Friday, July 05, 2024

From ranches to rodeos: Aspen’s deep-rooted cowboy tradition


Ever since a little show called “Yellowstone” premiered in 2018, a pop-culture obsession with all things Western has been growing. From television and film to music and fashion, the American Cowboy aesthetic and lifestyle has captured our collective imagination once again.

While sights of cowboy hats, boots, big belt buckles, and other Western wear have become de rigueur in Aspen, ranching and cowboy culture are much more than a fashion statement; they are an integral part of the community, with a deep history running through the Roaring Fork Valley.

...Before Aspen garnered its reputation for designer stores and its great arts scene — and, yes, even before skiing attracted visitors worldwide — families lived in harmony with the land. They supported their community through ranching, a lifestyle passed down through generations.

While most of Aspen’s economy revolved around mining when early white settlers arrived in the valley, ranching began to take hold in the 1880s due to the Homestead Act, which allowed hard workers to move west and pick out 160 acres of land to work for five years, after which time they could claim ownership.

...As families named Vanguer, Gerbaz, Stapleton, Christiansen, and others settled in the valley, the bust of the silver mining economy after the repeal of the Sherman Silver Act of 1893 put the onus of keeping Aspen afloat on farmers and ranchers. These families sustained life here during what became known as the Quiet Years, from 1900 to the 1940s, between the silver mining boom and the arrival of the founders of modern-day Aspen and the ski industry.

Before skiing became synonymous with Aspen, another local pastime captivated people in the Roaring Fork Valley: rodeos...more


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