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Best columnist, Su Lum

Well, this was a strange one. Of the 30 people who received votes in this category, only 17 are or have been newspaper columnists. The others were all reporters from the Aspen Daily News or The Aspen Times.

So, for those who care, here’s the difference: A reporter writes news stories, which are usually published near the front of the paper with their name at the top. A columnist writes opinions, which usually run on the newspaper’s editorial/opinion page, and are published with their name and mug shot at the top.

Su Lum, a veteran columnist from The Aspen Times, was the winner this year with 14 votes and we’re damn tickled about it. Su is a smart and feisty writer who hasn’t let age or shortness of breath blunt her edge.

Here are the other columnists who got votes and are actually writing columns at this time: Alison Berkley (5), May Selby (4), John Colson (4), Jeremy Madden (3), Steve Skinner (3), Meredith Carroll (2), Sara Garton (2), Andy Stone (2), Barry Smith (2), Connie Harvey (1), Jimmy Ibbotson (1), Janet Urquhart (1), Roger Marolt (1), Sheldon Fingerman (1).

Judging from these results, Aspen has no shortage of fine bartenders. No fewer than 52 barkeeps received votes in this contest, most of them with anywhere from one to five votes.

Of course, most of our surveys came back with the “best bartender” space blank. Maybe modern Aspenites tend to drink at home?

Windy Baldwin from Zheng Asian Bistro in El Jebel was head and shoulders above the rest with 14 votes, so congratulations to Windy, who has clearly impressed a few people around town. Unfortunately, she was out of town so we couldn’t take her picture.

We don’t have room to list all the vote-getters, but we will list those who had multiple votes: Adam at the Cantina (7), Dennis at 39 Degrees (5), Wesley at Club Chelsea (5), Jordan at Eric’s (4), Chris Patrick (4), Jimmy’s (2) and Dava R. (2).

In a town with a lot of artists working in every conceivable medium, the results of this informal poll were curious, to say the least.

The list of vote-getters included many familiar local names, from the late Tom Benton to Jody Guralnick to Tanya Dibbs, but somehow the internationally influential James Surls was left off. Hunter Thompson collaborator Ralph Steadman got a handful of votes but has never lived in Aspen.

Lots of musicians appeared, from Bobby Mason to Sandy Munro to Smokin’ Joe Kelly, but almost nobody managed to collect more than a few votes.

The hands-down winner was graffiti artist Derek Johnson, who answered his local cell phone somewhere in the Pacific Northwest. He sent us a photo, but was too busy to discuss his artwork.

Goes to show you just never know …

The jury’s still out as to whether it’s a good thing to win this category or not. We hard a hard time reaching Caroline Riley and Al Gross, who tied for first place. We may never know if they were out at the bars, or avoiding us.

On the other hand, others avidly sought to win this honor, nominating themselves but sadly receiving just one vote each: Mark Murray and Daniel Hooper.

Perhaps we should listen to the reader who said “best barfly” is an oxymoron, or the one who said “the ones who stay home.”

In a valley that has seen two Winter Olympic medal winners in this decade and a host of Olympic and World Cup competitors over the years, this race carries a bit of gravity. This honor doesn’t come with any heavyweight hardware but it does confer a sort of “locals’ favorite” status on the winner.

So congratulations ” again ” to Chris Davenport, who skied all of Colorado’s fourteeners last year and, despite having a wife and kids, continues to push the envelope and redefine “extreme skiing” as we speak.

Davenport received 13 votes and had some competition from world-class snowboarders Gretchen Bleiler and Chris Klug. Several dozen other names showed up on the list, but none received more than two or three votes apiece.

Frankly, Davenport and his out-of-bounds ilk have changed what it means to be a hot skier, and how to publicize their exploits through marketing, film and electronic media.

Apparently, there are a lot of great teachers in the Roaring Fork Valley (42 different people got at least one vote), teaching all sorts of great things (from elementary school to ski school). But Sara Mercanti is at the top of the class, according to our readers. A first-grade teacher at Aspen Elementary School, Sara has a knack for making kids ” and their parents ” happy, all while teaching those young minds a bit of reading, writing and arithmetic. (And rumor on the street is that her ear-to-ear grin and pajama dance parties can get even the most reluctant student to smile.)

Congratulations, Sara, and keep up the good work!

Aspen and the Roaring Fork Valley are filled with philanthropists and volunteers who give money and time for all sorts of causes ” artistic, environmental, social, youth-oriented, health-related, etc. So to be the best all-around citizen in this town counts for something.

As in other categories, a lot of voters supported their friends and family members who are, no doubt, model citizens. Perhaps the reason that former Mayor Helen Klanderud won is a combination of both hard work on behalf of the community and widespread name recognition. Agree or disagree with her policies and decisions, Helen’s dedication to Aspen is unquestioned, even though she no longer wields the gavel in council chambers.

Thirty-eight other locals received votes in this category, some of them politicians and bigwigs and some of them humble working people; it’s a big number that testifies to our collective civic ethic, but it also hardly scratches the surface.

In the end, Helen is a symbol of the kind of civic commitment that most Aspenites share, even if they hardly ever agree on anything.

For the second year in a row, Lita Heller won the best socialite prize. This time around, however, it was a landslide.

Former city Councilman Torre, who took first in this category two years ago, only received one vote; following his departure from politics, the man-with-one-name apparently has decided to focus more closely on tennis coaching and instruction.

Of course, socializing in this town takes multiple forms; some of the socialites on this list made their name at drinking holes and backyard keggers, while others like Heller are known for appearances in Mary Hayes’s Around Aspen column and throwing lavish fundraisers for local charities. Whatever your preferred brand of socializing, Aspen’s got it. And the dozens of names with one or two votes testifies to a thriving social scene.

Unless you’re one of the voters who asked “Is there such a thing?” (as a best socialite) or “Who cares?”

This just goes to show that few things enhance your reputation as much as death. Author and gonzo journalist Hunter S. Thompson won this competition, despite or perhaps because of his 2005 suicide.

Actress Goldie Hawn, who won last year, made another strong showing, as did outdoorsman Aron Ralston, actor Antonio Banderas, snowboarder Gretchen Bleiler, actress Kate Hudson, actor Kevin Costner and singer John Denver, who died almost 10 years ago.

A boatload of well-known locals also made this list ” people who aren’t nationally famous but who cast long shadows in the valley: DRC Brown, Boogie Weinglass, Ted Mahon, Bob Braudis, Klaus Obermeyer.

Think Aspen’s Noah Hoffman had won every award during his brilliant high school career? Think again.

Hoffman and junior Wiley Maple tied for top high school athlete. It seemed fitting that, in one of the world’s most revered ski towns, two teammates from Aspen’s 2007 state championship ski team shared the honor.

Hoffman swept both nordic events at the state championships for a second consecutive season, and led the Skiers to a national championship victory at Soldier Hollow, Utah, in March. His headline performances weren’t confined to winter, however. He also cruised to a cross-country state title last fall for good measure.

Maple, the slalom winner at state in February, is one of the top skiers in the country in his age group. The 17-year-old took gold in downhill, silver in slalom and bronze in super G at the J2 Junior Olympics in Mount Bachelor, Ore., in March; the results helped him clinch the overall national title.

Impressive accolades. Hoffman and Maple needed them, however, to top a list where other vote- getters included freestyle skiing phenom Whitney Wickes, Aspen soccer’s unquestioned team leader Nicky Anastas, and Skiers standout tailback Beau Seguin.

Can we have a five-way tie?

Whoa! What happened here?

Last year political gadfly Toni Kronberg and TV talk-show host Andrew Kole were tied for this honor, but something this year vaulted Toni far ahead of Kole and everyone else.

We wondered whether the recent controversy over Kronberg’s residency might have affected the result ” she ran for Aspen City Council but may not have actually lived inside city limits ” but that doesn’t necessarily make her a whiner.

Whatever ” Kronberg crushed the competition. Kole received only three votes, Aspen Mayor Mick Ireland got six, and various other politicians, developers, newspaper commentators and letter-writers received one or two votes each. There were several general statements about “tourists,” “hotel guests,” “NIMBYs along Rio Grande row,” and “second-home owners,” but this was no contest.

This was another category where voters seemed to prefer to keep their opinions to themselves. The top vote-getter received only three, and none of the voters appeared to know his last name: Rollerblade Benny. Of course that’s not to say most Aspenites don’t know who we’re talking about; Benny’s the blond guy who cruises around town on his blades (and in winter on his skis on the slopes) in cutoff denim shorts, dark shades and a T-shirt. I guess sexy is as sexy does.

The rest of the nominees earned one or two votes, and many of them seemed to have voted for themselves or their spouses. A few notables made the list, including actor Kurt Russell, former Mayor Helen Klanderud, model Heidi Klum and mayoral candidates Bonnie Behrend and Torre.

Aspen Times sales rep Tim Kurnos actually got two votes, but the editors think those undoubtedly inebriated voters were actually aiming for the “best barfly” spot.