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Libations: Mellow Yellow

Born on the sunbaked shores of Italy's Amalfi Coast circa 1900, limoncello is known worldwide as liquid sunshine. Since Colorado boasts more than 300 bright-sky days per year, it's not such a stretch that Christopher Hall would launch Tall Fello Limoncello here in the Roaring Fork Valley. A veteran chef, Hall began crafting the fruit-forward liqueur in his kitchen in 2010. Now made in Glenwood Springs, Tall Fello Limoncello has become so popular that last year Hall created Grapefruitcello. Later this month he begins production of Mandarincello, using seasonal Florida Honeybell oranges that are in fact a grapefruit-tangerine hybrid.

While lemons are largely absent from local farm plots, Hall follows a painstaking artisanal process: peeling all citrus by hand.

"By using 190 proof alcohol—Colorado-grown corn vodka from Woody Creek Distillers—and hand peeling, I am able to extract every drop of oil from the peel," Hall explains. "Commercial peeling machines take a lot of the white pith underneath, which contributes to bitterness. After weeks of soaking in alcohol, the peels snap like dry twigs and are flavorless."

Proof is in the finished elixir (not to mention the blisters and callouses that decorate Hall's hands following a shucking session): smooth, vibrant and, indeed, the shade of Technicolor sunlight without any addition of sketchy Yellow 5, no sir!

Tall Fello's sheer volume of citrus required— 6,580 lemons or 65 cases of grapefruit per 2,500-bottle batch—is impressive for another reason, Hall says: "I create a lot more oil from the peels that floats to the surface. This oil is very sweet, so I use much less sugar."

The result: lighter, less syrupy, 56-proof liqueurs as refreshing as brilliant bluebird days.

Where to buy Tall Fello in Aspen

Aspen Wine & Spirits

Bosq

Cache Cache

Caribou Club

Of Grape & Grain

Grog Shop

Hickory House

L'Hostaria

 

Libations was created by beloved Aspen Times publisher Gunilla Asher, who died June 2, 2014, after a brave battle with cancer. Cheers — to Gunner!

Writing Switch: Decoding downhill dialogue

Knowing proper vernacular on the mountain can be useful — like skier's right versus looker's left — but most of the time it's a lot of jargon created to make tourists feel left out amid gondola conversations and sound dumb when they try to use it.

From off-piste to on-mountain, here we try our luck translating each other's slang-infused sentences/situations; some terms well-known and others we invented to sneak into the lexicon. Like Ben snowboarding the Wall in Snowmass, some things got lost in transition.

BW: "I'm really looking forward to a major dump tomorrow — let's see if the dumps are open. We should be getting face shots of gnar all day on the T2Bs."

SB: I'm really looking forward to a lot of snow tomorrow — let's see if Cone Dump 1 and 2 or Zaugg trails are open. We should be getting waves of snow in our face all day while repeatedly snowboarding the mountain from top to bottom.

SB: "The last der day when we were mobbing down that Bumpy McSteez field, I got a little too sendly and ended up turtled out with a wet diaper."

BW: Ahh, another example of Sean unable to keep his balance after a few inches of freshies. You say I'm slow but I purposefully stay back a safe distance so when you inevitably biff it on a tree run, I don't dog pile on top of you.

Amped up over the new powder fallen overnight, you got too excited while traversing with your friends in a mogul patch, and losing control, fell on your back and slid down thusly, accumulating snow on the inside of your pants and, presumably, whitey-tighties.

BW: "After a couple Buckhorn beers or helmet-hiders, be careful on the noon groom and avoid getting overly cocktail confident cruising the corduroy."

SB: Following a couple of beverages at Buckhorn, be careful on the run Skico grooms at 12 p.m. and try to avoid alcohol-impaired confidence while skiing newly groomed snow.

BW: "I was straightlining past a 'slow' sign on the way to a safety meeting but had to snowplow when a bro-brah didn't notice the dust on crust and ragdolled down an adjacent double-black onto the catwalk."

SB: I was going really fast without turning past a "slow skiing" sign on the way to go smoke marijuana with some friends but had to sharply brake because a young skier didn't a recognize a light layer of snow on a patch of ice and violently tumbled down the adjacent expert run onto the flat runout.

SB: "I was chatting with a snow bunny the other day and she started talking about the Alpenglow, which I had to Google because it sounded like a cleaning product. I'd follow her through an asteroid field of death cookies on a pair of snowler blades if it meant a trip up the foggy gondola."

BW: You met an attractive woman who mentioned that one John Denver song, but you had to look it up because you couldn't remember all the lyrics anymore. You would chase her down terrain way out of your skill level on children's toys if that meant defrosting in the Silver Queen together.

BW: "A jerry who thought he was a park rat bailed off a kicker and scorpioned onto a groomer. He wasn't wearing a brain bucket and really took a dinger."

SB: An obvious beginner thought he could navigate the terrain park but backed out after going off a jump and fell in a way that made his legs bend to look like a scorpion's tail while sliding face-first on groomed snow. He wasn't wearing a helmet and took a substantial fall.

SB: "I was getting off the quad the other day and one gaper shot hard skiers' left across the offramp and took out his buddy and another guy but luckily I was able to one-foot it around them. I was strapped in and riding before the lifties and trial bobbies even had the lift spinning."

BW: You were downloading on the Exhibition chairlift when a never-ever crashed into the lift line forming to your left. She knocked over two children but you were able to hop around them unscathed with a single leg strapped into your binding. You decided to do some Panda Peak laps while lift operators and ski patrol sorted out the carnage.

BW: "I went to get a tune after taking a core shot on my directional and a Trustafarian at the board shop told me about needing MRA after ducking a rope."

SB: Since apparently we're not actually translating slang and just rewording each other's segments to demean the other, here we go:

After Ben hit a rock doing a falling leaf down Fanny Hill on his quarter-life crisis snowboard, he went to the ski shop to talk to a white guy with dreadlocks whom he admires greatly. There, Ben relayed a story about the time he forced Mountain Rescue Aspen to come save him after he fell asleep on the Skittles gondola because he's homeless.

SB: "We kept trying to do party laps at Bromass but Ben decided to bring out his disco sticks despite the hero snow. Waiting wasn't so bad, especially when he yard-saled for our enjoyment after jerry chattering down most of the run."

BW: The insuBOARDinates are kicking off apres early at Gwyn's, watch out! They might even try to poach a hot tub later. But because I'm a ripper I like to challenge myself with learning new talents; it's not like I have difficulty keeping up with you tomahawking beneath Lift 3 in mashed potatoes after a Sundeck party anyway. As for "yard-saling," the only time I lose my equipment is when I forget skiers have poles and leave them on the bus back into town.

What are your favorite ski-related slang terms? Does "dope" mean A) Sick B) Weed or C) Heroin? sbeckwith@aspentimes.com bwelch@aspentimes.com

Mountain Mayhem: Annual Ajax Cup in images

When Aspen Valley Ski and Snowboard Club (AVSC) introduced the Ajax Cup nine years ago to benefit the beloved organization, little did they know they would cement their place on the holiday calendar. Ever since then, Dec. 30 has become a community tradition with the dual giant slalom race during the day on Little Nell ski run and après party to follow with drinks, bites, auctions and dancing, which took place at Shlomo's.

Over the past 80-plus years, AVSC has grown from "a small group with a big vision" into a club that provides access to winter sports to 2,300 local youth each season. The Ajax Cup has also grown into an event that brings youth, AVSC alumni, U.S. Ski Team racers and sponsors together for friendly competition.

The day began with 16 teams going head to head and concluded with two gunning for the win, but in the end, it was defending Team Super G! that eclipsed the West End Hillbillies as champs. Though everyone wins when it's for the kids.

http://www.teamavsc.org.

To reach May with invites and insights, email allthewaymaymay.com

Wine Ink: The case for abstention — Save this link!

If you, like me, are the kind of person who believes the ability to change water into wine would be the superpower you would choose, then this column may not be for you. And for those who have just arrived in Aspen for Gay Ski Week festivities, ready to party, this will not be the best timing for you, either.

But hear me out. Every once in a while, in a world where there is a time to reap and a time to sow, there are advantages to taking a break from the consumption of brewed beers, distilled spirits and, yes, fermented fruits. There has been a growing national trend of late for people to take full calendar months and make a commitment to not drinking. Sober Octobers and Novembers, the months before the holiday season, have been popular, but for many the beginning of the new calendar year seems to be the most appropriate time for taking a break.

"A time out." That's what my wife calls her intentional hiatus and, though the month is not over yet, she already has seen benefits from her decision to set the glass down for the first month of 2019. "The first few days were challenging," she explained, "but once I broke the pattern of opening a bottle of wine with dinner, for instance, and found a decent substitute, it got a little easier to take a break." Over dinner with a friend who had also taken a break from booze in the fall, the two rattled off a number of reasons why they felt the act was a positive step.

For starters, they both noted that they had been sleeping better during their abstention than they had when drinking. No waking in the middle of the night.

"And in the morning it's just easier to get up," our friend said. "I don't feel so foggy." The result is that she finds it easier to get to a planned morning exercise routine, as well. It feels like less of a burden than an activity she now looks forward to.

Many cite the benefits of weight loss and renewed energy as the biggest benefit of a month without alcohol. Simple caloric math can help explain it. There are, give or take depending upon the wine, around 130 calories in a 5-ounce glass of red wine. If you regularly drink and average a couple glasses a day, by taking off for a month you eliminate over 7,500 calories right there. That's the equivalent of the calories you'd burn running, say, 70 10-minute miles depending on how much you weigh. Pretty impressive. And if you are drinking beer or mixed cocktails, your caloric consumption will be even be higher than it will be with wine.

But beyond just the calories cut, both agreed that they also eat better when they went dry for a month.

"I feel like I thin out," said my wife. "And that inspires me to keep it up and eat a little lighter, too."

Her friend concurred, "I just make better food choices when I haven't already had a couple of drinks. When I'm drinking it is just way too easy to order a bunch more food that I don't really need."

A side effect is the financial benefits of not drinking. "I spend way less money," said our friend, now starting to get into the discussion with a near evangelical fervor. "When I get a check without the cost of drinks or wine it is much more reasonable." She loves to have fun with friends and drink, but taking a month off makes it clear just what the cost of consumption can be in dollar terms.

And they agreed that they are also more productive.

"I just have more focus," my wife said. "And I have more time to get things done. When I have a glass of wine at the end of the day that pretty much is the end of my day. But if I don't have that glass at say, 7 o'clock, I might still work on stuff until later in the evening."

I know, it all sounds pretty reasonable. And they also emphasized that this was just a temporary thing, that both looked forward to continuing to enjoy wine and cocktails socially at the end of their sober time. But listening to them and the positivity that was expressed made me want to consider that option of taking some time off from drinking myself.

Maybe a Sober February. It is, after all the shortest month.

Kelly J. Hayes lives in the soon-to-be-designated appellation of Old Snowmass. He can be reached at malibukj@aol.com.

Food Matters: SO Café at the Aspen Art Museum

Before there was art at the Aspen Art Museum on Hyman Avenue, SO Café was onsite.

"We were contracted to be partners of the museum when this was still a dirt lot," explains Allen Domingos, sitting at a table in the airy dining space on the museum's third floor. "Remember the stainless-steel ping-pong table installation down there? We've been here since then—even did a reception for donors on top of the scaffolding once (that was) up. We brought shrimp cocktail up the ladders!"

Yet even now, five years this August since renowned architect Shigeru Ban's notoriously controversial basketweave building was built, SO Café seems to fly under the radar within the lunchtime landscape. Perhaps because it's located on the museum's roof deck, a lung-pumping hike up 57 concrete steps to panoramic views of Aspen Mountain, yet hidden from street level. Allen's wife and business partner, Julia Domingos, suspects that the museum may be situated just one block too far in any certain direction for some folks who work in the downtown core and have limited minutes for a midday break.

Regular visitors—myself included, since SO Café has become a breezy spot for weekday meetings—surely don't mind that the place is still somewhat of a gem hiding in plain sight. What's more, "The venue inspires artful presentation," quips Lea Tucker, local PR maven and café devotee. Since AAM lacks a permanent collection in favor of rotating exhibitions, it follows that the SO Café menu of just four to six items changes weekly. This serves a multifaceted purpose: keep diners returning frequently and stoke the chefs' creative whims.

"Typically we write the menu based on about five factors: food trends, time of year, weather for the next week, what is harvested now, what's going on in town," Allen shares. "We're not trying to be on the cutting edge; we're trying to make food that makes people happy. A play on comfort food."

The Domingoses have studied their loyal audience over the years, too.

"I knew that the first week of January people wanted (lighter fare)," says Julia, who concocted a vegan carrot soup for cleansers. "We contemplate that we cover all the bases each week. Except for the gooey, like an oversized burger."

The Domingoses, who founded Epicure Catering in 2001 and run the operation concurrently, can't cook burgers or fries, anyway. The café's modest kitchen lacks a vent hood. Thus there's no grill nor deep-fryer, either; the museum didn't want stinky food odors permeating the sterile galleries anyway.

Because of these limitations, dishes balance hot and cold: Kandinsky-colorful salads, pressed panini sandwiches, wraps, soups and stews, Indian curries, dips and crudités, burrata with crackers, quesadillas and the occasional charcuterie platter with a fat slab of luscious triple-cream cheese and smattering of dried fruit and nuts. The menu is posted every Tuesday (AAM is closed Monday).

Some enduring staples: warm, flaky croissants; a granola-yogurt bowl; a decadent, ganache-frosted espresso-walnut brownie; Rock Canyon Coffee; Dragonfly Jun (similar to kombucha but brewed with green tea instead of black) and a restrained menu of Colorado craft beer and wine by the glass. (Après-ski specials from 3 to 4 p.m. daily slash all beverage prices in half—one of the better deals in Fat City, no doubt.) And there's always a kid's plate, which includes a cult-classic s'mores bar.

SO Café sources primarily from Farm Runners, the Hotchkiss-based produce and artisanal product delivery service. "This time of year it can be sparse, but we can at least base one or two dishes around what's harvested locally," Allen says. Currently that means cool-weather produce—orchard apples, rutabagas, carrots, cabbage, radish, beets—and greenhouse-grown basil, all of which lend themselves to eye-catching arrangement.

"It's an intrinsic thing to me," says Julia, a Culinary Institute of America at Hyde Park-trained chef with an art and dance background clearly reflected in her composed plates. (Julia is from Columbus, Ohio; Allen from New Orleans, hence the occasional Cajun-influenced dish.) "It's feminine food. And I've always done that, not too heavy, and colorful and bright."

Lisa DeLosso, AAM chief development officer, picks the shrimp curry as her favorite, with special mention to the roast beef and blue cheese or beef and pimento cheese panini. Café manager Mary Daly, the smiling face of SO Café on most days, concurs about the shrimp curry, and gives kudos to the Reuben sandwich, Waldorf salad and that rich, caffeinated brownie. Julia typically craves udon noodle soup with Asian vegetables. "That would be my last meal!" she exclaims.

Allen's choice: the everything-spiced salmon salad, ever more popular in recent years. Essentially it's a deconstructed lox bagel with cucumbers, tomatoes, pickled onion, capers, and signature seedy spice blend encrusting the fish. Last week Julia served a hearty veggie-legume chili with delicata squash and avocado, which got an umami upgrade from dried, ground shiitakes and a body boost from bulgur wheat.

Turkey-pesto panini on chewy ciabatta is layered with winter-greens pesto, fresh mozzarella and roasted artichoke relish—a bite-size hit at the latest public exhibition opening, which SO Café always prepares in anticipation of as many as 400 guests. Oil-cured tuna fattoush salad with garbanzo beans and dried olives contained surprise chunks of sumac-grilled pita, plus pomegranate seeds and lemon-dill vinaigrette. Last summer, Julia sent a nod to monks visiting AAM via Tibetian-inspired curry (perhaps unsurprisingly, they ordered sandwiches).

Fittingly, the Domingoses aim to elevate interest in palate-pleasing food that is at once familiar yet intriguing.

"It's fun to try to make it educational," Allen says, referencing ingredients such as Middle Eastern za'atar spice and the fattoush salad as expanding horizons subtly. "It is 75 percent local people who come in all the time, and we want to keep it interesting for them. The menus are driven by our love for food."

Get a taste of what he means by perusing the artsy, overhead food photography from SO Café on Epicure Catering's Instagram page: @aspenepicure.

amandaraewashere@gmail.com

A year of firsts for 42nd annual Aspen Gay Ski Week

The world's first gay ski week was conceived in the late 1970s in a colorful little ski town called Aspen.

Today, more than four decades later, the energy, momentum and support surrounding the internationally renowned event are as strong as ever.

While Aspen Gay Ski Week is 42 years old, the 2019 celebration is, in many senses, a year of firsts for the weeklong event.

From a global standpoint, this year marks the first in which a foreign government is participating in Gay Ski Week.

On a state level, Colorado made history this month welcoming into office Gov. Jared Polis, the first openly gay governor in the United States.

Locally, the largest employer in the Roaring Fork Valley, Aspen Skiing Co., is taking a firm stance for the first time on LGBTQ issues and policies, with a new campaign that promotes inclusion, love and diversity.

A newly launched local chapter of PFLAG — a national organization for families, friends and allies of people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or queer — also is making its Aspen Gay Ski Week debut this week.

And of course, the passionate organizers behind Aspen Gay Ski Week are constantly devising ways to keep the party fresh; new to the 2019 calendar is a "Big Gay Ice Show."

With performances by gay Olympic skaters, same-sex skating pairs and "gliding drag queens," AspenOUT executive director Kevin McManamon said, "No one has ever really produced a show like this before."

AspenOUT, the nonprofit that's produced Aspen Gay Ski Week since 1996, donates 100 percent of the party's proceeds to LBTGQ causes — especially ones aimed at helping young people — locally and nationally.

Over the past few years, AspenOUT has focused more on the "mental health of the teenagers in our valley," McManamon said, noting the particularly high suicide rate among LGBTQ youth.

Counseling for children and teens and college scholarships are two major beneficiaries of the dollars raised during Aspen Gay Ski Week.

In 2018, AspenOUT awarded nearly $45,000 in grants, $18,00 of which funded scholarships for high school seniors.

"We ask the kids to write essays about what difficulties they have faced in the LGBTQ world," McManamon explained. "Then the (AspenOUT) board sits around a table, we read the essays, we cry, and then we give them money.

"And it's super rewarding."

PFLAG IS BORN

With the help of AspenOUT board member Vince Johnson, two parents of local transgender teens started the valley's PFLAG chapter in November 2017.

One of those mothers is Tracy Altmaier, whose son, a sophomore at Basalt High School, recently identified himself as transgender.

Struggling to find resources within the community, Altmaier said she realized, "The only way to go to a support group was to start one."

In the little more than a year since its inception, PFLAG has grown from its two founding families to between five and eight families, totaling up to 20 consistent members, the founders said.

PFLAG meets every third Wednesday at St. Peter's Episcopal Church in Basalt, with an overwhelmingly supportive Fr. Will Fisher opening the doors and often sitting in on the meetings.

"I think PFLAG has brought some families together that wouldn't otherwise know each other … it's always going to help when you know somebody's going through the same types of struggles that you are," Altmaier said. "I'm hoping, more and more, we get more families who are willing to come. I think there's definitely sometimes a stigma with certain families who don't have extended family support."

At meetings, Altmaier said the teens will hang out together, "just kids being kids," while the parents will explore a relevant topic.

She describes PFLAG as a safe haven for the teens — "a place where there's not anybody whispering about them in the corner."

While still in its infancy, PFLAG is ramping up its efforts, Altmaier said, with plans in the works for bowling parties, ski days and group hikes.

On Saturday, PFLAG will play host to its inaugural event as part of Aspen Gay Ski Week. The party, also themed around ice skating, is slated at the ice rink outside CP Burger from 2 to 4 p.m.

SKICO PUSHES LGBTQ CAMPAIGN

An extension of its "The Aspen Way" and "Give A Flake" ad campaigns, Skico recently launched a series of rainbow-filled messaging aimed at shattering intolerance and spreading love.

While Skico always has been a supporter of Aspen Gay Ski Week, this is the first year the company is assuming a formal position and promoting LGBTQ rights and policies, Skico creative services senior manager Lindsy Fortier said.

The marketing team "made a shift starting in January to encompass more of this community, intolerance, inclusion messaging," Fortier said.

"Hosting (Gay Ski Week) is something we're really proud of. It's a community that we're excited to support, and we wanted our campaign to showcase that."

Along with sharp, colorful clips on its site and social channels, and glossy spreads in Snow, Freeskier and Powder magazines, Skico's landing page for the campaign outlines ways to get involved with or support LGBTQ organizations.

The http://www.giveaflake.com/love site also encourages businesses to sign an "Open to All" anti-discrimination pledge, and shares a glimpse of Aspen Gay Ski Week's history.

Inside the main ticket offices at the base of all four mountains, postcards addressed to representatives fighting for equality replaced notes advocating for climate change. A number of pop-ups, activations and giveaways also will pepper the slopes throughout the weekend, Fortier said.

While many are commending Skico for its inclusive message, the company also is seeing its share of haters.

"These topics are heavily criticized by people who disagree. As a business, we feel like it's more important for us to push out our values and what we believe in than to worry about people's disagreement," Fortier said, adding that, "It's worth the risk of turning some people off."

In the long run, however, "I think it's brought us more business … because it sets us apart from other businesses," Fortier said.

The love campaign is an evolution of Skico's recent wave of activism inspired largely by CEO and President Mike Kaplan's op-ed titled, "We're still here."

Fortier said Skico continues to revisit and "bounce ideas off" the piece, which first was published in the Wall Street Journal in September 2017.

"Our company is really proud of our values and we feel like it's a differentiator for us," Fortier said. "We're not afraid to stand up and speak about what we believe in."

FORMALLY, A FOREIGN AFFAIR

Aspen Gay Ski Week attracts roughly 3,000 visitors anually, McManamon estimated, from all over the world.

However, this is the first year that a foreign government is involved, as members of the British consulate camp out in Aspen this week. Aspen Gay Ski Week is among about a dozen pride events that the British government plans to partake in this year.

Fueled around its "Love is Great" campaign that promotes LGBTQ rights, in 2017, the U.K. was the first international bureaucracy to participate in Denver's Pride Parade, said Erin Kuhn, the British Consul for Colorado.

"We saw such a great reception at the Denver Pride Parade, we thought we could be doing so much more," Kuhn said. "We looked at other parts of Colorado and zoned in on Aspen Gay Ski Week."

The U.K. is consistently ranked as one the most progressive countries in the world with regard to LGBTQ rights, according to the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association.

DIVERSITY AT THE STATE LEVEL

Colorado Gov. Jared Polis, who was sworn into office last week, pushed his "Colorado for All" campaign because "we have a tradition of celebrating diversity in our state."

"I really believe that our diversity is our strength," Gov. Polis said in a recent phone interview.

Gov. Polis, his partner, Marlon Reis, and a few friends participated in Aspen Gay Ski Week sometime "more than a decade ago."

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"We enjoyed it," Gov. Polis said. "I think it's a great way to highlight Aspen and its positive, inclusive atmosphere, and market to people nationally and internationally."

A tad busy to swing by the event this year, Gov. Polis plans to issue a proclamation supporting Gay Ski Week and also "do whatever we can to highlight our ski economy and Aspen."

Part of Gov. Polis' legacy will always be his role as the first openly gay governor in the U.S.; however, his platform centers on issues that affect the vast majority of Coloradans, like the high cost of health care.

Asked if he thinks his policies will translate to any form of national movement or support, Gov. Polis said, "I certainly hope that we're able to innovate and provide some models that others can learn from in other states."

"I think in this point in time, we're not expecting anything good to come from Washington, and so we're going to have to figure out how to do it ourselves. And so if we do innovate and we succeed, we'd be honored if others could learn from our example."

Speaking to the significance of the 42-year-old Aspen Gay Ski Week, Gov. Polis said, "I think it means a lot to different communities to have a focal point and a social event that can attract additional money from out of state, tourists from out of state, and it's good for business in Colorado to highlight the fact that we celebrate diversity."

erobbie@aspentimes.com

Aspen Princess: Taking baby steps to navigate this back-breaking labor of love

So my morning went something like this:

I totally lost it with my almost 3-year-old after what has recently become an incessant battle of the wills. I am not quite sure why this tiny human, who has only been on this planet for a relatively short time, is able to engage me in this way, or why it can't be as simple an equation as: "I'm the parent, you're the child, you do what I say."

After losing my temper in a way that made me wonder if I'm imparting permanent damage that will result in thousands of dollars of psychotherapy for the whole family and a bulk rate from Prozac, I threw my back out lifting him out of the car for the illustrious preschool drop-off.

This was long after the dust had settled, and the tears had dried up and we had hugged and kissed and said I love you and promised to be nicer to each other from now and forever, but still. I was already feeling the fatigue from last night's bedtime fiasco. After two hours of reading books, telling stories, singing songs and rubbing his back for so long that I thought my arm might fall off, he refused to fall asleep. Ryan had already been sleeping on the couch for quite some time when I shook him at 10 o'clock, totally exasperated, and told him I'd given up and was taking a bath.

When I finally went to bed around midnight, relishing a few hours alone in front of bad TV with a mud mask on my face, I went upstairs to find Levi, Gertie and Ryan curled up together sleeping peacefully and snoring in unison. I lost at least another half hour of sleep worrying about the whole co-sleeping conundrum, wondering if this was yet another of my recent failures in stepping up to the plate for what is best for my child. Allowing our child into our bed is certainly something I was warned against, and definitely something I didn't see myself doing. To make matters worse, there are two distinct camps on this one, those who believe wholeheartedly that co-sleeping is a nurturing, loving, bonding experience for the family that is very natural, and those who think it's a very, very bad idea for a laundry list of reasons.

I am ambivalent at best, both relishing this time with my little one and the closeness and affection that will surely slip away when he grows older, and also dreaming about just one night of uninterrupted sleep in a bed all my own, ideally in a five-star hotel in a warm climate overlooking the ocean.

What's more, in this crazy, information-saturated world, you can find 8 million articles offer totally conflicting advice. And raising a child in this era — when information and stimulation is being hurtled at you at warp speed and instant gratification is at every turn — is certainly part of the problem. I find it difficult to manage it myself; how in the world am I supposed to be able to navigate this as a parent?

I was thinking about this earlier this week at the gym as we were doing the exercise where you flick those big, heavy ropes up and down. It was the first time I'd ever done that, and the trainer joked that it made her feel bad ass, so I tried to adopt that attitude even though it felt like my heart might explode from my chest and land on the floor in one bloody, convulsing heap. As much as I willed myself to be a tough fitness chick on her way to washboard abs and other muscles that would show if I doused myself in baby oil and stood in just the right light, there was something about the intensity of it that almost made me feel like I was going underwater.

Still, I was very much into these cool exercises at the gym, of this commitment to fitness and wellness I've tried to make as I careen from middle age into being just plain old. Weight training is the key to my longevity and preserving my youth, I decided. It's what would make me strong for my little boy.

When I lifted said boy out of the car and felt the right side of my back seize like someone had stabbed me in the back (Was it God?), I struggled to catch my breath and not to make a scene. I shuffled gingerly past the puffy-coat-clad moms who are half my age into his school like I was 105 years old, doing my best to act like this was a totally normal day and not one when I had come this-close to losing my mind trying to wrangle a tiny pair of socks on my baby-gone-wild and was now in excruciating pain, not quite sure how I was going to make it home considering all I wanted to do was lie flat on my back in the snow.

This was a far cry from the picture I'd had in my head just the day before, of me magically growing 6 inches, losing 10 pounds and strutting around in color-coordinated workout outfits with tops that had complicated strap configurations. I also thought I was so on top of this whole mothering thing. I'd read a few articles, I'd tried a few techniques, I was totally on it. I mean, we're not talking about a wild boar or a serial killer who had escaped from the state penitentiary, but a 3-foot-tall, 32-pound baby boy. My baby boy. My baby. My whole heart. If anyone should know how to manage him, it's me. Right?

Four ibuprofen, one ice pack, a heating pad and a chiropractor visit later I'm still taking shallow breaths. Maybe it's not going to be so easy. Parenting really is back-breaking work.

The Princess wants to wish her beautiful son a happy third birthday this Saturday. Email your love to alisonmargo@gmail.com.

Olympians Jeremy Abbott and Ashley Wagner back for Aspen Ice Spectacular

Before Jeremy Abbott can end his six-week tour of shows and finally return to his own apartment in Detroit, the Aspen native and two-time Olympic figure skater still has one more day of work on the ice. And that day is undoubtedly one of his favorite days of the year.

"It's always great to be back here, back in Aspen," Abbott said Wednesday, prior to a short training session at the Aspen Ice Garden. "Every year I get really excited to bring a slightly different cast and show my friends where I grew up and just a small piece of this awesome town. But always excited to be back to do the show, for sure."

Abbott, 33, is back home for the Aspen Ice Spectacular, which in its sixth year is a show put on by Revolutions Skating Club, a local nonprofit. This year's showcase takes place Saturday, Jan. 19, inside the Aspen Recreation Center.

Along with Abbott, fellow Olympian Ashley Wagner will headline the show. Wagner, who also took part in the Aspen show two winters ago, is a three-time U.S. national champion and a 2016 world silver medalist.

Both Wagner and Abbott helped guide the U.S. to an Olympic bronze medal in the team event at the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi, Russia.

"Ashley has been a longtime friend and I know she had a lot of fun the last time I brought her out here," Abbott said. "Each year I want to make it bigger and better and bring more of my friends."

This year's show has the theme of "Hooray for Hollywood" and will feature songs from The Wizard of Oz, James Bond, The Greatest Showman and Beauty and the Beast, among others. The ending will include Mamma Mia and Dancing Queen. Performances also include members from the local club.

Returning as part of the show is a group from Ice Dance International.

"They are a very unique group in that they do ensemble skating, which is like watching 'Theatre on Ice,'" said Revolution Skating Club's Peggy Behr, who also is the show's director. "They are fabulous skaters, so it doesn't get much better than that. And they are beautiful to watch."

New this year is the addition of a separate show, done in conjunction with Aspen Gay Ski Week. Saturday's nightcap will be the "Big Gay Ice Show," believed to be the first of its kind. It will cater to more of a "PG-13" crowd, as compared to the family-oriented RSC shows earlier in the day.

Tickets for the Revolution Skating Club performances — there are shows at both 2 and 5 p.m. on Saturday — can be purchased ahead of time through http://www.aspenshowtix.com. General admission prices are $35, with discounts for seniors and students. VIP tickets cost $75 and include a reception between the two shows and a chance to meet the figure skaters.

"Every year we kind of make it a little bigger, a little better," Abbott said. "Anytime you've seen the shown in the last five years, it's going to be a completely different show."

Tickets for the "Big Gay Ice Show" are sold separately and can be purchased through gayskiweek.com and start at $65. The single show begins at 7:15 p.m. on Saturday and will also include performances from Abbott and Wagner, among others.

acolbert@aspentimes.com

Darwin Ray Rather

It is with deep remorse that we announce the passing of Darwin Ray Rather, 90 of Basalt Colorado. He passed away January 11, at Valley View Hospital in Glenwood Springs Colorado with his family at his side.

Ray was born in Sudan Texas August 20, 1928. He and his parents, Sam and Opal Rather, moved from Texas to New Mexico and on to southwest Colorado when Ray was in his early teens. In 1946 Ray graduated from Bayfield High School in Bayfield Colorado. In 1948 while attending Fort Lewis College in Durango, Ray met his wife to be Maxine Wilbourn. They were married March 20th 1950 and their first child Linda arrived in 1952 and their second Larry in 1955.

In 1960 the family moved to Aspen where Ray was involved in the construction of the Castle Creek Bridge. He and Maxine so loved the Roaring Fork Valley that they decided to stay and moved to Basalt in 1963. In 1968 they moved onto their ranch in Emma where Maxine still resides.

A loving husband and father first, Ray was also a rancher, builder, gardener and later in his life an artist.

As a rancher he enjoyed everything from frigid nights during calving season to the hot summer days on a tractor. As a builder he could fabricate just about anything. He could figure out designs on a piece of plywood that some couldn't figure out with computers. As an artist he worked with leather tooling, painting, photography and landscape architecture.

He was a lover of the lord and all the mysteries of his creation. He was in awe of the world around him and bestowed that amazement upon his family. His most joyous pursuits were in the outdoors on horseback or afoot. There were few things he appreciated more than a meadow full of wildflowers. He and his family made many excursions into the Elk Mountains, the Flat Tops and his favorite the San Juan Mountains just to enjoy the beauty. As he aged he worked to replicate the beauty he'd seen in the mountains in his gardens at home. We will forever know he lives on in the beauty he created and shared with his family. He often said, "You are closest to God when you are in the garden."

Respected within his community, Ray was often sought out by friends and neighbors for his understanding and wisdom.

He will be greatly missed by all.

Ray is survived by his wife of 68 years Maxine and his daughter Linda Thompson of Glenwood Springs and her two daughters, Stacy Weyand of Cortez and Heather Russell of Rifle his son Larry Rather of Basalt and his sons Jesse of Blue Lake CA, Evan of Carbondale CO and daughter Hanna Rather of Basalt CO.

Cremation will take place after the service that is set Friday January 18, 2019 at 1:00 P.M. at Grace Church of the Roaring Fork, 1776 Emma Road, Basalt, Colorado. A viewing will take place from 12:00 PM to 1:00 PM prior to the service.

Krabloonik owners decide to keep restaurant open, lease in compliance with town of Snowmass

The owners of Krabloonik said Tuesday the restaurant will remain open with a simplified menu, which will keep the business in compliance with its 20-year lease with the town of Snowmass.

Krabloonik owners Danny and Gina Phillips announced last week plans to close the nearly 40-year-old restaurant in an effort to focus more on the business' dog-sledding operations.

"We just want it to be simpler," Danny Phillips said via phone Tuesday. "There's a lot of restaurants and a lot of new things that have opened since the lease was signed originally and people have great places to eat. We don't want to compete with that, and we really want our guests to enjoy the dogs like they're asking us. People just want to hang out with the dogs."

The town of Snowmass, which owns the property and leases it to Krabloonik for $10 per year, had not been informed of the business' decision prior to its Jan. 9 announcement, Town Manager Clint Kinney said.

"Since last week, when The Aspen Times brought this to our attention, we have been in contact with the owners of Krabloonik and are working well with them," Kinney wrote Tuesday in an email to the Times. "They have informed us that they are continuing to operate the restaurant.

"As such, it is my understanding that they are in compliance with the lease terms."

The lease between the town and Krabloonik states: "Consistent with past operations, the Krabloonik Restaurant shall be open for dinner business at least 100 days during each ski season."

Phillips said the restaurant would "likely (close) down early in the evenings" and that they are still figuring out exact hours moving forward.

He confirmed the restaurant would be open for 100 days this winter season, per its lease.

"We got to this business model and this idea because of public input," Phillips said. "You know, we're listening to what our guests want and what the locals and the public want and we're just kind of adapting and making it work. … Fine dining doesn't necessarily work."

That input includes offering its famous mushroom soup, snacks and "more time with the dogs," Phillips said.

Krabloonik founder Dan MacEachen started the dog-sledding business in 1974, and his sister Janet opened the restaurant a few years later, according to his Aspen Times obituary.

The Phillipses bought the business in December 2014 from MacEachen, who died in February 2016.

Krabloonik's lease, which was amended in 2015 with the change in ownership, spans Sept. 25, 2006, to Sept. 25, 2026.

erobbie@aspentimes.com