If you’re familiar with Aspen’s history, you’ve likely heard of the Quiet Years, the period in the early 20th century when the mining industry had gone belly up, the town’s population hovered around 500, and potato growing was the main activity.
Perhaps we now have entered the Quiet Years 2.0.
There are differences, to be sure. Our local economy faces some real challenges, but it hasn’t collapsed. And rather than residents moving away, town has experienced an influx of newcomers who have come for the summer, and maybe longer.
But there’s no denying it: Aspen is operating at a more relaxed pace this summer than it has in decades. No Music Festival. No Ideas Fest. No weekly circuit of big-ticket benefits. No Jazz Aspen Snowmass Labor Day weekend concerts. No frenzy of trying to squeeze in more than you can reasonably attend. Now, there’s just ... quiet.
The silver lining may be that we all have the chance to strip our routines down to the basics and rediscover what attracted so many of us here in the first place—the landscape, the wildlife, the seclusion. Though we began working on the three features in this issue a year ago, they fortuitously resonate with what people are focusing on right now.
For one, we are exploring even more of the outdoors, and the hiking feature compiled by local writer and athlete Manasseh Franklin spotlights 19 gorgeous high-country trails, many of which provide world-class social distancing. Another thing that’s come to light during this pandemic is the importance of local food. Amanda Faison, an Aspen native who was the longtime food editor at Denver magazine 5280, took a deep dive into our region’s agriculture scene, including the farmers, producers, chefs, and markets that make it thrive. She came up with an even greater appreciation for the sustainable path that’s being forged by local food leaders; check out her story for inspiration and practical tips, whether it’s figuring out which restaurants and farmers you’d like to support or what to buy for tomorrow night’s dinner.
Even the unassuming hobby of birding is having a moment. Sheltering at home this past spring seems to have made more people notice what goes on in neighborhood parks and outside their windows, from cities to small towns. Local birders Rebecca Weiss and Mark Fuller have long understood the appeal of watching our feathered friends, quirks and all; they recount their Roaring Fork Valley big year (i.e., spotting as many birds as they could in 12 months) in a delightful story. After working on this magazine issue in my backyard over the past couple of months, with constant birdsong as a soundtrack, my avian awareness is definitely heightened. I promise that after reading Rebecca and Mark’s story, yours will be, too.
There’s clearly something to be said for wholeheartedly embracing the Quiet Summer of 2020. As for next year, though, we fervently hope we’ll once again be enjoying symphonies in the Benedict Music Tent, concerts in Snowmass, openings at the Aspen Art Museum, lectures at the Aspen Institute, and the fundraising galas that help support them all. We’ll likely appreciate the opportunities even more, too. Absence makes the heart grow fonder, right?