Staying Sane This Winter |

Staying Sane This Winter

The next few months may be hardest of all. Here are some local ideas for keeping your head through a long winter.

Megan Janssen
For the Aspen Times Weekly

Well, it’s been rough. The last 10 months of pandemic disruptions have fundamentally shifted our lives. And, though summer and fall offered the chance to socialize, dine, and attend events outdoors, we’re back inside again as the pandemic stretches into a dark winter and the beginning of 2021. As we wade through the dark months, it’s more important than ever to find ways to recommit to the safety of our community while finding daily inspiration and levity.

Up and down the Roaring Fork Valley, people are finding unique ways to keep us connected, bring creativity into our home and make the best of this challenging time.

Here are some ways to fill your heart, commiserate with your community, and tap into hope’s best ally: endurance.

Change Your Filters, Permanently

Sure, MERV 13 is great. But I’m talking about the way you view your life. Do you still determine the success of your day by how much was accomplished? Consider measuring success through the filters of compassion, patience, and well-tended boundaries. Forgive yourself for losing your temper. Forgive your family for being distracted. Remember, no one has done this before.

Andrea Stewart, executive director of the Carbondale Chamber of Commerce, has been on 20 hours of Zoom meetings per week since March. She says she had a hard time finding the boundary between work and life at first, but her family has a new mantra: “Everyone is doing their best and that best might not look the same across the board and that’s okay. Have grace and know that it’s okay to show emotion and reach out for help.”

Engage, Engage, Engage

It’s not easy, but you simply must not give in to the squishy depths of the couch. Not every night, at least. According to a study published in September by the JAMA Network, about a quarter of the U.S. population is experiencing depression because of the pandemic.

It is paramount that we fight inertia and register for safe events, take classes, and attend virtual performances.

“It helps so much to get out and take advantage of what this valley has to offer,” says Sarah Roy, executive director of the Red Brick Center for the Arts in Aspen. “I took a lunch break and went to the Aspen Art Museum and it just filled my soul. Take the time to see all that is offered out there. We need that focus more than ever right now.”

Safe ways to get out in the community do exist. These are some:

* Sculpture Stroll at Anderson Ranch Arts Center

Take advantage of the free outdoor sculpture exhibition at Anderson Ranch. There is a self-guided tour brochure next to the front doors of the welcome center. There are also holiday light exhibitions on campus through January.

* Get Lit in Snowmass

Snowmass Luminescence, the interactive art and light display that opened last weekend, offers dazzling world of light and art for visitors walking between the new light tunnel between the Snowmass Mall and Base Village and visit light art installations. It runs through Feb. 28, from sunset to 9 p.m. daily.

* “Roam-school” on Rosybelle Art Bus

The Carbondale Arts art bus is available for rent (sliding scale) for quarantine pods to use for homeschooling classes. It is equipped with art supplies, WiFi, electricity, snacks, and tons of creative energy. It is a fabulous place for kid’s birthday parties or a fun way to tour a neighborhood and serenade your friends!

* Galleries Are Open

Whether they’re checking your temperature at the door or offering “COVID cautious” hours, our art galleries are taking precautions to keep you safe and comfortable. There are world-class galleries up and down the valley, of course, but these nonprofit ones are always worth supporting:

Red Brick Center for the Arts Gallery: Tues-Thurs 10 a.m.-4 p.m., Wednesdays 10 a.m.-6 p.m., and by appointment

R2 Gallery, Deck The Walls Holiday Market: Mon-Sat, 10am-5pm & Sundays 11 a.m.-4 p.m.

The Art Base: Tues-Friday 10 a.m.-5 p.m. & Weekends by appointment

Aspen Chapel: Daily from 10 a.m.-5 p.m.

Aspen Art Museum: Open by reservation, Tues-Sun 10 a.m.-6 p.m.

Anderson Ranch Arts Center: Monday-Friday, 9 a.m.-5 p.m.

Think Outside the Box of Your Living Room

The living room isn’t just for binge-watching and naps. Just because you can’t go to your favorite places doesn’t mean your favorite place can’t come to you. Transform your space and let the magic come alive.

* Dance Like No One is Watching

Dance Initiative and The Art Base have coordinated to create the “Wild Rumpus Art and Dance Box.” This at-home kit has fixings to make a costume with instructions in English and Spanish. Included is a special audio dance class. Ages 3-7.

* Throw Something

Some clay, that is. The take-home kit from the Carbondale Clay Center comes with everything from a set of tools, instructions, clay, and a PDF of three ways of making with clay. “We offer extra clay so if you run out, you can get more,” says the Clay Center’s Savanna LaBauve. “ You can also get your piece fired for an extra cost.” The kits are $30 and come with five pounds of clay, tools, instructions, and a tote. The Clay Center can also host a private clay lessons for groups up to 6 people. Contact

* Submit

The Art Base is calling all artists ages 5-18 to submit for their “StART Fresh” student exhibit. Make art by completing this sentence, “My ideal world looks like…” with any medium of your choice using 8.5-by-11 piece of white paper. Contact

Free art kits are also available at the Pitkin County Library (970-429-1900) and from the Art Base ( and Carbondale Arts (

* Make Screen-time Fun Again

“Screen fatigue is so real,” says Voices executive artistic director Renee Prince, “but we have to keep showing up. People who aren’t heard much in this valley and don’t hold the power are getting the limelight right now. It’s a great way to hear from people you don’t normally hear from.” Amplifying Voices has paired up Bridges High School seniors with 5Point Film Festival and professional filmmakers to create a 15-minute autobiographical film. Find it at

Set up your couch, turn the lights low, make some actual popcorn, serve a fancy drink. Schedule your screen-time nights and invite your quarantine friends so it feels like a special event.

Almost all of the aforementioned organizations have offerings online right now, not to mention Theatre Aspen, Jazz Aspen Snowmass, Aspen Words, Virtual First Fridays with Carbondale Arts, TACAW@Home, Thunder River Theater Company, English In Action, Immigrant Voices, ArtsThrive (with Red Brick Center for the Arts and The Wheeler Opera House) and so on.

Keep Moving

The one resounding thing that every interviewee said, unsurprisingly, was: “exercise.” If you can only do one thing this winter to stay sane, get your hear trate up. Whether you’re skiing and snowboarding, cruising Nordic trails, taking a snowy hike, in a masked exercise class, an online yoga session, don’t give up. Any way you can, keep moving, keep moving, keep moving.

Ask For Help

If you’re needing help in any way, reach out to friends and neighbors. The chambers of commerce in the Roaring Fork Valley are also great places to find support. Whether you’re trying to find information on any of the above, looking for discounted personal protective equipment, searching for a new job, or just need a soulful local to guide you, they’re here for you. As Andrea Stewart put it: “People shouldn’t be afraid to reach out because that connection is so important. Even though it looks different right now.”

Megan Janssen is the executive director of Dance Initiative and a proud member of the creative community of the Roaring Fork Valley. Contact her at


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