Since 1946

ASE History

Aspen Airport

Operational, accessible, open to the public since 1946

Walter Paepcke and John Spachner founded the Aspen-Pitkin County Airport as a privately owned, public use gravel landing strip in 1946. The primary user of the airport at the time was the Aspen Institute, the forerunner to Aspen Airways. The original facility consisted of a log cabin terminal building and a gravel runway. In 1956, Aspen Airport Corporation officially deeded the Airport to Pitkin County making it a publicly owned public use airport, one of the requirements for federal participation in airport development.

The Civil Aeronautics Administration and Pitkin County, as airport sponsor, funded the initial construction of Runway 15/33, a connecting taxiway, and an apron in 1957. This effort was led primarily by Commissioner Thomas J. Sardy. The original paved runway was 5,200 feet long by 60 feet wide. In 1958, the airport was officially dedicated as the Aspen/Pitkin County (Sardy Field) Airport. In 1963, the runway was lengthened to 6,000 feet. By 1969, the use of larger aircraft required the widening of the runway to 80 feet. The apron area was also expanded to 400,000 square feet during the same project. During the 1970s, in order to focus on customer air service, the County planned and provided for centralized passenger service. A parcel of land containing approximately 29 acres was acquired to accommodate a new terminal building; and an aircraft-parking apron was constructed in 1973 to serve the new terminal. The new 17,500 square foot terminal building was constructed in 1976 and was the first commercial building in the United States to use passive solar heating.

The runway at Aspen-Pitkin County Airport was lengthened and widened in 1983 to be 7,006 feet long by 100 feet wide. In 2011 this runway was lengthened to its present size 8,006 feet long by 100 feet wide. The entire terminal area was redeveloped in 1986 and 1987, which included new vehicular access roadways and the expansion of the terminal to its present size of 37,500 square feet. In 1999, the aircraft-parking area was again expanded to allow for more aircraft parking.