Aspen Ideas Festival lets public buy tickets for specific events

23 June 2023
Lynda Edwards
Sandra Clark, CEO of StoryCorps, talks as part of the Aspen Ideas Health public events series on Thursday, June 22, 2023, inside the Hotel Jerome in Aspen.
Austin Colbert/The Aspen Times

Aspen Ideas Festival attendees who buy an all-access pass have a buffet of events from which to choose, but there are festival lovers who can’t afford the hefty price tag. They prefer an a la carte experience, buying tickets on sale for a few events open to the public with ticket prices as low as $35.

Aspen Ideas’ Tricia Johnson, editorial director of public programs, talked about a few of those programs. Note that publicly-ticketed events are normally held inside The Hotel Jerome.

On Sunday, Patagonia CEO Ryan Gellert reflects on talks to former Daily Show producer and How to Citizen podcast host Baratunde Thurston. Gellert restructured the company legally to give all profits to environmentalism efforts.

“There are so many people who love the outdoors here. I think that will be interesting for them,” Johnson said.

For prices and to track what programs are sold out, visit

Saturday night, hear Nobel Prize-winning journalist Maria Ressa on “How to Stand Up to a Dictator.” She did exactly that in the Philippines, covering a brutal dictatorship; 22 reporters were killed in the islands covering the Duerte regime.

Sunday at 6:30 p.m. in the Paepcke Auditorium, Duke Divinity professor Kate Bowler discusses “Everything Happens for a Reason: And Other Lies I’ve Loved.” She wrote the book after being diagnosed with stage IV cancer at age 35.

At 8:15 p.m., an organization called Open to Debate will present a debate on whether social media is detrimental to children’s mental health. Johnson knows that some attendees may be surprised the topic is debatable, given the studies claiming social media damages kids’ self-esteem and attention spans. This month, the Aspen School District sued social-media giants for harming children’s mental health.

A sign for Aspen Ideas Health during a panel discussion on Thursday inside the Hotel Jerome.
Austin Colbert/The Aspen Times

But she said there are two sides represented onstage for this debate. And her hope is that attendees will “walk away with a more nuanced understanding” of the issue.

Open to Debate tackles a provocative question at 6:30 p.m. on Tuesday: Should bad memories be erased? Johnson recalls the film “Eternal Sunshine of a Spotless Mind,” in which actors Kate Winslet and Jim Carrey go to a neuroscientist to erase the memories of their heartbreaking romance from their brains. That fantasy is now a possibility. The film argues that we should keep the painful memories because they inextricably shape who we are.

But the question becomes more difficult if those memories involve a horrible trauma or a terrifying wartime experience. The debate will cover many facets of the dilemma.

Honey Estrada, president of the North Carolina Community Health Worker Association, talks as part of the Aspen Ideas Health public events series on Thursday, June 22, 2023, inside the Hotel Jerome in Aspen. Estrada was one of a handful of healthcare workers to share their stories on Thursday.
Austin Colbert/The Aspen Times

“Let’s Talk About Sex” on Thursday, June 29, boasts an interesting pairing — longtime, popular Savage Love advice columnist and author Dan Savage, an openly-gay husband and dad, and Washington Post columnist Christine Emba, a millennial whose book, “Rethinking Sex,” ignited controversy when she wondered why 21st century sex isn’t much fun. (Yes, there were readers who debated that premise). Both speakers are known for their quick, sharp wit and perceptive insights.

No hints from Aspen Ideas about what they’ll cover. But Emba’s book assessed the #MeToo movement, consensual college campus sex, and The New Yorker’s viral hit short story, “Cat Person,” which explored the line between endearing dorkishness and weird creepiness when sizing up a potential date.