Aspen Revisited
Ronald Davies © 2001

In July of 1997, I made my first visit to Aspen, CO and wrote an account of my experiences there. That account is available in the Global Access Archives. It will provide you with a lot of the basics before continuing with this piece.

I enjoyed Aspen so much that I returned for a week’s stay during the summer of 2000. In this article, I'll discuss some of the things I did during my visit and also provide some information on accessible transportation and where I stayed.

There are numerous events that continue throughout the summer. Some that I attended are:

A lecture at the Aspen Center for Physics titled "A New View of the Distant Universe with the Chandra X-Ray Observatory." Belinda Wilkes, of the Chandra/Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory, gave the lecture (in laymen terms). The hall was full and the lecture was easy to understand and quite interesting. Each summer, they offer four such lectures. The hall is accessible and admission is free. Information: 970-925-2585 or jane@aspenphys.org  

A Brown-Bag Lunch Lecture titled "Fifty Years of Intellectual Excellence, An Aspen Institute Retrospective" was free-form in nature and covered the establishment of the institute and its 50-year development. It included opportunities for questions and was held outdoors on the grounds of Wheeler/Stallard House Museum. Beverages and cookies are provided, but you bring your own lunch. Lectures of this type are held every Thursday through early August. Admission is free. Information:  970-920-5770 or ahistory@rof.net  Their  website is at www.aspenhistory.org

A "Young Artists Concert" performed by students at the Aspen Music School. These Friday afternoon concerts are held at the Wheeler Opera House The location is accessible and admission is free.  The school also offers Master Classes/Opera Scenes every Saturday morning. ($20). The Aspen Opera Theater Center also offers three operas each summer. The titles in 2000 were "The Rakes Progress" by Stravinsky. "Golem" by Casken and "IL Trittico" by Puccini. ($20 to $52). Information:  Operas - 970-925-9042 or www.aspenmusicfestival.com

For the concerts: 970-920-5770 or www.wheeleroperahouse.com

There are many other events of interest including:

Film festival level film program 970-925-6882

Ballet and dance 800-905-3315   

The Isis Theater, 406 E. Hopkins Ave. offers first-run movies. It is accessible, but sight lines from wheelchairs are not the best, although acceptable. If you can walk some, you can improve sight lines by moving from your wheelchair to a regular seat

And much more. Check out The Aspen Times Weekly newspaper at www.aspentimes.com The newspaper address is: 310 E. Main St. Aspen CO 81611,   970-925-2414 

Aspen is an outdoor type of place and offers several opportunities for wheelchair and scooter users to enjoy the outdoors and the exceptional scenery. By trial and error, I found four trails that are accessible. Obtain an Aspen Picture Map available at hotels and the tourist center for details. They are:

Rio Grande Trail East (see #71 on map). Enter from the foot of Mill St. on the northeast side of street. The trail is paved and only about four or five blocks long. It follows the Roaring Fork River and has many scenic views. There are also some very nice homes that can be viewed. The path has a modest uphill grade at some points, so if you have a manual wheelchair I suggest that you enter at the foot of Original St., and from there the path is almost all level or downgrade back to Mill St. There is a steep two-block hill on Mill back to the center of town.

The Aspen Art Museum is located just off this trail near Mill St. The art displays are mostly on the second floor and are accessible from an unattended entrance on Gibson Ave. If you go to the main first floor entrance, they will arrange for the Gibson Ave. entrance to be opened. 

Rio Grande Trail West. This is a 36-mile trail that is paved for the first three miles. Past that point it is not paved but seemed to be OK for larger four-wheel scooters. It also follows the river but offers a more remote feeling and has opportunities to see some of the smaller wild life creatures. Enter off of Puppy Smith St. just off of Mill St.

Castle Creek Trail. The map shows the start of the trail marked “Paved Trail.” Enter from the south end of Seventh St., a block or two south of W. Hopkins. This is a short trail quite steep in most sections. It crosses the Castle Creek Bridge and climbs up the lower foothill of Aspen Mountain. At one level, there is a collection and display of old farm equipment. While it is interesting, it is not organized, and it was not manned when I was there. The trail does offer some good views and is well worth visiting, but it is only suitable for motorized chairs and scooters. I did OK with my Pride Sidekick (with fully charged batteries).

There is a paved trail that starts at the northeast corner of Original St. and Ute Ave. and proceeds east along Ute Ave. It crosses the river and passes through some very scenic woodland and some upscale condos and ends on Route 82. At that point, you may chose to return to downtown using the bike lane along Rt. 82 or backtrack. There are some up grades on the backtrack option.

I arrived in Aspen by United Airlines, which has a number of flights from Denver each day. On my first visit. I had an ultra light scooter and was able to travel from the airport to downtown in a standard taxi.

I now travel with a Pride Sidekick scooter, and, while it may be disassembled, it is a pain. I researched the availability of an accessible van service, but none are available there. A check with the local public transit organization resulted in a solution.

The Roaring Fork Transit Agency (named after the river there) has some buses with lifts. During the day, there were a number of airport to town buses offering this service. While the route terminates at the town center, they will drop you off at your in-town destination on request. The buses are free. If you wish to use this service, you should phone them in advance to check this all out for your time of arrival. The number is 970-925-8484. Not all buses have lifts, but with prior arrangements they will make sure that the bus you intend to use has one. During the summer, they also offer a tour bus to Maroon Bells Lake. (See previous article) Be sure to make advance arrangements for a lift.

My arrival was on time and with no problems. The bus stop is about 200 yards or so from the terminal. Exit the terminal and proceed through the parking lot to the bus stop on Highway 82. On the return, the normal stop is across the highway, but the driver will, on request, take you to the terminal building.

I stayed at the Prospector Lodge, a timeshare that I had exchanged for. It is located right in the center of town, but its accessibility was poor. An outdoor lift provides access to the first floor of units and the lodge office. The units had an ample sized kitchen/living room and dining space, but the bedroom and bath were very small and difficult for a disabled person. I would not recommend it. There are some modern hotels that I would expect to have accessible rooms. Two are the St. Regis Aspen and the Little Nell. I am sure that there are others as well.

Summer is a good time to visit Aspen, and there is plenty to do and see. I hope that you will have an opportunity to enjoy it as I did. 

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