The mountain is not particularly high but nonetheless looms over the town of Aspen because of the proximity of the town, which was founded as a silver mining camp in 1879 during the Colorado Silver Boom. The mountain flank was the site of intense mining activity in the late 1880s and early 1890s, with many remains of mining activity below and on the surface of the mountain. In the middle 20th century it became the site of recreational downhill skiing. In 1946, the newly-formed Aspen Skiing Company, founded by Walter Paepcke, built the first chairlift to the top of the mountain and opened the ski area that bears the name of the mountain. The chairlift was later replaced by a gondola lift, which begins in downtown Aspen, allowing skiers to ascend the mountain from the center of town.
Aspen Mountain is alternatively called Ajax by the locals.