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The Aspen Times gift guide

Aspen is quite a place around Christmas, when Sardy Field is packed with private jets, all the lights are aglow on Red Mountain, and the streets are packed with both fleece-wearing locals and tourists with rental ski gear. Its the time when local shops reel in an amazing percentage of their annual revenue, and when frantic, procrastinating parents, spouses, sisters, brothers and significant others rush out for the inevitable last-minute gifts.In this edition The Aspen Times staff surveyed the local retail landscape in an attempt to simplify some of those last-minute, seasonal problems. In order to capture all Aspen demographics, we divided our Christmas gift recommendations into multiple categories affordable, midpriced and extravagant. For all the other ideas that defied categorization or were offered at various prices, we created another category.Happy gift-hunting and happy holidays!

Colorado GazetteerWhenever the urge strikes to plan another backpacking trip you may never take, some whimsical porch-side musing about a far-off, trout-laden lake, youll need a Colorado Atlas & Gazetteer handy to fully hash it out.An ideal gift for newcomers and crusty old locals alike (the latter of whom may have lost his tattered version when his late-model truck blew up on McClure Pass), this red book is the key to unlock the Colorado backcountry, front country and middle country. Also, in lieu of a recent story about one mans misguided OnStar misadventure on a closed-for-winter Cottonwood Pass, were reminded of the value of having one of these backroad bibles in the glove box.Pick one up at the Ute Mountaineer or Carls, among other places, for $19.95.Wrap it upGift certificate to Big Wrap. Theres nothing glamorous about this hole-in-the-wall local favorite. The Wraps are stuffed large, meaning a meal there only guarantees a full tummy and sauce all over the hands and mouth.Get cute and suggest a wrap You rock my world, so try a Rock Your World with turkey and extra slaw! Or if this is the last Christmas with a loved one, and youre looking for a way to break up, then keep it simple: Chow Baby. Retail: $20Have candle, will travelWe came across a candle in Amen Wardy that might as well come with its own entourage a true Aspen candle if we ever saw one. The Travel Candle seems perfect for that friend who cant be without candlelight in any situation.Its your everyday wax and wick in a small square tin for $12. Even better, you can buy your small square tin of wax with a little leather carrying case for $15. Pick from scents like fig, tuberose and vanilla bean.

Christmas music you can standJust finding a CD of Christmas music that doesnt turn your stomach can be a chore. Locating one that is not only musically excellent but perfectly in tune with a high-altitude holiday seems out of the question.But the Nitty Gritty Dirt Bands The Christmas Album fits the bill completely. The album, released in 1997, opens on a picture-perfect note: Woody Creek resident Jimmy Ibbotson singing the sublime Colorado Christmas. Just see if your heart doesnt warm when he sings the chorus, The closest thing to heaven on this planet anywhere/Is a quiet Christmas morning in the Colorado snow. The CD carries on through a bunch of seasonal classics, all done in the Dirt Bands down-home acoustic style, ending with an instrumental take on Jingle Bells.



Snow missile-makerIf the little hooligans in your life insist on throwing snowballs, then why not help them make the best snowball possible?Short Sport has just the thing. The $9.95 Snowball Maker looks like a giant meatball maker or cookie dough scoop. But this baby compresses snow into a hefty and perfectly round ball. Its just the thing for a kid who wants to bean his siblings or friends. And who knows maybe next summer parents could use it to make really impressive meatballs for a dinner party.Inside Out BallShort Sport manager Ann Condon said one of the items flying out of the store this Christmas season is the Inside Out Ball. Its a squishy, stretchy ball that can be turned inside out. One minute its a smooth ball; the next its reversed to expose cushy spikes. Kids like the weird texture.The Inside Out Ball comes in three sizes, ranging in price from $2.95 to $8.95. The largest can even be worn on the top of a kids head which might come in handy for Halloween 2005.

Be sharpJust in time for holiday carving, how about an Oxo Good Grips MV-55 Pro 10-inch slicing knife? Great for preparing the holiday feast, this blade has a non-slip, contoured, pressure-absorbing handle. (Just the razor-sharp rhetoric is enough to get those consumer juices flowing, eh?)Retails for $45 at Les Chefs DAspen.




Live music gift certificateSo youve probably heard about this new venture brewing up, the reincarnation of the Double Diamond that has warmed the hearts of music-loving, crazy-eyed dancing locals.Theyre calling it Belly Up the namesake of a small and righteous club in Solana Beach, Calif. and we can already feel people champing at the bit to get in the doors. Its reportedly scheduled to open by the end of January, in time for the X Games.So what better gift than a Belly Up gift certificate? Were not even sure these are available or what you might buy with it except admission, so gift-givers may need to get creative in helping a buddy, girlfriend or mom Belly Up to this bar.Golf balls for astronautsOne dozen Titleist Pro-V1x golf balls. Professional Golfer Ernie Els switched to these eggs and got an extra 30 yards with his driver. Thanks to the team of rocket scientists that Titleist parent company Acushnet managed to lure away from NASA, the ball reacts differently depending on what club strikes it. For your driver, it comes out with low spin, meaning longer, straighter drives. But itll fizzle with high spin off your irons, leading to crisper, cleaner approach shots.The United States Golf Association is thinking about banning these things. Get em while they are hot (and still legal). Available from Golf USA on Highway 82. Retail $45.Nothing fits like a furNothing feels finer than fur, especially when the fit is purrrrfect.Tye-Dye, an 8-year-old, snow-white cat with one blue eye and one green one, is but one of the cats and dogs at the Aspen-Pitkin County Animal Shelter whos ready to share the love with a new owner this Christmas.Talk about the gift that keeps on giving.Shes a sweet cat, the shelter staff assures us. Tye-Dyes previous owner died, leaving her in the shelters care.Adopting a pet costs $95. The dogs and cats are all either spayed or neutered, and all their vaccinations are up-to-date.The shelter offers a seven-day trial period during which potential new owners can take a dog or cat home and make sure the four-legged addition to the household is a good fit. If its not, the shelter will welcome the pet back and refund the $95.Aspen picture framesIf youre looking to capture your memories with an Aspen flair, the Walnut House has got what you need. For that one special picture, the Walnut House has exclusive hand-carved frames by a craftsman from Denver. One particular frame has a special connection to Aspen with carvings of old-fashioned skis and aspen leaves. It sells for $129.If youre saving multiple memories of Aspen, the Walnut House has a handmade picture album. The staff sent Aspen leaves to craftsmen in Florence, Italy, who embedded the leaves on the cover of the all-leather album. It sells for $295.Variations on a holiday themeSure, Christmas is about tradition. But you also need to keep the season fresh. This year, Aspens stage performers put a kick into two long-standing holiday traditions and a gift of show tickets will make for a memorable season.Aspen Santa Fe Ballets annual production of The Nutcracker gets a fresh look, sound and feel this year. The already lavish Nutcracker, with new sets and a reworking of Tchaikovskys classic score, is at the Aspen District Theatre Friday through Sunday, Dec. 17-19.Aspen Theatre in the Park has taken the beloved 1946 screen classic, Its a Wonderful Life, and adapted it for the stage. In what is planned to be an annual production, Theatre in the Park makes its inaugural presentation of the touching story of the Bailey family of Bedford Falls Tuesday through Thursday, Dec. 21-23, at the Wheeler Opera House.Throw in tickets to the new holiday animated film The Polar Express which kicks off Aspen Filmfests Academy Screenings Sunday, Dec. 19, at 5 p.m. at Harris Hall and youve got an arts-filled way to spend some family-style holidays.Beaded broochesWhere would we be without dependable, affordable accessories to give to our female friends on a semi-budget?At Mistyx there is a never-ending supply of fashionista-worthy accouterments, so this year we pick their selection of beaded brooches that will run you $54 to $58, and add sparkle to any dull outfit.

Sing a song of thongsNobody ever said that Christmas is just for kids. So to celebrate the only season when a romp beneath a pine tree means more than getting your skis stuck in the snow, consider buying your loved one a thong from Aspen lingerie store, Cheeks.One with a lace top and pearl string costs $65, another with a string made out of candy will run you $38. Of course, this underwear isnt exactly made for regular use, so enjoy it while it lasts.

Hear Rickie sing a songGift wrap tickets to Rickie Lee Jones at the Wheeler Opera House. Fed up with the Bush administration, this folk-jazz musician came out of retirement and released an album last year.Tickets are $40, so $80 for you and a loved one.

Bartlett paintingBack in 1995, top New York artist Jennifer Bartlett came to Aspen to make a series of oil paintings, Aspen 6 Weeks, of the local mountains in her signature grid style. The results were captivating Aspens familiar, dramatic backdrop rendered in a unique way.Further, Bartletts avant-garde style connected the work to the glory days of the late 1960s and early 70s, when Aspen was a vital outpost for the contemporary art world. The Baldwin Gallery has several pieces in the series still in stock, and at $30,000, you could get a lot less for a lot more.Wireless TV, tooNeed to work on the computer but dont want to take your eye off the big game? Now you can do both with the amazing LocationFree TV by Sony.Plug your cable line and broadband connection into a base station, then use a 12-inch screen to surf your favorite websites while watching a football game. Thanks to wireless technology, the TV unit can be up to 50 feet away from the base station.Connect to your DVD player to watch a movie in any room of the house, says The Sharper Image catalog. The LocationFree TV is sold for $1,499.

Executive accommodationsAre you dreading shopping for that person who has everything? Dread no more.Get them an executive suite at The Little Nell hotel. Sure its $2,900 per night January through March (you have to inquire about the price during the holidays), but youve got digs fit for a king and queen, as well as the best possible view of Aspen Mountain.The executive suites have 1,250 square feet for living and dining areas, wet bars with a butlers pantry, one-and-a-half baths, and a king-sized bed (or two queens).There is a gas log fireplace in the living room and Belgian wool carpeting in the bedroom.Given the price, you might not want to leave the room during your stay. Luckily you dont have to, thanks to a variety of other amenities.Need to work? There are three telephones with two-line capability and high-speed Internet access.Prefer to play? There is a fully-stocked mini-bar, TV, DVD player and full stereo system and, of course, a large soaking Jacuzzi.Personal heli-skiing packageHelicopter skiing is a dream of any powder junkie, and a weeklong trip in the Rockies would make the perfect gift. Reservations can be easily made with several outfitters, either stateside or points north. But for you real big spenders who really want to show that special powder pig just how deep your love is, why not just buy them a helicopter? Used choppers can be found online, with decent, old models starting around a few hundred grand. Youd surely be more pampered on a guided heli-ski trip, but you also might have to wait for slow clients, or ski flat terrain that doesnt suit your hard-core style. With your own helicopter, the sky would be the limit literally. Of course, youll also need a pad, someone to fly the bird and, if you want to hit the backcountry in precarious conditions, explosives. Lots and lots of explosives. A case of 25 half-pound bombs will run you about $200, but thats just for starters. Oh yeah, youll also need someone who knows when, where and how to use them without blowing off an appendage. You might also want to hire your own search-and-rescue team and an on-call medical staff, both of which will bump up the price tag a tad. And if you want to take all of them along for the ride, as well as a few friends, you may need a larger helicopter, which could run you anywhere from $1 million to $2 million. On second thought, maybe a private helicopter for backcountry excursions is a good way to get your loved one killed. But if youre willing to fork out the dough, it could be a dream come true.

Guided ski day, in bounds or notOK, back to reality.The cool thing about skiing (and riding) is that everyone can have fun at their own level from screaming second-grade pizza-makers on up.And nothing is cooler than a sweet day on the slopes just at your level.Whether its a private lesson at Snowmass, untracked powder on the backside of Aspen Mountain or the big and steep lines of Five Fingers off Aspen Highlands, this gift idea covers the spectrum. Ski pro Ski with one of the Aspen Skiing Co.s top instructors on any of the four mountains. Private lessons cost $490 a day for one person up to five (of the same level), for all levels and ages of skiers and riders. Call 925-1220 for booking information. Aspen Powder Tours Guided snowcat skiing off the backside of Aspen Mountain. One person, one day costs $295. Call 925-1220 for beta. Aspen Expeditions The Skico has partnered with Aspen Expeditions this year to offer guided backcountry skiing in some of the gems off the Aspen Highlands ridge, including Five Fingers. Rates start at $175 for a group of four. Call Aspen Expeditions at 925-7625 for details.

Astronomy Lesson TelescopeFor your friend on Red Mountain who has everything, why not give him the universe?OK, so he or she is more likely to use it for anatomy than astronomy. The 525-times magnification lens means from Red Mountain you can spend hours enjoying a close-up view of life going on in Aspen below.Available online at http://www.HammacherSchlemmer.com. Retail: $600

For the real stud Santa may leave ice skates under the tree for the kiddies this Christmas, but big kids in Aspen want a set of anti-skates.In an environmentally conscientious move, Aspen declared magnesium chloride a wintertime evil several years ago. The streets have served as an extension of Aspens skating rinks ever since, pushing snow tires to the top of every drivers wish list.Take it from the fat man at the Pole: Real studs dont careen through intersections and fishtails belong on the back end of trophy trout.Snow tires cant be purchased in downtown Aspen. For traction action, head to the Airport Business Center or points farther downvalley. The Pitco Off Road Center at the ABC estimates a set of snow tires for an SUV will set you back $400 to $600, depending on whether you select studded tires or the more expensive studless variety. A passenger car can get a grip for $300 to $500. Changing out your tires next spring: $65.Lets get digitalWhat better way to capture images of the holidays then with a new digital camera. Kim Foss, manager of the Walnut House, recommends the Olympus Stylus Verge. Its a high-quality, 4-megapixel camera thats easy on the wallet at $399.95. Olympus offers an instant rebate of $30.The camera comes in six colors with a durable metal frame, and it is water-resistant. You could drop them in the snowbank and theyd be all right, Foss said.

Crystal artShopping for that person who has everything? At Pismo, a gallery that features fine-art glass, one can lay eyes on Spring by Pennsylvania artist Christopher Ries. And for $220,000, you can take it home.Gallery director Isabelle Loeb says the crystal sculpture uses applied optical physics and outside cuts on the piece provide the inner images.

Bear-proof DumpsterHave you been fighting a losing battle against the bears?Have the crafty omnivores gotten the better of your trash containers?Has Ursa Major clawed into your car, your home, ruined your lawn, your neighborhood reputation, and your sleeping patterns?Well, fear not, friend.The owners of BearProofInc.com, Bill and Margaret Neil of Silt, can help. The Western Slopes only such company, BearProofInc.com manufactures and sells bear-proof Dumpsters of all shapes and sizes, from standard residential garbage cans to 8-yard front-loaders. The Neils have clients across the United States and no surprise quite a few in Aspen.Bill Neil once took a trip to the Grizzly Discovery Center in West Yellowstone, Mont., to test his wares.We used dead fish and other food products, locked em up and chained em up to a post and let em go at em, he said.The Dumpsters won.Have bruins ever compromised a BearProofInc.com product? Not to my knowledge, Neil said.Some of these Dumpsters with the gravity-type latching you see around, the bear has figured that out, said Neil. We have what we call a clip latch, kind of like a carabiner, and it works.Dumpsters run from $29 to several thousand dollars.Pretty in pink?If youre not thinking mink for that special someone this year, then you ought to be thinking pink, apparently. For all we know, theres a pink mink out there somewhere.The profusion of this particular pastel is positively puzzling. Its everywhere just look in Aspens shop windows.Posh pink shoes, pink PJs, pink skiwear, pink ponchos. We even found a pink ski helmet. Proponents of pink are pushing every possible shade, something to please every palate.We think pink has its place, but if youre not personally partial, take heart in our New Years prediction: Next season, pink will be pass.

Stuffed brown bearFor that friend who cant stand that those bothersome bruins are all hibernating, consider spending $338 on a stuffed bear.Dont worry, PETA people, this bear from Bandana Kids is 100 percent phony and has never visited a taxidermist. At just over 2 feet tall when propped on all fours, this friendly and benign bear wont even blink at a truckload of steaming fajitas.A smaller stuffed bear sidekick retails for $138.

Let it flow, let it flow, let it flowChristmas is hardly the time to show up on someones doorstep empty-handed. Even the three wise men knew better.Whether its a bottle of wine or a six-pack of Bud, you can do worse than to come bearing booze.If money is no object, Of Grape & Grain on Hopkins offers a 15-liter bottle of Champagne for $1,220, but who wants to rent a forklift just to hoist the bubbly?You can make an impression and avoid lower-back strain with a 1917 Royal Oporto, which retails for a mere $1,563. Considerably younger (and cheaper) is the Lurton pinot gris from Argentina not a bad buy for $4.99, Of Grape & Grains Phil Golden assures us.This is certainly a killer little white. Its quite good, actually, says Golden.With the $1,558 difference between the pinot gris and the vintage port, you can buy plenty of additional holiday cheer, even in Aspen.Beaded place matsMaybe you have a friend who is compulsively neat, and would never drop a morsel of food on a place mat. If so, the wide selection of beaded place mats at Amen Wardy are quite possibly the perfect gift. As far as we can tell, they cant be cleaned, so watch yourself if youre ever invited over for dinner.These mats will run you $90 to $145 each dont forget your friend will need at least eight for a good holiday dinner party.