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Documentary about Crested Butte continues conversation about community in Aspen

  In this archival still from the film "High Country," people ride horses in a parade through Crested Butte.
Crested Butte Mountain Heritage Museum
Courtesy of Conor Hagen
Conor Hagen’s “High Country” documentary about community in Crested Butte will screen for Aspen audiences at Paepcke Auditorium on March 9. In this archival still from the film, people ride horses in a parade through Crested Butte.

A documentary about Crested Butte and its effort to maintain a sense of community is screening in Aspen this weekend, and event organizers say local audiences will find a message that resonates in the film about a neighboring mountain town located on the other side of West Maroon Pass. Crested Butte is just a day’s hike or a four-hour drive from Aspen.

The free screening of “High Country” starts at 6 p.m. tomorrow night at the Paepcke Auditorium on the Aspen Institute campus.

Longtime Roaring Fork Valley writer Paul Andersen partnered with local nonprofit Aspen Journalism and the film’s director Conor Hagen to bring a screening here to Aspen.

Andersen lived in Crested Butte from 1970 to 1984 and was also interviewed for the film.

He said “High Country” has a message that’s likely to click with audiences here in Aspen amid broader conversations about the town’s community and culture.

“Community is worth a try,” Andersen told Aspen Public Radio. “It's worth an effort to open a dialog, and that's really what this is about. It's to get people thinking about community and talking to each other about it, and feeling like there's a sense of belonging, because that's what a sense of place is.”

Director Conor Hagen has observed the response to the film at other screenings in resort communities, including Park City and Breckenridge.

“The message of the film is resonating with a lot of these towns in a pretty deep way,” Hagen said. “And that is, you know, ‘How does the community grapple with the constant influx of change and outside interests, while also conserving and protecting its heritage and identity and soul?’”

After the screening, a panel discussion around 7 p.m. will include Hagen and Andersen and former Colorado Senator Gail Schwartz and former Aspen Mayor John Bennett.

Aspen Journalism Executive Director Curtis Wackerle is moderating the conversation, which will also focus on community identity.

“I thought [the film] was something that would be great to share with the audience here, to get this look at what makes a place what it is,” Wackerle said. “And I think we all have our own version of that story for Aspen that we tell ourselves, but I think to see that story be told of another community is something that I think just enhances our own understanding of who we are and makes us try and understand how we came to be as well.”

Tickets aren’t required for the free screening, and seats are first come, first served.


Kaya Williams is the Edlis Neeson Arts and Culture Reporter at Aspen Public Radio, covering the vibrant creative and cultural scene in Aspen and the Roaring Fork Valley. She studied journalism and history at Boston University, where she also worked for WBUR, WGBH, The Boston Globe and her beloved college newspaper, The Daily Free Press. Williams joins the team after a stint at The Aspen Times, where she reported on Snowmass Village, education, mental health, food, the ski industry, arts and culture and other general assignment stories.
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