King and Queen for a day | AspenTimes.com

King and Queen for a day

Jill Beathard | Snowmass Sun

For Tom and Jody Cardamone, reigning over the festivities as the king and queen of this year's Winterskol festival in Aspen was all about community.

And, of course, winter.

For almost 40 years, the couple led the team at the Aspen Center for Environmental Studies, starting in 1975 when Jody was hired by Elizabeth Paepcke to develop the nature center the philanthropist had donated land for. Now, Tom is heading up the Snowmass Discovery nonprofit, carrying on that theme of environmental stewardship, a message he relayed in remarks at the opening dinner of Winterskol.

"The same theme is being carried on in Snowmass with Snowmass Discovery to, as we said, celebrate these treasures from the ancient past and inspire stewardship of the future," Tom said. "And my closing remark was essentially that yes, we're concerned about climate change and the impact on our community and our ski business and it's worth being concerned about, but it's so important to be lighthearted and celebratory about winter."

After all, "what would Aspen be without mountains, winter and snow?" Jody said.

Jody, who was born and raised in Aspen, spoke during their remarks about her memories of early Winterskols. Over the phone on Jan. 18, she recalled one pastime when her father would lead a team of golden retrievers down Main Street. Her mother had a bucket of tennis balls and threw it out onto the street, sparking a canine frenzy in the middle of downtown.

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"When I told my mother that we had been chosen to do this, and it was a real honor, as well, she reminded me that she had ridden on the float in the first Winterskol parade with Ellie Spence, who was the first Winterskol queen," Jody said. "So it really came full circle."

In addition to the opening dinner, the Cardamones taste-tested at Soupskol and judged hats at the Mad Hatter's Ball. They also attended the book signing Jan. 16 at the Gonzo Gallery, which was followed by the fireworks, and on Jan. 17, Tom closed out the weekend by skiing Highland Bowl — sans Winterskol crown.

Their crowns embodied the spirit of the weekend, too: The evergreen branches, antlers and other flora were gathered outside, and friends helped build them on the kitchen floor. Friends also helped embroider snowflakes on a cape that Jody wore to the opening dinner.

"Everyone really gathered around us," Jody said, adding that it felt good when the community voted for their selection to the posts.

Tom and Jody both agreed that they miss the parade aspect of Winterskol and hope the organizers bring that back soon. They also speculated whether other communities could participate with localized events of their own. Snowmass Village used to host many of the Winterskol activities, including skijoring, hot-air-balloon rides and a telemark race.

Either way, Tom and Jody noticed that Winterskol draws residents from all over the valley as well as visitors.

"In the same way that we celebrate each other's birthdays and anniversaries to celebrate the people that we love, it's just very important to celebrate a season that we love," Tom said. "Being the temporary king and queen of Winterskol was really a delightful celebration for us."

jill@snowmasssun.com

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