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Aspen History: Big Sweet Pea Show

“The First Sweet Pea!” proclaimed a headline in the Aspen Democrat-Times on June 22, 1921. “Here we are with the first sweet pea on exhibition in our front window and the Sweet Pea Exhibition Committee awards the first prize to Mrs. H.I. Elrod, the lady who plucked the blossom this morning from her flower garden, 501 Mill Street. The committee, H.G. Koch, E.C. Groscurth and Julius Zupancis, has awarded Mrs. Elrod the first prize for producing the first sweet pea blossom and placing it on exhibition in the “Fair” window of the Democrat-Times. Now let’s keep things moving for the Big Sweet Pea Show to be held in Aspen late this summer.” This image shows a woman standing next to blooming sweet peas, 1908.

Follow the music for free ice cream on the Fourth of July in Snowmass Village

Aspen’s annual parade is canceled. Fireworks ain’t happening. And the legendary outdoor barbecue where I might tend bar for hours and serve 400-plus friends, acquaintances and smiling strangers is but a distant memory from more social times in 2019. Since most treasured opportunities for fun and revelry are on hold this summer in Aspen, I’m heading to Snowmass for the Fourth of July. At least there will be free ice cream!

On Saturday, July 4, Snowmass Tourism will launch the first-ever “Ice Cream Anti-Social,” a concept born in the spirit of American tradition while upholding social distancing orders due to the coronavirus pandemic. When our new reality made clear that a community concert and celebration in Base Village would not be possible due to restrictions on public gatherings, tourism director Rose Abello pivoted to an endeavor that will take merriment to the people instead: drive-by ice cream delivery.

“The easiest answer (would have been) to say it’s canceled,” Abello said of Independence Day festivities. “Instead we’re challenging ourselves and our event producer partners to see if we can figure it out.”

Abello’s team secured a refrigerated truck from Aspen Skiing Co., commissioned custom signage, and placed an order for 4,000 prepackaged ice cream treats from Clark’s Market. They acquired necessary PPE, signed on drivers, and mapped a route designed to hit every residence, hotel and rental property in Snowmass Village throughout the day. Now folks stuck mostly at home will have something to get excited about.

“My theme this summer: shift happens!” Abello says. “We thought: What parts of the Fourth of July community celebration can we embrace? What parts can still happen? Let’s give them dessert! This is a fun way to celebrate the Fourth of July in a crazy COVID era.”

The logistics of such a mission required some finagling. Most important, Abello says, was making sure that the operation would be inclusive. The team decided against publishing a time-specific route map; instead, approximate stop times are listed on the Snowmass Tourism website event page (see sidebar).

“I talked to some moms and the idea that we tell them, it’s a huge window (of time that) is a nightmare for children,” Abello says, with a laugh. “So, we’ll give guidance on neighborhoods, time blocks, and places to park that are centrally located.”

The truck’s 12-mile journey will span four or five hours. A patriotic playlist will pump from a speaker system mounted on the outside of the truck, which is wrapped in a cheeky illustration of Uncle Sam wearing a mask and holding a melting ice cream cone. (How one consumes an ice cream cone while wearing a mask remains unclear; however, those seeking ice cream must wear a mask to receive a freebie.)

Historically, Snowmass Tourism contracted with Aspen Skiing Co.’s catering and events department and The Sled, a mobile food truck that in wintertime is pulled via snowcat to various on-mountain locations at Snowmass. As the group is ever mindful of sharing space with area restaurants vying for holiday dollars (and the reason why it has opted against a public cookout in years past), The Sled offered free apple pie, strawberry shortcake, and ice cream bars for visitors to enjoy during DJ sets, concerts, and the fireworks display. Now, an ice cream truck crawling the streets of Snowmass dovetails smoothly with pressing concerns about customer contact and food contamination: individually wrapped ice cream snacks, doled out by a dude in a hazmat suit, seems air-tight in terms of safety.

On July 4, the Ice Cream Anti-Social truck will dispense four classic choices: Choco Tacos; red-white-and-blue Bomb Pops; chocolate ice cream sandwiches; and orange Push-Up Pops. These products hark to America’s original ice cream truck, invented in 1920 by Harry Burt, creator of the Good Humor brand. His motorized vehicle in Youngstown, Ohio, was the first to deliver ice cream, and soon, chocolate-covered ice cream on a stick (the Good Humor bar), which was easier and cleaner to sell (and eat) on-the-go.

Though many ice cream parlors were forced to close as “luxury” experiences were pushed off the table during the Great Depression, cheap-to-run ice cream trucks survived and even thrived. Post-World War II, ice cream companies boomed (both of my grandfathers were in the business of ice cream) and the ice cream truck as American icon gained even more traction.

Perhaps coolest for Snowmass: this Ice Cream Anti-Social represents the first crusade. Snowmass Town Clerk Rhonda Coxon confirms that Snowmass Village has never had a dedicated ice cream truck en route since the ski area opened in 1967 (and the town was incorporated in 1977). While many other Snowmass summer events remain in limbo, July 4 is a go: Listen for the music.

“We’re ice cream pioneers,” Abello quips, making crystal clear that optimism guides this novel operation, much like the familiar friendly jingle most of us have heard at some point during childhood. “Let’s keep this tradition of providing sweet treats alive…and keep your party at your house.”


High Country: Cannaclusive pens open letter to the cannabis industry

Cannabis has an inclusivity issue. Cannaclusive is trying to solve it.

Seeking to make the industry more diverse, Mary Pryor co-founded Cannaclusive in 2017 as an effort “to facilitate fair representation of minority cannabis consumers.” Inspired by the growing opportunities, yet disappointed by the diversity issues taking root in mainstream cannabis culture, Cannaclusive offers resources to challenge the “whitewashed weed industry” such as a free stock photography gallery dedicated to diversity and the InclusiveBase, a directory of people of color (POC) who are leaders within the cannabis community. 

Amid the racial crisis our country is currently facing, Cannaclusive was prompted to launch The Accountability List earlier this month. The multi-sourced database is complied by a trusted group of volunteers, who’ve donated thousands of hours so far to cull through public and private information. Entries for each of the 262 companies (and counting) include the number of black employees, whether they are POC-owned, how they addressed the killing of George Floyd and if they’ve made any relevant donations.

When I spoke with Pryor for this story, I asked her if there were currently any cannabis companies that were doing enough; her answer was bluntly, “No.”

The prohibition of the plant itself is rooted in racism. 

In a recent op-ed, Erik Altieri, executive director for the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML), explained, “Our decades-long prohibition of marijuana was founded upon racism and bigotry. Look no further than the sentiments of its architect, Harry J. Anslinger, Commissioner of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics, who declared: ‘(M)ost (marijuana consumers in the U.S.) are Negroes, Hispanics, Filipinos and entertainers. … (M)arijuana causes white women to seek sexual relations with Negroes. … Reefer makes darkies think they’re as good as white men.’”

The criminalization of cannabis was (and is) fueled by discrimination. And despite the legalization of marijuana for adult-use in 2014, there is an immeasurable amount of work that must still be done. 

Arlene Pitterson, Cannaclusive’s director of partnerships added, “[Posting on] Instagram and Twitter is a simple out. At this point it’s performative. We’re asking people now, ‘What are you actually doing? What are your action items?’ If you’re going to make a donation or if you’re going to provide jobs for people of color, say that. If you’re just going to put up a black square, you’re going to be called out for that.”

The Accountability list is a “living, breathing document” that’s in stage one of three planned phases, ultimately giving a diversity report and score, while also highlighting businesses exceeding the challenge and those failing to meet Cannaclusive’s minimum standards. 

“We’re asking for people to see us. We’re still not being seen,” pleaded Pryor, who is also the chief marketing officer for Tonic CBD and Tricolla Farms. “If it’s not going to take Trayvon [Martin], Breonna [Taylor] and George Floyd to make a difference … if it’s not going to take black and brown people telling you that this isn’t right … that this industry is being gobbled up by white men who intentionally — and through documents and emails that we’re receiving — are making it hostile for people of color to exist in the cannabis industry, then it’s time to hold people accountable.”

Cannaclusive’s companion call-to-action is an open letter authored by Pryor and Cannaclusive’s collaborators addressed to the “Cannabis and Hemp Community.” In the more than 1,000 word text, Pryor asks companies to prioritize diversity through inclusion support, employment practices, reversing the impacts of the War on Drugs, and increasing Black, indigenous and POC leadership.

“This letter serves as a call to hold ourselves accountable to ensure a diverse and inclusive industry, as well as to be in active solidarity with communities harmed by the drug war as a means to end it and to reverse its impacts,” it begins. “According to the ACLU, 88% of cannabis arrests are for simple possession and according to NORML, Black people are up to 10x more likely to be arrested for cannabis. Based on this information, the cannabis community needs to recognize that the majority of folks harmed by the drug war are both patients and Black, which is why the industry needs to answer the above call in its entirety.”

The letter concludes, “As we explore next steps – towards progression for all – we recognize it is imperative we honor and respect the work required to promote inclusion and equity within corporate and startup entities. While there is a sense of urgency to address these much needed changes, we are aware there is an abundance of necessary education on, and unpacking of racism, sexism and the prejudicial nature of hiring and business culture, which exists in all industries.”

Katie Shapiro can be reached at katie@katieshapiromedia.com and followed on Twitter @bykatieshapiro. 

Asher on Aspen: Equestrian Therapy

There’s something about the mountains that command exploration from the back of a horse. Some girlfriends and I decided that horseback riding would be a fun and leisurely Sunday afternoon activity for us all to experience together. It felt like the perfect, unofficial way to kick off what is sure to be a very quiet and event-free summer in Aspen.

Upon arrival at T-Lazy-7 Ranch, we were each assigned a horse based on our prior equestrian experience. I was placed with a stallion named River, and we hit it off right away. He was an exceptionally beautiful horse with an immensely calm and peaceful demeanor. I immediately wanted to wrap my arms around him and give him an enormous hug. Two friendly and knowledgeable guides from the Maroon Creek Outfitters led us through the majestic Maroon Creek Valley on our ride. River was assigned to ride in the front of the group, following directly behind our fearless leader and guide, Greg.

My senses were overwhelmed from the minute we left the ranch. Set loose, we breezed across luscious meadows, sagebrush hillsides, and snow-capped peaks. Greg was “the fearless cowboy,” if you will. He was a strong and sturdy man who proudly voiced his knowledge and passion for riding horses and being a cowboy. “I wrecked more horses than cars,” Greg proclaimed when I inquired how many times he’s been bucked off. “And I was always alright with wrecking horses.”

The stories he shared throughout the trip had me on the edge of my saddle. His deep passion for horses was admirable. He would linger a moment in between stories and look back at me — almost as if to see if I was still interested — and indeed, I was. He had so many intriguing anecdotes, as I imagine one would if they had been around horses their whole life. While listening to his riding fails and triumphs, I went down a rabbit hole of deep thought. I started to reflect on just how wonderful it is for someone to be that passionate about something.

I think it’s so important for people to be passionate. It can be about anything — art, cars, skiing, fashion, ballet, football, cooking, video games or even horses. It can literally be anything, it just has to be something. It’s when someone isn’t passionate about anything that I get worried. What do they light up about? What are they excited to talk about when they come home from work? What keeps them up at night? To not get that spark of excitement when talking about your favorite thing is passionless and quite frankly, a little sad. That glint of passion, I believe, is precisely what gives us all a sense of purpose in this life.

Throughout our ride, we discussed and determined the various types of character roles each of our horses took on. My friend Emily’s horse, Hailey, was super sassy. If she had it her way, she would be lounging on the lawn drinking margaritas all day. Whereas my horse, I envisioned to be utterly cautious and wise. I imagined chit-chatting with him on a wrap-around porch drinking sweet tea as he gave me the most thought-provoking life advice. Just as I think every dog has their own voice and personality, I believe the same to be true about horses. I’d like to think that animals become so much more humanized when you determine what their personality is.

Good friends paired with great views is not a bad way to spend a Sunday afternoon. The rugged mountains and breathtaking views provided a horseback riding experience that is unrivaled anywhere in the world. We trekked across fields of avalanche damage, through groves of Aspen trees and past picturesque ponds. A flurry of John Denver songs played through my mind. The air smelled like pine needles, distant campfires and occasionally, River’s droppings along the trail.

Without any real warning, Greg started to pick up a trot and the horses followed behind, in a steady line through the pasture. I caught myself smiling from ear to ear the moment River began to pick up the pace. The unexpected joy that trotting brought me was second to none. “Sometimes your trot picks up, and that’s when the real fun starts,” Greg yelled back to the group.

Suddenly, we slowed down as we spotted an interesting scene playing out in the distance. I had my eyes peeled for wildlife throughout the ride, but I never expected we would find a shoeless man practicing guitar by himself in the middle of the woods. I couldn’t believe it. I chuckled to myself and wondered how he even found this little trail in the middle of nowhere. “You never know what you’re going to see out here,” Greg whispered back to me out of the right side of his mouth.

Our ride was a leisurely two-hour amble through the most luscious wide-open spaces. Two glorious hours and 15 glorious minutes was the amount of time we got to spend with the horses. We high-fived before dismounting, then staggered, groaning and bowlegged, as we meandered our way to the car. I walked away from the ranch with a smile and a more profound love for horses and for people who are passionate. Wouldn’t the world be so wonderful if it was filled with passionate people like Greg?

A history of Aspen protests, from the 1950s to today

The Back Lives Mater demonstrations in downtown Aspen over the past month follow a long tradition of protest in Aspen.

Remote and small as the mountain town may be, modern Aspen has made its voice heard on local and world issues since it started to become a hub of international wealth and power in the years after World War Two.

“Aspen has way too much influence nationally and globally not to say anything,” Jenelle Figgins, co-founder of Roaring Fork Show Up, said at a downtown rally last month, echoing the sentiment of local activists of decades yore.

This summer’s marches and protests about systemic racism and police violence may be the largest and most sustained in Aspen history, drawing hundreds of people for consecutive weekends. There’s no precedent for its size and longevity, said Aspen Historical Society curator Lisa Hancock.

The civil rights movement of the 1950s and ‘60s didn’t lead to any on-the-ground action in the “so lily white” Aspen of the day, she said. The larger Aspen protests of the 21st century – over war, climate and women’s rights – were single-day affairs.

Large-scale activism and political organization in Aspen began with the formation of the Aspen Miners’ Union in 1894, but historical evidence of locals exercising their First Amendment right to free assembly for political demonstration is scant until the town’s era as a ski resort.

Those protests have centered on both local and national issues. These are some of the most significant:

Water Rights, Wintersköl 1954

Freddie Fisher in a bathtub during the 1954 Winterskol Parade. Courtesy Aspen Historical Society
Courtesy Aspen Historical Society

The famed musician and local gadfly Freddie Fisher during the annual winter carnival parade, staged an elaborate bathtub float protesting diversions from the Roaring Fork River to the Front Range. Water and access to public lands have frequently called Aspenites to political action.

Against Humble Oil, 1965

A group of people protesting the Humble Oil Company on Main Street in front of the Courthouse with St. Mary’s Church in the background, 1965. Courtesy Aspen Historical Society/Lane Collection
Courtesy Aspen Historical Society

People protesting the Humble Oil Company in front of the Pitkin County Courthouse, November 1965. The man in the suit and hat is one of the company’s lawyers. Courtesy Aspen Historical Society/Aspen Illustrated News Collection
Courtesy Aspen Historical Society

The Humble Oil Company sought to build a gas station in the West End in 1964, sparking a zoning change from the city to keep it out, which in turn sparked a lawsuit from Humble against the city. Protestors took to the streets and to the courthouse to oppose the gas company and its plans.

Vietnam and Robert McNamara, 1967

A protest against the Vietnam War and Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara in Aspen, August 1967. Courtesy Aspen Historical Society/Lane Collection
Courtesy Aspen Historical Society

Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara, a frequent Aspen visitor, drew organized demonstrations from locals as the war in Vietnam escalated and the anti-war movement grew. In 1967, protestors surrounded a home he rented during a vacation. In his memoir, McNamara recalled being “surrounded by a mob of chanting demonstrators.” In separate incidents, protestors twice attempted to burn down a vacation home McNamara was having built in Snowmass.

Rulison Underground Nuclear Test, 1969

People protesting the nuclear test at Rulison, Colorado, in September of 1969 and carrying protest posters made by Tom Benton. Courtesy Aspen Historical Society/Lane Collection
Courtesy Aspen Historical Society

Roaring Fork Valley residents fought the detonation of a 40-kiloton bomb underground in Rulison, west of Glenwood Springs. The federal Operation Plowshare sought to find peace-time uses for nuclear bombs. Here one was set off for natural gas exploration. Though they didn’t stop the bomb, the protests did give birth to some of the earliest protest art by Tom Benton, whose “no contamination without representation” posters were ubiquitous during the demonstrations.

Anti-Olympics, 1972

A group of people gathered to protest the possibility of the Olympics coming to Colorado, January 1972. Courtesy Aspen Historical Society/Lane Collection
Courtesy Aspen Historical Society

Aspenites vehemently fought against the potential of bringing the 1976 winter Olympics to Aspen, citing the accelerating development and growth in the mountains at the time. The protestors – rallying under the “Stop the Final Rape of Aspen” slogan – won out, and a statewide vote went against the Olympic bid in a landslide.

Locals’ Ski Pass, 1975

Locals organized to fight the Aspen Ski Corp. and petitioned the U.S. Forest Service after the company stopped honoring the three-mountain “local’s pass” on Aspen Mountain, ostensibly because crowds of ski bums were scaring off tourists. Without success in the fight, local skiers began flocking to Aspen Highlands, which operated independently.

Aspen Society for Animal Rights, 1989-1990

People protesting the use of fur in fashion in front of the Charlemagne restaurant. Aspen Times photo courtesy of Aspen Historical Society
Courtesy Aspen Historical Society
Georgie Leighton and Jo Anne Rando (Pitkin County Animal Control officer) protesting the wearing of fur coats. Aspen Times photo courtesy of Aspen Historical Society
Courtesy Aspen Historical Society

The anti-fur movement in Aspen made international news and influenced the animal rights movement. Organized protests date back as far as 1979 against people wearing fur coats in town, which led to bans on inhumane animal traps in the years that followed. The movement crested in 1989 as Mayor Bill Stirling began moving to ban the sale of fur in town, which gained world press attention and made Aspen a major force in the early animal rights movement, though Stirling’s ballot measure lost in 1990.

The “Honk-In,” Dec. 30, 1994

Ten days before paid parking went into effect in downtown Aspen, protestors staged a noon “honk-in.” Drivers circled City Hall honking their horns through the afternoon. One protestor burned a cardboard parking meter in effigy.

“It was deafening,” city parking department head Tim Ware told the Aspen Times in 2005. “I kind of hid inside. I’d already had enough hate mail and bad things said about my mother.”

“It created gridlock in the entire downtown,” Mayor John Bennett told the Times in 2005. “They were supposed to circle City Hall. Nobody could circle anything.”

Iraq Invasion, February 2003

Hunter S. Thompson gives a speech during a peace rally in Aspen on Feb. 2, 2003.
Aspen Times file photo/Paul Conrad

Aspen Times file photo/Paul Conrad

During the build-up to the invasion of Iraq, hundreds of protestors filled Paepcke Park for an anti-war rally over X Games weekend in 2003. Speakers included Hunter S. Thompson, Pitkin County Sheriff Bob Braudis and former Aspen Mayor Rachel Richards. Protestors criticized the congressional resolution for military action and also called for local governments to pass resolutions opposing it.

Occupy Aspen, 2011

Occupy Aspen protesters gather at Wagner Park in Aspen airing their grievances toward America’s financial institutions.
Aspen Times file photo/Chadwick Bowman


As the Occupy Wall Street movement spread from New York across the U.S. to protest the corruption of the U.S. political and financial systems, Aspen – playground of the 1-percenters – was a natural locale. Locals made Aspen’s Wagner Park ground zero for Occupy Aspen in October 2011, when 30 demonstrators hosted an initial rally that continued with smaller demonstrations through fall.

Women’s March and Ski, 2017-2020

Women’s March Y Ski, 2017. Aspen Times file
Aspen Times file

Women’s March & Ski, 2017. Aspen Times file
Aspen Times file

Spawned as part of the national march for women’s rights in January 2017, this has grown into an annual event that includes a group ski down Aspen Mountain, a march to Paepcke Park and a rally featuring women speakers.

Global Climate Strike, September 2019

Aspen School District march for the Global Climate Strike, September 2019. Aspen Times file
Aspen Times file

Some 400 Aspen high school and middle school students walked out of class on Sept. 20, 2019 and marched on Aspen City Hall, joining an international call by young people for government action on climate change.

Black Lives Matter, May & June 2020

Erica Joos, left, and Jenelle Figgins at the May 31 Black Lives Matter protest. Photo Kelsey Brunner/The Aspen Times
Kelsey Brunner/The Aspen Times
Signs from Black Lives Matter protests, downtown Aspen. June 2020. Photo Austin Colbert/The Aspen Times
Austin Colbert/The Aspen Times
Black Lives Matter march, June 13, 2020. Photo Austin Colbert/The Aspen Times
Austin Colbert/The Aspen Times

Protests spread around the world following the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, seeking to right the injustices of systemic racism. The streets of Aspen filled with what may be the largest and most sustained protests in its history. Crowd estimates have topped 400 for marches and demonstrations that began in late May and grew in the weeks that followed.


Additional protest photos from the Aspen Historical Society

Iranian students protesting the visit of the Emperess of Iran, July 1977. Aspen Historical Society
Courtesy Aspen Historical Society
An anti-abortion protest in front of a doctor’s office at 323 W. Main Street, 1988. Aspen Historical Society
Courtesy Aspen Historical Society

Mountain Mayhem: Bryan Sax Bike Ride

When you have a larger-than-life personality like the late Bryan Sax did, your presence can still be felt long after you’re gone. In December of 2008, Bryan’s tragic passing in a plane crash in Florida left the entire Aspen community devastated, from his family and many friends to ski teammates, fellow pilots, co-workers and virtually every local or visitor who met him. A Facebook group, Friends of Bryan Sax, continues to have frequent posts remembering him and his adventure-filled life.

An accomplished athlete, Bryan excelled in ski racing while growing up in Aspen, racing on the ski team at the University of Colorado at Boulder and competing in events such as the grueling “24 Hours of Aspen” with Pete McBride as his partner.

Bryan also shared a special bond with Richard Rokos, the head coach for the CU ski team since 1990 who has guided Colorado to eight NCAA titles. Rokos and Bryan’s dad, Don Sax, came up with the idea to start a summer tradition in Bryan’s honor. In June of 2010, the first Bryan Sax Bike Ride took place, an unofficial outing with several of Bryan’s friends from childhood, college and ski racing, and members of his family. It initially took place around Basalt, departing (the since closed) Saxy’s coffee shop and riding to Ruedi Reservoir with lunch back at the Saxes’ house. It eventually became an Aspen ride, leaving from the Aspen Recreation Center to ride to the Maroon Bells. This year, everyone met for lunch on the back patio at Home Team BBQ.

“Bryan was really into cycling,” said his wife, Christy Sax. “We live at Aspen Highlands and he used to ride to the Bells practically every day.”

Growing up in Aspen, he also “used to mountain bike on all the trails all around,” said his childhood friend Tyler Williams.

It’s true “Bryan liked to bike,” added Rokos, “but it was always about training for skiing, which is a multi-skill sport.” In addition to cycling, Coach Rokos’ dry-land training for the ski team also included soccer, hockey, in-line skating and “diving for agility.”

Bryan developed a passion for flying at age 30, which led to his becoming a pilot, flight instructor and co-owner of Aspen Aero with his cousin, Gary Kraft. He was a third generation of pilots, which included his grandfather and dad. “He took to it like he took to skiing,” Kraft said. “He latched onto things.” And people latched onto him and his memory, which is still alive and inspiring to so many.

Aspen History: In the Crystal River Valley

“Osgood to reopen Redstone Inn for summer tourists,” announced the Aspen Democrat-Times on May 3, 1912. “Redstone Inn, the famous hostelry erected at Redstone by J.C. Osgood, is to be reopened and will afford a stopover point for the autoists who travel that way this summer. The inn is known far and wide as one of the coziest nooks in the Rocky Mountains. The fishing in Crystal River is par excellence now and each summer sees hundreds of easterners going there in quest of the speckled beauties. Although practically abandoned by workers, Redstone is still one of the best-kept villages in the state. Contracts have just been let by Osgood for a complete renovation of his holdings and a large crew of men will begin the work at once. The automobile boulevard from Carbondale to Redstone, built by Osgood, is one of the finest pieces of roadway in the state, and it is to be made still better by improvements this spring.” This image shows the Redstone Inn in the early 1900s.

Food, wine, ice and Aspen expertise at Virtual Culinary Weekend

Well, we all knew that this year’s Food & Wine weekend in Aspen would be like none before. The cancellation of the 2020 Classic meant that we would not be seeing old friends, attending seminars or tasting through dozens of wines in the tents. Yes, all of that was deeply missed.

However, thanks to a series of Zoom and Facebook Live presentations by The Aspen Times, part of a “Virtual Culinary Weekend,” wine lovers were able to glean some great wine knowledge from local talent in the Roaring Fork Valley. The events also raised money for the Aspen Community Foundation’s COVID-19 Relief Program through donations and a virtual run.

But beyond the fundraising and edification, the live video elements (which you can still watch on The Aspen Times’ Facebook page) offered an homage to what is the foundation of the Classic: passionate professionals gathering to share knowledge, fine foods, great wines and personal stories.

Appropriately, the weekend kicked off on the terrace of the Little Nell’s Paepcke Suite at the base of Ajax with iconic gondola cars floating down the mountainside in the background. Matt Zubrod, culinary director at the Nell and his wine counterpart, Chris Dunaway, spoke nostalgically for those who would not be here in person this year, then gave a masterful seminar on pairing fish with a quartette of wines.

In honor of World Oceans Day, which promotes the sustainable utilization of seafood, Zubrod created dishes using a whole sea bream, a fish often overlooked in high-end kitchens.

Dunaway went with a Clos Cibonne Cuvée Tradition Tibouren 2017 Côtes de Provence, and no, I had never heard of the wine either. He explained the way in which this cuvée, a blend of 90% tibouren and 10% grenache, was made, and how the salinity of the wine complimented the fish. “When you pair wine with a crudo,” he noted, “you don’t want the wine to have too much exuberance.”

The story helped make this combination one you wanted to taste.

The same location was the scene as Johnny Ivansco of Sopris Liquors and Wines launched a seminar with Perrin Wolfe of The Old World Wine Co. on the differences between Old World and New World Wines. Ivansco told a tale of being in Burgundy during a freeze and seeing the entire commune come together to light fires and protect the vines.

We were again reminded of the tenor of the times on Saturday afternoon. Wendy Mitchell, owner of Meat & Cheese in Aspen, hosted a split Zoom seminar from her home, where she has been quarantined since coming in contact with someone who had tested positive for COVID-19. She is not ill — her upbeat positivity and demeanor was inspirational. And her cheese and wine pairings looked delicious.

Sitting on the very Parisian-looking patio in front of Meat & Cheese were Perrin Wolfe, making a second appearance, and Natural Wine Company’s Chris Schaetzle. The pair provided the perfect foil for Mitchell as they opened and explained the nuances of natural wines and the budding “Pet Nat” movement of slightly spritzy wines that are made using non-interventional ancient techniques.

As Chris popped the top on a crown-capped, non-disgorged Birichino Malvasia Bianca wine from Santa Cruz, California, Wendy sliced into a Los Cameros, mixed milk cheese (cow, goat and sheep) from Rioja, Spain.

“This is a sessionable cheese,” she laughed, parroting a phrase used by beer makers for an easy brew. It was a pure Food & Wine moment.

The weekend ended with magic from Aspen favorite Jimmy Yeager, who indulged in a private passion: making pristine ice spheres for cocktails from a massive block of frozen water. Measuring 2-by-2 inches, these spheres “are the sexiest ice there is and the process to make them is Zen-like,” says Jimmy. The Iceman clearly cometh.

Just four Zoom sessions, but it felt like we could have gone all weekend with the local talent found in this valley. Tune in. Maybe this could become a thing.

High Country: How Prima is positioning to become the Patagonia of CBD

In the clean beauty and wellness category, companies use vague lingo like “all natural” and “non-toxic,” “vegan” and “cruelty free” on packaging, rarely going beyond the flimsy promise of their products being “green.” But Prima, an award-winning CBD brand, has just achieved the highest honor for sustainable and ethical business practices: the B Corporation (B Corp) Certification. 

The Santa Monica-based company has been in operation just over one year. Founded in August of 2018, Prima secured the largest seed round to-date in the consumer hemp marketplace six months later: $3.3 million from venture leaders Lerer Hippeau and Greycroft (with additional private institutional investors). Prima’s initial product lineup was released on June 5, 2019. Earning B Corp after only 12 months in market is a remarkable feat to reach, considering the meticulous accreditation process led by B Lab, the nonprofit on a global mission to use “business as a force for good.” 

“Prima stands clearly ahead as poised leaders of consciousness, credibility, responsibility, sustainability and transparency in the quickly developing CBD category,” said Lindsey Wilson, a senior associate in business development at B Lab. “Prima’s certification demonstrates their unyielding commitment to consciousness and mission work innovation, as they are setting a course for bold social and environmental action, which showcase their deepest beliefs and responsibilities for a more equitable, impactful and brighter future.”

There are more than 3,000 Certified B Corps — think Ben & Jerry’sDr. Bronner’s, Allbirds, Danone North America and Patagonia — spanning 150 industries and 70 countries. But Prima is one of just nine CBD companies to achieve such status. To receive B Corp Certification, Prima participated in the B Impact Assessment process, which evaluated Prima’s entire social and environmental performance, from its business model’s impact on workers, community, environment and customers to its supply chain, charitable giving and employee benefits.

“As one of the very first brands in the CBD industry to achieve this rigorous certification, we are setting a bold example of responsible business practices for this category in order to inspire a deeper and more meaningful approach to functional, preventative healthcare,” Prima founder and CEO Christopher Gavigan told me during a recent phone interview. “Now, more than ever, it’s imperative that businesses are transparently accountable for the health of individuals, our environment and our collective well-being. As a socially and environmentally conscious Public Benefit Company, these are the essential principles that Prima was founded upon — now validated by our B Corp Certification.” 

For Gavigan, who co-founded The Honest Company (also a B Corp) and remains its “chief purpose officer,” doing business for the betterment of the world was instilled in his mindset early on; he worked for Patagonia in Southern California in the late 1990s, where founder Yvon Chouinard was one of his mentors. 

“Seeing the Patagonia platform not focused on profit, growth and velocity, but moreso on the ideals, values and principles of doing the right thing always — that lit me up,” he added. “The fact that you could build in the deepest DNA of a business, a moral compass, was very powerful and influential for me.”

Gavigan, joined by Laurel Angelica Myers (another alum of The Honest Company) and Jessica Assaf (a Harvard Business School grad and Forbes 30 Under 30 honoree in 2020), Prima was co-founded on six principles of purpose: Beyond Clean, Climate Positive, Reduce Wisely, Source Responsibly, Give More and People First.

Laying out (and upholding) stringent standards isn’t common for CBD companies — the industry overall is notorious for having a lack of transparency and efficacy — largely due to a lack in regulation by the FDA. According to a recent study conducted by Leafreport, 27% of leading CBD brand products don’t contain the dosages that they indicate in their labels.

“CBD or not, our hope and my vision is that more for-profit organizations pursue this type of mindset, this type of operation and this type of business model,” Myers shared with me. “I think that’s the only way we are going to create progress and change within the for-profit, private business sector. If this mentality isn’t part of how you make decisions as a business, you should be asking yourself, ‘Why not?’ And certainly within CBD, [Prima] wants to be a North Star for transparency and trust.”

The Prima portfolio includes 11 products with CBD-forward formulas developed by doctors that are clinically tested. Prima’s line of supplements, skincare and body care is available online and through retail partners including SephoraErewhon Market and Pharmaca.

“We started Prima to take CBD out of the shadow economy of cannabis and into the wellness industry in a meaningful way,” said Prima co-founder and chief education officer Jessica Assaf. “With over 30 years of collective experience in the natural product industry, we’re proud to be leading from the heart with [informative] content, best-in-class products and human support in order to evolve and sophisticate this industry with the highest standards and purpose.”

Katie Shapiro can be reached at katie@katieshapiromedia.com and followed on Twitter @bykatieshapiro.

Writing Switch: From the screen to the scream

Coronavirus? More like NOronavirus. Canceled festivals and events haven’t completely put a damper on the summer season, and while hotels may not be at full capacity, if you peek through the windows of somebody’s swanky second home you might actually see a face staring back at you. Aspenites did a good job of doing our part and staying inside for two months, and now we have to pray it wasn’t all for nothing as the huddled masses descend upon our hamlet once again. This week, we celebrate the antics of our guests through two formats: a public access nature show and an online review.


SB: Here we have the confounding touristas oblivias prowling the pedestrian malls of Aspen in search of social sustenance, with her screen-dependant, disorderly obliviettes in tow. Having distracted her offspring temporarily with a frozen treat, mom now has her eyes — and camera lens — open for something that will elicit adoration and envy within her pack.

Brushing by flowing fountains and perfectly pruned fauna with not as much as a selfie, the hungry mother has only one goal in mind: Ursus americanus. Also known as the American bear or black bear, the unofficial mascot of Aspen has become the desire of cameras everywhere.

The mother knows rival touristas will be quick to dismiss wildlife encounters not captured and mock her with texts of “Pic or didn’t happen.” This time, though, she is determined in her quest to capture the elusive Instagramus superiorous.

Then she spots it. A herd of fellow touristas gathering around a tree, phones aimed skyward. She squeezes through the sweat-soaked bodies, obliviettes at her heels, in search of her prey.

As the mother approaches the tree the bruin has chosen for sanctuary, she spies two other limbs, slightly sagging. Could it be? Yes, through a bit of luck there are two ursus americanas cubs nestled in the branches.

The hard half day’s work is almost within the frame when suddenly the bear becomes spooked, shimmies down pine with her cubs and runs off. Undeterred, the touristas pursues her catch and snaps profusely, refusing to let Katie Anne and Mary Sue win again.

Unaware that bears are very protective of their cubs and could literally kill her and her entire family, the chase continues until the bear and her cubs enter brush too thick for the touristas’ Prada boots.

Thankfully for that third lens on the iPhone 11, the hunt was a success and her Instagramus was really superiorous. As for the bear and her cubs, they were later relocated and eventually euthanized.

Mother nature strikes back

BW: MOO! (I’m not really sure what noise a moose makes but I think it’s like this. Basically the human equivalent of yeehaw!) It’s birthin’ season up here in the typically tranquil North Star Nature Preserve, and I got me a litter of eight calves and their mamas to feed. Luckily, tourist migration is in full giddyup down by the river, so let’s see if we can get these hungry herbivores some much needed meat. I’m your horny host, Rack “That’s Not What Freudian Means” Hardprong, and welcome to another episode of “Deer/Hunter”!

We moose always got along with the rangers of the preserve, under the agreement we would only eat the tourists who went past Takeout Bridge. For years we coexisted, until the No Fun Allowed (NFA) goon squad intervened. First, they discouraged floaters on the Roaring Fork River by removin’ parking access and issuin’ tickets. They posted signs along the shore every hundred yards remindin’ “No fun allowed.” The last straw was when they cast a giant net at the pull out, and then took people’s temperatures to ensure they weren’t sufferin’ from any fun-havin’.

So now this summer we are forced to lie in wait until a tourist loses his or her watercraft. The winter snowmelt wasn’t as robust as last year’s, so fewer people are getting caught in that one rapid, or beaching on a bridge column and falling overboard. We are getting hungry, and since we moose consume 70 pounds of sustenance per day, we need a whole group of doughy flatlanders just to sustain us awhile.

Hey, look at that! I see a pair o’ sunglasses drifting through the water, then a bandana followed by a Truly can. A flip flop. Life jacket. Vape pen. All sure-as-sunset evidence of a full ducky capsizin’!

In this next scene as you watch me charge into the water and ravage these bodies limb from limb in order to provide for my brood, please keep in mind we kill only for food and never for sport, in accordance with NFA restrictions.

We moose often are misunderstood as a territorial, dangerous and suspicious breed. Naw, we just want to graze and mate and listen to the jam band playin’ on river runners’ speakers — not so different from humans. We’re so polite, we put the “ma’am” in “mammal,” and we appreciate nothing more than having a family dinner, preferably from Oklahoma or Texas.


SB: If anyone is looking to try an e-bike, don’t come here. … The service was awful. We arrived with like 10 people and the store made us wait behind a bunch of smaller groups just because they were there 1st even though we clearly were trying to spend more $.

And IDK what the issue was but the selection was HORRIBLE! The guy kept saying something about this isn’t an ebike rental shop but, hello, I just saw people riding those fat tire bikes out of your store.

We all had to get different colors and sizes … My bike was sooo slow. It was like when you go horseback riding and someone gets the donkey. I kept having to peddle. … I felt like a homeless person.

Also what is up with the people on these trails?!?!? When we finally made it to the top of the mountain and could go fast downhill, no one would get over even though they could clearly see us coming. I mean we were riding 5 wide, how can you not see us?

Gary’s Fat Bikes get a half a star only because my bike looked super cute in the pics we got at the top of the mountain. They wouldn’t even come pick the bikes up at our hotel. We had to tip the front desk to do it.

Also e-bikes SUCK! You should just rent those little scooters that everyone has.




BW: My wife and I drove our fifth-wheel up to Aspen to escape the outbreak in our city. We thought we could stay at the Brush Creek Park and Ride but it quickly became apparent the permanent residents of the lot were having too much fun, so we left. We found a shady two-hour spot on a corner in the east end to set up at for a few weeks. Best part is that it’s right in front of a fire hydrant, so we can attach that to our RV and have running water.

I soon found out that apparently wearing a mask was “mandatory” in the grocery store and I got yelled at and embarassed. But out here in Iowa we have a little thing called rights. Hell, we don’t even need seatbelt laws, and everyone knows your passenger can drink a beer in the car as long as they remain under .08 and you only have two children or less in the back seat. Requiring me to wear a mask is dehumanizing. I want everyone to see my SMILE! The best way to show my protest was to dangle my mask around my chin, so that you can’t lecture me because it’s obvious I know better by virtue of possessing one, but not wanting to be seen as a coward by applying it.

We had dinner on a downtown patio and some guy with jinglebell shoes and an NFA patch was counting the patrons and asking them to list any coronavirus symptoms into an app. I told him the concept was ridiculous, and the only things I record into my smartwatch are my calorie intake and these revenge reviews on any situation that mildly displeases me.

The next morning we wanted to go hiking, but many of the local trails were closed because of an aggressive moose. They’re more scared of us than we are of them, and I should be able to use any public land however I want. My tax dollars bought those lands!

It’s ironic because even though everyone was wearing a mask, my wife and I still tested positive when we got home! That proves viruses can still escape through fiber, and that COVID-19 is a hoax!