Wintersköl begins with a lunch in honor of the royal family, together with the non-profit and business organization of the year

Nancy Mayer, who is the publisher of Aspen Sojourner magazine, receives a toast for being named Wintersköl royalty during a meet and greet Thursday at The Aspen Hive in downtown Aspen. CEO of Aspen Skiing Co. John Rigney was also named the royal face of Wintersköl this year. Festivities continue through the weekend, highlighted by Saturday’s fireworks and torchlight parade on Aspen Mountain. (Austin Colbert/The Aspen Times)
Austin Colbert/The Aspen Times

There’s plenty of fun left in Aspen, insisted Debbie Braun, president and CEO of the Aspen Chamber Resort Association, as she kicked off Wintersköl’s annual awards and budget luncheon Thursday after a years-long hiatus due to the pandemic.

At the end of the day, Wintersköl is all about local entertainment between the high visitor periods right after the holidays. The festival is jam-packed with events until Sunday, culminating with bonfires and fireworks on Saturday, followed by a hand-off of sorts in Snowmass with the Drag Queen Bingo Brunch, which coincides with the start of Aspen Gay Ski Week and the next wave of visitors.

“Go out there and delineate your life this week,” she joked. “Maybe I’ll do it myself!”

And so several hundred Aspen residents celebrated the opening of the 72nd Winter Welcome Festival with a Helen K. Klanderud Wintersköl lunch at the St. Regis.

The event brought together the business community to celebrate the winners of the association’s royalties and awards.

A great start to its 50th year in business, the Buddy Program won the Nonprofit of the Year award.

The organization pairs adult community members with local youth for mentoring relationships, as well as hosts school and community programs from Aspen to Carbondale and Rifle.

“We are honored to be recognized by ACRA and the leaders of the local business community,” said Buddy Program Executive Director Lindsay Lofaro. “We know that without many other non-profit organizations our work would not be possible.”

The Buddy Program team celebrated the beginning of the 50th anniversary of the Wintersköl organization with honors for the best non-profit organization.

This year the Buddy Program is moving to Glenwood Springs with its Outdoor Leadership program at Glenwood High School and aims to have a large and small buddy program up and running by the start of the next school year.

The Association of Chamber Resorts awarded the title Business of the Year to Pure Barre CycleBar Aspen.

“We know everyone loves a glass of champagne, but we say we’re the best bar in town,” said Eli Radney, general manager.

Pure Barre Aspen and CycleBar Aspen owners Stephanie and Mike Ibasco celebrate their Business of the Year award with CEO Eli Radney.

The Molly Campbell Service Award went to retired Marine Lt. Col. Dick Merritt, who spent part of his more than four decades in Aspen as a ski instructor, patrolman and leader of the local veterans community.

“I came here 57 years ago straight from Vietnam and fell in love with the place, and I’ve been here ever since,” he said to a standing ovation.

The Association of Resort Chambers also crowned this year’s royal Wintersköl celebrants with winter laurels — exemplary representatives of the Wintersköl spirit.

Nancy Meyer, already a highly decorated social presence in Aspen with accolades for Ms. Aspen and Best Socialite 2022. The Aspen Times, has called Aspen home for 42 years. She worked for Aspen Magazine 17 years before he took over as publisher at Aspen resident in 2003.

The other recipient of the royal honor is John Rigney, longtime senior executive of Aspen Skiing Co.

Wintersköl 2023 is the first in-person event after two years of COVID-19 protocols that prevented large gatherings.

The weekend is filled with Wintersköl’s calendar of indoor and outdoor events – streaks are optional but encouraged, albeit in jest.

“I hope everyone gets a chance to celebrate Wintersköl this year,” said Jennifer Carney, the association’s COO. “It’s a very traditional part of Aspen history. It’s about celebrating winter with wacky events.”

“To all the Aspen residents who make our mountain town so special: May we always find joy, laughter and incredible memories in all that winter has to offer. Cheers!” Braun said early at lunch during one of several champagne toasts. Not long after, the membership ceremoniously certified the Aspen Chamber Resort Association for the new year at a gala luncheon, in accordance with the association’s bylaws.

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