SNOWMASS VILLAGE - A new event planned for March in Snowmass Village hopes to capture the spirit of the European apres-ski experience while delving into the educational aspects of food and beverages similar to the Food and Wine Classic in Aspen.
Here's the twist: The event will focus on the almighty cocktail. Dubbed the Aspen/Snowmass Apres-Ski Cocktail Classic, the celebration of mixology will take place at the new Westin and Wildwood Snowmass Resorts from March 14 to 17.
Co-founder Kim Haasarud, a mixologist who has appeared on many national TV network productions and is a best-selling author of books on cocktails, said Monday that she's planning to make the Cocktail Classic an annual happening.
"It should be a pretty stellar event," Haasarud said. "If you love food and cocktails, if you like to sip a nice glass of scotch or cognac by the fireside, this is something you don't want to miss. And there is a cool educational component in a really fun environment."
She and the other organizers, including her husband, Kevin Hassarud, are assembling a who's who of expert cocktail aficionados for the festivities. They will pour and discuss uncommon spirits, champagnes and cocktails. Kevin Hassarud was one of the producers of HBO's U.S. Comedy Arts Festival, which used to be held in Aspen.
Confirmed so far are:
• Tony Abou-Ganim, considered by many in the spirits industry to be a bartending legend. He is creator of the Cable Car cocktail and author of "The Modern Mixologist: Contemporary Classic Cocktails."
• Steve Olson, also known as "The Wine Geek." Olson has taught, lectured and written all over the world about wine, beer, spirits, sake and virtually any other beverage and often discusses their relationships with certain foods.
• Charlotte Voisey, a British mixologist and former award-winning bartender. She now is a portfolio ambassador for William Grant and Sons USA, the New York-based division of the Scottish distiller that makes Glenfiddich.
Events include an opening-night party, a grand-tasting village, a VIP grand reserve tasting room, daily seminars and a local bartending competition. Industry professionals will offer tasting tours of domestic and international bourbons, cognacs, armagnacs and single-malt scotches. Master mixologists and top chefs will teach guests how to prepare updated versions of classic apres-ski drinks such as Irish ccoffee and hot toddies as well as apres-ski food favorites like cheese fondue and raclette.
Kim Haasarud said U.S. resorts haven't really got a handle on the apres-ski concept. They hold happy hours and provide drink specials - and sometimes book live entertainment, which usually consists of a guy with a guitar singing cover tunes.
"In my opinion, no one has really embraced apres-ski," she said. "If you ever go to France, and see the apres-ski experience there, it's not like (America). I think it's a real opportunity to showcase some amazing spirits from cognacs to single-malt scotches to rums, along with punches and toddies. We hope our event enhances the apres-ski experience, redefining it in a way, showing what apres-ski could be."
She said that while the Westin and Wildwood will serve as the hub, it's likely that there will be side programs at other sites in Snowmass Village and Aspen. Haasarud has reserved a block of 30 rooms at the Westin for the event's sponsors but said she likely will have to add more.
Her research indicated that the event should be financially viable, considering that it's planned for a time of year when a lot of tourists are in the area.
"We talked to a lot of people," Haasarud said. "We've been going to Aspen for the past 13 years, and the demographics are a fit. We talked to a lot of brands, and they are excited about it. We talked to local chefs and sommeliers, and they thought it would go over, as well. A big part of the population at that time is tourists."
Snow magazine will be one of the primary sponsors, she added.
"We are also talking with Aspen Skiing Co. and hope to do some on-mountain activities," Haasarud said.
Tickets will be sold separately for each event and also as an all-inclusive VIP pass. For more information, visit www.apresskicc.com.