording the rest of the things in Aspen difficult if not impossible.
Various factors are involved when it comes to parceling out land in Aspen, and real estate is extremely expensive as a result.
That also makes owning a business in Aspen expensive.
To help cover those costs, the business has to have expensive services or pricey products.
The cycle of high prices continues, and expensive living continues.
While Aspen was already expensive before the pandemic, the COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated the problem.
With cities hit the hardest by the pandemic, many affluential people looked for somewhere safer to live.
Even those with higher incomes who aren’t exactly considered wealthy were eager to leave the city.
With more employers allowing their employees to work remotely full-time, they had the opportunity to live anywhere they wanted.
Many of them chose Aspen.
With a small population and remote access, it’s an ideal place for anyone running from a pandemic.
That also contributed to the increase in housing prices.
With only a few houses available for sale at the time, and very few rental properties and apartments, those who were desperate to live in Aspen had to pay high prices for their homes.
The supply became even more limited.
Even as the country still struggles with the pandemic, some people are still looking to find a new home in Aspen to get away from it.
With the combination of COVID-19 and the wider access to remote work, more people moved to Aspen.
With real estate as expensive as it is, it drove prices up even higher and made Aspen even more expensive.
How To Save Money In Aspen
Aspen is an extremely expensive place to live, but it is possible to make it a bit more affordable.
Here are a few tips you can use to save money in Aspen.
1. Share Housing Costs
Whenever possible, you should try and find a roommate if you want to live in the city proper.
You won’t be able to afford rental costs on your own unless you happen to be wealthy.
Rentals tend to cost $200 per square foot and only increase from there.
2. Live In A Suburb
Most people who work service jobs or blue-collar jobs live outside of Aspen in one of its suburbs.
It’s more affordable there, but you will have to deal with a long commute.
Since everyone else is also commuting, you can expect traffic.
The benefit is that you can actually afford your mortgage payments and have some extra money on hand, too.
3. Work In Service
If you’re not already wealthy, then you’ll want to try and get a service job.
Something that earns you tips can help you.
Aspen residents tend to tip well because they’re either celebrities or have a lot of money.
They can afford to give great tips.
That can make living in Aspen more affordable or help you pay your living expenses.
Aspen may have started with dirt roads, but after they discovered the silver mine and celebrities started to make their homes there, it quickly became expensive.
Its remote area and lack of land development opportunities also make it an expensive place.
Follow the tips above to make living in Aspen a reality on a smaller budget.