Sköl’s out for winter: big fun, small crowds |

Sköl’s out for winter: big fun, small crowds

Charles Agar
Paul Conrad/The Aspen Times

Aspen, CO ColoradoASPEN Winter weather meant a small but hearty crowd at Saturday’s Wintersköl parade and longtime locals say it just isn’t the same.”It was quick,” said Cathy Kerr, who joked she’s been in Aspen for 150 years (actually since 1971). The Airforce Academy Marching Band was great, she said, and the winter weather was fitting for the event, but because most locals have been driven downvalley by Aspen rents, Wintersköl isn’t the same as it once was.”Locals lived in town in the ’70s,” Kerr said, and everyone partied in the park all day. But locals would think twice before driving to Aspen from homes downvalley on a day like Saturday, she said. “They’re just not here.””Don’t be discouraged. I’m not,” said Jack dePagter.DePagter, founder of Aspen’s former Holland House ski lodge, started Wintersköl, or “winter toast,” in the winter of 1951 to jazz things up after the holidays when the town stood still.With a budget of just $50, townsfolk pitched in and established the first week-long event of ski races, costume events, parties, dancing and a parade followed by fireworks.”There were 52 floats and hardly any people watching,” dePagter said about the first year of the event.

“So many new people have moved in with a lot of money and they don’t care about the town,” dePagter said. But while the makeup of the town has changed, the reason for the event hasn’t, he said.

“It’s just a good excuse to have fireworks and a party,” he said. And the blame for Saturday’s low turnout might be the foot-plus of new snow on local slopes that brought hoots and hollars on Aspen Mountain instead of in town.The Miner’s Building still sponsors its iconic steam-driven calliope that chugs down Main Street, and the Air Force band puts on a show, but this year’s crowd was thin.

“It wasn’t big, but it was fun,” said longtime Aspenite Jim Ward about Saturday’s parade. He and his wife Fay make it to Wintersköl most years and Jim wore a high top hat covered in buttons from Wintersköls past (as far back as 1967).Jim cut a figure reminiscent of the late Ralph Jackson, Aspen’s clown prince, as he marched with the Aspen State Teacher’s College, a make-believe institution of beer drinking and fun.”This town needs more of this,” Ward said of the gathering. He remembers skijoring events in the park and skiing the streets of Aspen with his son Casey. “It was more of a family kind of thing in those days. There wasn’t a lot of commercial stuff.”

“I think it’s a great day,” said Ralph Melville, longtime owner of Aspen’s Mountain Chalet lodge. But more of the town used to take part in the event, he said. Melville said business is different in Aspen and he remembers a time when they made less money but had a lot more fun.”I missed the snowball fights,” said Rich Pearce. Wintersköl when he was a kid in the ’60s was a lot rowdier, he said. The event was something for locals that turned into an event for tourists, but today it’s just “sandwiched between Gay Ski Week and New Year’s,” he said.Charles Agar’s e-mail address is