Bright nights |

Bright nights

May Selby
Nicole Zell at AVSCs Nordic Bonfire Dinner with her dad, John Zell, and friend Juliette Pisano.

Several memorable community events were staged under the stars recently. Over Wintersköl weekend, the Torchlight Descent down Little Nell was followed by fireworks over Aspen Mountain. At the conclusion of that show, the Smuggler Mine was the setting for a bonfire gathering and another exciting fireworks display in the sky. Lots of locals arrived at the base of the mine after dark – some came on foot, others by SUV – one even pulled up to the party in a back hoe.A group of fireworks aficionados known as “PyroTechniques” have been launching firecrackers from Smuggler Mine for years.

Their production on Saturday, Jan. 14, was probably the 12th annual event of epic proportions and, according to many guests, the best one yet. About 1,000 shells were shot from dozens of mortars placed around the mine – all of which were pre-loaded this time. Usually the PyroTechniques crew manually operates the fireworks, but this year they specially ordered the pre-programmed show from an outfit in Las Vegas. As a result, said Smuggler Mine PresidentChris Preusch, “it was the first show we ever got to watch.”Like glitter in the sky, the explosive display of color complemented the full moon hovering over Smuggler Mountain.

Sound effects such as whistles and blasts enhanced the production even more.As guests drew comparisons between the Aspen Mountain and Smuggler fireworks, deeming the latter to be more impressive, Preusch simply responded that both shows were a treat for everyone.

“The community is the winner tonight,” said Smuggler Mine foreman Jay Parker who’s grooming his grandson to be the guy in charge one day. “If it were a competition, I’d say the local boys beat the city folk,” said one guest who preferred to remain anonymous. Dave Lyons has been a fixture at Smuggler Mine parties since he was a kid.

“This is old-school Aspen,” he said. “These are the people that make the town click.”The next Smuggler Mine fireworks display is slated for the Fourth of July. The Independence Day celebration will begin with a 6 a.m. cannon blast wake-up call – this year being the 30th annual.

Aspen Valley Ski & Snowboard Club hosted its annual Nordic Bonfire Dinner on Friday, Jan. 20, at the Aspen Golf Course. Despite temperatures dipping well below freezing, it certainly seemed like record crowds came out to participate in support of the local nonprofit.From 6 to 8 p.m., skate skiers, snowshoers and cross-country skiers trekked the 1.5 kilometer loop around the course, some even towing little ones in sleds. They followed candlelit trails from bonfire to bonfire, guided by headlamps. Local businesses generously donated hors d’oeuvres, soups, hot drinks and desserts, which were served at stations throughout the course. All proceeds from the Bonfire Dinner benefit AVSC nordic programs. For information on upcoming events at AVSC, visit contact May to send info, insights or invites, e-mail

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