Lea Tucker has a dream job in a dream destination, Aspen. But it hasn’t always been that way.

When I was five, my mother took my sister and me for an extended stay in Aspen to escape the heat of Texas. I remember playing in the clear rivers, hiking through ice caves and learning about the natural inhabitants of a place so different from where I grew up.

Aspen as an ideal place stuck with me. I returned in the summer during my University years looking to fulfill college credits with an internship in a gallery for my Art History and Studio Arts degree at Emory University. I fell back in love with the mountains, rivers, surrounding nature and the general easy-going pace of small town living.

The cobblestone walking mall streets, the turn of the century architecture, the abundance of art galleries, museums, classical and contemporary music, theater and ballet made this small town feel rich with big city amenities.


After graduation, I returned and landed my first job at the Hill Photography Gallery and remained living in Aspen for two more years. The following fall, the gallery was sold after 25 years in business, so I was on the hunt for a new career.

My father’s words: “Aspen is not the real world” prompted me to pack up my car and go on a road trip across the country to figure out my next move … in The Real World. After some travel, I landed in the then Cow Town City of Denver where I lived for 11 years working in marketing, events and public relations.

The siren song of Aspen and good fortune called me back as I could not turn down a unique job opportunity in International Public Relations, working for the Aspen Skiing Company – writing, wining, dining and skiing with international travel writers while traveling around the world to promote the resort, town and mountains with the media. And perhaps, I was under a spell.


Ute Indians were the original settlers of the valley where Aspen resides. The Utes considered the valley sacred because of the powerful mountains, the intersecting river forces as well as the natural beauty and spirit.

Legend has it that the Utes put a curse on the white man when he took over the town during the silver mining boom of the late 1800s. If the miners wanted the Ute’s land so badly, then they were cursed to never be able to leave the land.

Sleeping in the shadow of Mount Sopris, one would fall prey to the curse of the Utes. This rang true for me (and many others) as well with my return to the sacred, enchanting town and land.

I remain here because I am inspired by the nature and the outdoor opportunities provided by the stunning mountains, abundant water, and access to the outdoors. In addition, the charming historical architecture that shapes the town is enhanced by the prolific art, music, culture and intellectual activities that happen within the community, as well as the sophisticated food and wine scene.

Aspen is a charming small town with natural beauty and a big city feel. But is it real world or not? Who is to decide?

Read more Locals That Love & also Insider Guides to ski resorts around the world

Images from Rachael Oakes-Ash, May Selby and Jordan Curet


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