Aspen Journalism partnering with filmmaker, community coalition to present free film screening event on March 11  

An examination of Crested Butte, a neighboring ski town, High Country presents a microcosm of the great American debate on community; panel discussion to follow.

Aspen Journalism is partnering with filmmaker Conor Hagen and retired local journalist Paul Andersen, as well as other community partners, to present a free screening of Hagen’s film High Country, about Aspen’s closest neighboring ski town of Crested Butte and its legacy of fostering community amid challenges. 

This event will take place on Saturday, March 11 at Paepcke Auditorium in Aspen, with doors opening at 5:30 p.m. and the film to begin at 6 p.m. Admission is free but seating is limited by the 400-person capacity of the auditorium located at 1000 N. Third St. on the Aspen Meadows campus. The screening will be followed by a panel discussion beginning at 7 p.m. that will explore themes of community values and character — how those are formed and what shapes them over time — as well as the struggle to maintain values in the face of change.  

This event is intended to bring the Roaring Fork Valley community together to learn more about how a peer community has evolved over time and how it has grappled with many of the same challenges we face. 

“Thematically, this screening will inspire discussion on community in Aspen and the Roaring Fork Valley with the idea of inclusion of the many social layers throughout the valley,” said Andersen, a former reporter and editor of The Aspen Times and a longtime columnist there. Before moving to Aspen, Andersen lived in Crested Butte from 1970 to 1984 and served as editor of the Crested Butte Chronicle and as a reporter for the Gunnison Country Times. He is also the author of the book “The Town That Said Hell No: Crested Butte Fights a Mine to Save its Soul,” about the effort to stop a mine from opening on a peak overlooking the town. “This screening will celebrate the richness of community as a social bonding agent and attendees will gain a greater appreciation for the importance of a sense of place and bonds we share with our neighbors.”

According to the film’s executive producer Chris Fischer, “High Country is both a visual pleasure as well as a civics lesson, teaching its viewers the importance of a shared, positive and creative vision for the future. You can’t help but walk away from the film inspired to make a difference in your own community. ”

Crested Butte, much like Aspen, is an old mining town turned ski town. It’s nestled at an elevation of 9,000 feet at the headwaters of the Gunnison Valley, surrounded by some of the most pristine wilderness in the Rockies. It’s the kind of place that when driving into, one literally gasps in awe of the beauty. To locals, it is considered with great pride as a place defined by its conservationist spirit, it’s antics, it’s defiance of the norms, and mostly by its strength of community. But, as a resort town, Crested Butte is not alone in its struggles to cope with economic pressures and environmental impacts resulting from tourism and growth. 

“Crested Butte is a microcosm of a much larger American debate, a debate of who we want to be,” said Hagen, who grew up in Crested Butte and whose documentary work has focused on environment and community. “If we simply acquiesce and stand by as progress bounds forward, we’re going to be left in the dust, licking our wounds and complaining. But, if we embrace our local communities with care, if we consider the future, then we might see some positivity within the progress. We exist in one of the most divisive eras in American history; in order for us to save our communities and conserve our natural world we must embrace progress with care and consideration, much like the town of Crested Butte attempted to do in the 1970s as it transitioned from a humble coal-mining town to becoming one of the world’s most desirable resort towns.” 

A panel discussion following the film will feature Hagen and Anderson, along with former Colorado state Sen. Gail Schwartz — a Roaring Fork Valley resident who has also lived in Crested Butte — and former Aspen Mayor John Bennett. Aspen Journalism Editor and Executive Director Curtis Wackerle will moderate the panel.

“For Aspen Journalism, screening this film In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic and the demographic and socioeconomic shifts it produced will help establish a common ground of understanding around the role we all play in maintaining community, which is central to Aspen Journalism’s mission of informing citizens about local public affairs,” Wackerle said.

The free film-screening-and-panel-discussion event is supported by the Aspen Business Center Foundation, the Aspen Chamber Resort Association, Rotary Club of Aspen and other generous individual donors.

For more information, contact Curtis Wackerle, editor and executive director of Aspen Journalism, at, or Paul Andersen at

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