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Inside

Jordan Curet/The Aspen Times

Weve got a shakeup in Aspens Best, folks. The long-standing rivalry for best ski shop between D&E (winner 05), Pomeroy (winner 06) and Aspen Sports (runner-up 05 and 06) has been resolved, and drum roll, please Stapleton Sports is No. 1.Were not sure what made the difference this year; inside sources tell us Stapleton is under the same ownership and management and is carrying the same gear. But our readers have spoken, and they have much to say: Aspen Sports got four votes this year, D&E only two; Pomeroy got a respectable dozen; and new on the radar this year, Radio, with nine votes. Bottom line: Doing business in Aspen is tenuous, at best.

Its no wonder Belly Up Aspen is a landslide winner for Best Music Venue. The club opened two and a half years ago on owner Michael Goldbergs vow that all segments of Aspen society would be served, and it has delivered. Young hip-hoppers, seasoned jazz hounds, jam-band fans, DJ lovers, indie rockers, film fanatics and perhaps most of all, reggae devotees all get their groove on at Belly Up. The sound system is second to none, the dcor is nice but not too nice, the smoke-free policy is welcome, and the big names that have ventured there the past 12 months Govt Mule, Bla Fleck & the Flecktones, Social Distortion, Lucinda Williams, Ice Cube and Ice T has been eye-popping. But the variety is what makes Belly Up a heroic venture in a town not know for its heterogeneity.Also receiving votes in this category, albeit just a few: the Wheeler Opera House, Benedict Music Tent, Harris Hall and the Snowmass free concerts.

At times, the best liquor store is the closest liquor store. Other times, only the best will do. And while we cannot think of such a time, our readers can. And they say The Grog Shop is the place to buy your booze in Aspen.With 31 votes, the great Grog is indeed great. Were guessing a combination of factors got them to that place: location (next to City Market); selection (theyve got it all, including fine wines); staff (laid-back but helpful); and free delivery (need we say more?).Of course The Grog Shop is not the only game in town. Longtime category winner Of Grape & Grain was still in the running, as were Carls and Local Spirits. Which leads us back to our original point: At times, the best liquor store is the closest liquor store. Cheers!

There must be something in the shampoo over at Lather Salon, because this is the third year that readers have voted it Aspens Best Salon. In fact, this year Lather garnered 39 votes, which is saying something, since all the other nominees didnt top four votes each. Maybe its the cute factor of owner Jeff Novak, who was voted sexiest Aspenite in 2005 and 2006. But forget about looks heres a guy who opened a salon in 2003 thats been wildly popular ever since. People seem to crave the sort of serene atmosphere and friendly hair stylists that Lather provides. Even so, hair is a very personal issue and many locals wouldnt be caught dead on a bad hair day, so Aspen has plenty of salons to chose from, depending on your mood or how high-maintenance you consider yourself. Other votes went to the barber shop below Sandys Office Supply, Salon Tullio, M Salon, Queen B Salon and Hairbrainz.

This was a new Aspens Best category, so we expected a little confusion. When we tallied the ballots, we saw there was much confusion. There are basically five local television stations in Aspen the biggies: Channel 12 (GrassRoots) and Channel 16 (Plum TV); and the little guys, if you can call them TV stations: the airport channel, the government channel and Resort Sports Network (home to ski & bike porn, as one reader put it). Our esteemed readers knew enough to vote one of the aforementioned stations Aspens Best TV Station. But they also logged votes for TV stations ranging from HBO and ESPN to Cartoon Network and Food Network. And while we agree that these might make for better viewing than our local stations, that wasnt the point. The point was to choose the best of what Aspen has to offer. And thats Plum TV, according to our survey. With its live morning show, featuring ski reports, interviews and daily banter, folks turn to Channel 16 for their local talk-show fix.Of course not everyone in Aspen turns to the TV for a fix of anything. We found plenty of surveys with I dont watch TV and TV melts your brain scrawled across them in our ballot box.

Aspen is home to dozens, if not hundreds, of nonprofits. Our philanthropic town has nonprofits representing all sectors of the community: arts, culture, sports, environment, health and human services, and more. And people are passionate about all of them. So we knew choosing the best nonprofit would be no easy task. And it wasnt. Nearly three dozen local organizations got at least one vote (from their directors, perhaps?); all of them seem worthy of the honor. But in this first year of voting for Aspens Best Nonprofit, the nod goes to the Aspen Youth Center. And while we are far from youths ourselves, we know a few kids, and they agree the center, located in the Aspen Recreation Center, is indeed a great place to be. With a game room, computers, lounge areas and more, Aspens youth have a place to just hang out. The organized activities, from clubs to field trips to special events, complement the center; and the staff seem to get what being a kid (and a parent) is all about.

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Radio, in our opinion, is such a personal choice that its hard to call one station the best. But that was the question we posed to our readers. And, like us, they had a hard time deciding; we got votes for just about every station playing the local airwaves (plus a few weve never even heard of). But when got down to business and counted the ballots, KSNO came out on top. We understand the appeal: Tune your radio to 103.9 for a basic mix of classic rock and new music, presented by local DJs in a lively morning-show format. The local public radio station, KAJX, was a close second, though, proving not all Aspenites go for the generic. And, of course, we had those folks who dont go for Aspen radio at all, sending in votes for satellite and my iPod. Thank goodness, its a free country.