The most defining feature of this famous mountain town is not its pristine ski slopes, its miles of trails, its exquisite restaurants, or even its spectacular surroundings. What truly separates Aspen from the rest is the Aspen Idea.

The Aspen Idea was born in 1950, when Chicago industrialist Walter Paepcke and his wife, Elizabeth, began convening intellectuals, artists, and philosophers in the decaying mining town of Aspen for their fledgling Aspen Institute for Humanistic Studies. It was a high-minded organization which sought to promote world peace and instill humanism in the tense post-war nation and world.

The Paepckes’ influence molded the town itself, spawning the world famous Aspen Music Festival, the International Design Conference in Aspen, and the Aspen Center for Physics. The decaying mining town was transformed into a place where the arts and culture flourish alongside myriad athletic endeavors in a close-knit, dynamic community. It made Aspen a sort of Utopia for the simultaneous nurturing of mind, body, and spirit – the Aspen Idea.

What does it all mean? It means that an Aspen local is just as likely to attend a classical music concert as go mountain biking (or even more likely, do both -often on the same day). It means that a day of hiking can easily be followed up with a world-class art opening at the Aspen Art Museum. And it means that Aspen visitors don’t need to sacrifice cultural enrichment and intellectual stimulation to enjoy the kind of heart-pumping adventure that brings them to the mountains. It’s all part of the same experience that’s the Aspen Idea.