Mellower Mardi Gras affair at Snowmass

Less “raging debauchery” in the village this year

Given Snowmass Village’s long history of Mardi Gras debauchery and festivities, Fat Tuesday was a notably quieter affair this year.

Ice skaters get Mardi Gras beads at the ice skating rink in Snowmass Base Village on Tuesday, Feb. 16, 2021. (Kelsey Brunner/The Aspen Times)

The Mother of All Ascensions race went virtual this year, so the hustle and bustle in Base Village on Feb. 16 was mostly comprised of folks dressed in typical ski attire and gathered for 9 a.m. ski school lessons, not costumed uphillers rallying at 7 a.m. for a schlep to High Alpine. (Participants can complete the route any time through Feb. 24 this year.)

Festive skiers wait in line at the Village Express on Mardi Gras in Snowmass on Tuesday, Feb. 16, 2021. (Kelsey Brunner/The Aspen Times)

Though there was no parade or bead toss, festive decorations on the Snowmass Mall still signaled a Mardi Gras mentality with purple, green and gold fringe; themed treats popped up at Snowmass S’mores carts in the afternoon. (The parade already went the way of the dinosaur a few years ago; restaurants and retailers handed out beads inside businesses this year instead of having the Mardi Gras king and queen fling necklaces into the crowds.)

And in keeping with the “Mask-erade in the Mountains” theme, everyone masked up in the major town hubs — but they did so to cover their nose and mouth and reduce the spread of COVID-19, not necessarily to show off some feathers or glitz for the holiday. (A town ordinance mandates mask-wearing in most public areas, including the Snowmass Mall, Base Village and the Snowmass Center.)

With COVID-19 still on the mind, organizers erred on the side of socially distanced activations rather than event-style gatherings, according to town of Snowmass Village Special Events Manager Julie Hardman.

“We didn’t want to ignore the day and the celebration so we thought continuing … the activation parts would still keep it fun and festive,” Hardman said. “We tried to just keep some of the traditions alive without putting anyone at risk.”

The mellow, COVID-conscious approach to Mardi Gras this year meant more emphasis on causal activities like handing out Mardi Gras-inspired treats at the Snowmass S’mores Carts and afternoon live music (skipping the concert format) at the Tower Stage in the Snowmass Mall and in front of the Treehouse in Snowmass Base Village.

Snowmass Guest Services Bob Post, left, hands out slices of King Cake to people a the s’mores cart in the Snowmass Mall during Mardi Gras on Tuesday, Feb. 16, 2021. (Kelsey Brunner/The Aspen Times)
Little skiers wait in line with Mardi Gras beads to load onto the Village Express lift in Snowmass on Tuesday, Feb. 16, 2021. (Kelsey Brunner/The Aspen Times)

It may not be the year go all-out for Fat Tuesday, but some of the pandemic-related changes to this year’s Mardi Gras celebrations could have some positive outcomes for the future of the holiday, some say.

For Andew Bielecki, who organizes the annual Mother of All Ascensions uphill race to High Alpine, shifting to a virtual format this year that doesn’t require an early-bird Tuesday wake-up call could make it easier for more people to participate.

“One of the things I’m learning is for next year … we can still have it on Mardi Gras, but maybe we can do the same kind of formula, (multiple) days for the event,” Bielecki said. “Then that allows people to participate over the weekend, it allows them to do it when they (can).”


“If they can’t make it Tuesday morning, it still allows them to be a part of that event, which could generate larger numbers and a little more money for (Aspen) Hope (Center),” Bielecki said; he donates $10 from every entry to the local nonprofit.

This year’s Mardi Gras King and Queen, Scott Arthur and Nell Strijbos-Arthur, also see an upside to a modified Mardi Gras.

They’ve seen the holiday evolve over their three decades in the village and hope that the change might shift the direction of the celebration from “raging debauchery” back to the family-oriented vibe of years past, Scott said.

“It’s a great opportunity for Snowmass to hit the reset button.”