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Britta Gustafson: Those days of fun for fun’s sake

It’s OK to make fun a priority, even if we aren’t drawing a crowd or banking off of it.

Britta Gustafson for the Snowmass Sun

I refuse to believe that we have outgrown fun, pure, frivolous, nonmeaningful, no strings, useless, unadulterated fun. OK, so we have fireworks and events, and last weekend, we “celebrated” a pandemicized version of our annual Toast-to-Winter. But Wintersköl in Snowmass was once a crazy, unfiltered party. Admit it, it was.

I’m not just referring to my party years here, dancing on the bar (in ski boots, no less). I loved January as a kid. Here in Snowmass, that was the month when the mountain was ours again, the tourists were minimal, and everyone was ready to enjoy life in the mountains after all the hard work that was “the holidays.” People happily and collectively shared that Toast-to-Winter without any prompting. The energy was in balance. January was synonymous with kicking back and enjoying the perks of working so hard to live here. The winter gods often provided a wonderful dump of snow at night, further blessing us with bluebird powder days.

And to me, the grownups, (probably all 20- to 40-somethings) were enviable. I remember flashes of those early Wintersköl days of my youth when I couldn’t wait to grow up so I could act that silly.



It had something for all ages — though the festivities sometimes teetered on the edge of the obscene, involving plenty of nudity, drinks, “grass” (as my parents referred to it) and enduring injuries. But we deserved it, right? So worth the hangover.

Today’s prevailing culture often seems to look down on fun. We’re made to feel like productivity and financial gains reign supreme. Now our manicured variations of celebrations have lost much of the pointless goofiness that was once the Wintersköl parade, the canine fashion show, the Mad Hatter’s Ball.




A man doing a tuck in to the water off of the ski jump at the Ski Splash event for Wintersköl, circa 1983.
Aspen Historical Society/Aspen Skiing Co. Collection

And in Snowmass, we took home the gold for the wildest Wintersköl event of them all: the Ski Splash. The phrase alone makes everyone who lived it, spectators and participants alike, smirk and light up with flashbacks of wild times, an almost-scandalous montage running through their minds.

For those who are not familiar, the Ski Splash was born in the early ’70s and was a judged event where contestants skied down Fanny Hill and off a huge ramp into a swimming pool (the precursor to X Games). They performed tricks and wore costumes; judging was based on showmanship (and a little on survival). Liability and changing times killed the event in the early 2000s as slopeside lodging complexes and aging guests just didn’t seem to appreciate the frequent nudity and the insurance became too expensive.

I’ve heard stories of a firefighter who lit his costume on fire, assuming he would be landing in the pool to put out the blaze, but he choked on the smoke, crashed and almost literally burned, saved by colleagues who were standing by.

The last-second naked flights were an annual crowd pleaser. Shock and awe — daring tricks as well as failures — made it too exciting to miss. It was like live YouTube for a generation before they did it to “post” it.

The fun mentality was contagious, and everyone went with it. It kicked off the weekend and set the scene for a just-go-for-it attitude. That really carried us all through the remaining season.

Oh, how I miss the parade that set us apart as a mountain town that knew how to have fun — silly, unkempt and scrappy fun. So many of our friends and neighbors and businesses and institutions dreamed up crazy floats and spent hours building them, bonding and preparing ridiculous displays and skits.

We made fun of ourselves, and it was great not taking life so seriously. No one worried about putting on a purified spectacle.

When we make time for fun, create without purpose, learn for no reason and have fun just for the fun of it, that’s when we thrive. I hope we always remember that it’s OK to make fun a priority, even if we aren’t drawing a crowd or banking off it. Let’s bring back the theme from Wintersköl ’77: “Still Crazy After All These Years.”

People are drawn to fun, the genuine kind that you can’t contrive, plan, market or schedule. Aspen takes itself pretty seriously these days. It is fancy and groomed and would feel foolish to play the fool in front of such a fancy crowd. But here in Snowmass, we don’t have to follow that lead. We can still take a joke, so let’s pay homage to our roots and have fun — for fun’s sake.

Let’s exchange a piece of my mind for a little peace of mind; after all, if we always agree, what will we talk about?

Britta Gustafson appreciates an open mind; share yours and email her at brittag@ymail.com.


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