Wintersköl begins with luncheon honoring royalty, along with nonprofit and business of the year

Nancy Mayer, who is the publisher of Aspen Sojourner magazine, receives a toast for being named Wintersköl royalty during a meet and greet on Thursday at The Aspen Hive in downtown Aspen. Aspen Skiing Co. executive John Rigney was also named Wintersköl royalty this year. The festivities go through the weekend, highlighted by Saturday's fireworks and torchlight parade on Aspen Mountain. (Austin Colbert/The Aspen Times)
Austin Colbert/The Aspen Times

There is plenty of fun left in Aspen, insisted Debbie Braun, president and CEO of the Aspen Chamber Resort Association, as she kicked off Wintersköl’s annual awards and budget-passing luncheon on Thursday after a couple of years off due to the pandemic.

Wintersköl, after all, is all about local fun in between big visitor periods just after the holidays. The festival is packed with events into Sunday, culminating with a bonfire and fireworks on Saturday, then a hand-off of sorts in Snowmass with the Drag Queen Bingo Brunch, which blends into the start of Aspen Gay Ski Week and the next tide of visitors.

“Go out there, and streak your life away this week,” she joked. “I might do it myself!”

And so, a couple of hundred Aspenites celebrated the opening of the 72nd winter welcoming festival with the Helen K. Klanderud Wintersköl Luncheon at the St. Regis Hotel.

The event brought together the business community to celebrate the association’s royalty and award winners.

A glowing start to its 50th year in business, the Buddy Program won Non-profit of the Year. 

The organization pairs adult community members with local youth for mentor relationships, as well as hosting school-based and community programming from Aspen to Carbondale and Rifle.

“We’re very honored to be recognized by ACRA and leaders of the local business community,” said Buddy Program Executive Director Lindsay Lofaro. “We know without many other non-profits, our work would not be possible.”

The Buddy Program team celebrated the beginning of the organization’s 50th year with Wintersköl honors for top non-profit.
Chris Council of C2 Photography

This year, the Buddy Program is moving into Glenwood Springs with their Outdoor Leadership program at Glenwood Middle School and aiming to kick off the big and little buddy program by the start of the next school year. 

The Chamber Resort Association awarded the Business of the Year title to Pure Barre CycleBar Aspen.

“We know everyone loves a glass of champagne, but we do say that we are the best bar in town,” said Eli Radney, the general manager.

Pure Barre Aspen and CycleBar Aspen owners Stephanie and Mike Ibasco celebrate their Business of the Year award with general manager Eli Radney.
Chris Council of C2 Photography

And, the Molly Campbell Service Award went to retired Marine Corps Lt. Col. Dick Merritt, who has spent part of his more than four decades in Aspen as a ski instructor, patroller, and leader for the local veterans’ community. 

“I came here 57 years ago straight from Vietnam and fell in love with the place, and I’ve been here since,” he said to the standing ovation.

The Resort Chamber Association also crowned this year’s Wintersköl royal honorees — exemplary representatives of the Wintersköl spirit — with winter laurels. 

Nancy Meyer, already a highly-decorated Aspen social presence with the 2022 Ms. Aspen and Best Socialite accolades from The Aspen Times, has called Aspen home for 42 years. She worked for Aspen Magazine for 17 years before taking the publisher position at Aspen Sojourner in 2003. 

The other royal honoree is John Rigney, a longtime Aspen Skiing Co. senior executive.

Wintersköl 2023 is the first with in-person events after two years of COVID-19 protocols that prevented large gatherings. 

The weekend is filled with a calendar of Wintersköl events indoors and outdoors — streaking optional but encouraged, if jokingly.

“I hope everyone has a chance to celebrate Wintersköl this year,” said Jennifer Carney, COO of the association. “It’s a very traditional part of Aspen’s history. It’s about the celebration of winter with whimsical events.”

“To all the Aspen locals who make our mountain town so special: May we always find joy, laughter, and amazing memories in all that winter has to offer. Cheers!” Braun said early in the luncheon during one of several champagne toasts. Shortly thereafter, the membership at the luncheon ceremoniously approved the Aspen Chamber Resort Association for the new year, in keeping with the association’s bylaws.  


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