Roaring Fork Valley
The Roaring Fork Valley is a geographical region in western Colorado in the United States. The Roaring Fork Valley is one of the most affluent regions in Colorado and the U.S. as well as one of the most populous and economically vital areas of the Colorado Western Slope. The Valley is defined by the valley of the Roaring Fork River and its tributaries, including the Crystal and Fryingpan River. It includes the communities of Aspen, Snowmass Village, Basalt, Carbondale, and Glenwood Springs. Mount Sopris and the Roaring Fork River serve as symbols of the Roaring Fork Valley.
The valley was inhabited by the Ute people prior to the coming of the first U.S. settlers over Independence Pass in 1879. The first settlers were prospectors looking for silver in the wake of the Colorado Silver Boom in nearby Leadville. Aspen flourished as a mining community in the late 1880s and early 1890s until the silver crash of 1893. In the late 19th century and early 20th century, coal mining in the valley of the Crystal emerged as an important extractive industry, one that has nearly entirely vanished (coal is still extracted south of McClure Pass in the nearby North Fork Valley).
The Roaring Fork Valley is part of the larger Roaring Fork Watershed, which includes the Fryingpan and Crystal River valleys. The valley extends for approximately 50 mi (80 km) southeast to northwest from Aspen northwest to Glenwood Springs at the mouth of the Roaring Fork on the Colorado River, ranging in width between 1 and 5 mi (1.6 and 8.0 km). It is surrounded by mountains on all sides, in particular on its southwest edge by the high Elk Mountains that are location of the Aspen/Snowmass ski resorts. The upper (southeast) end of the valley is sometimes called the Aspen Valley, but locals simply refer to it as “up-valley” – Aspen – and “down-valley” – Glenwood Springs. Mount Sopris dominates the lower (northwest) end of the valley and serves as an unofficial symbol of the region. Many think the Roaring Fork River, from which the valley was named, is the unofficial symbol of the region.