Creole for the Soul: Snowmass celebrates 35 years of Mardi Gras |

Creole for the Soul: Snowmass celebrates 35 years of Mardi Gras

Erica Robbie
Snowmass Sun

On Mardi Gras each year, Snowmass Village bleeds purple, green and gold.

It makes sense, as the town’s Mardi Gras roots run deep, with a 35-year-old history that started with a few New Orleans locals.

The NOLA natives visited Snowmass to “escape the craziness” of their hometown debauchery, according to Snowmass Tourism Director Rose Abello.

“They still wanted to celebrate the holiday, but in their own way, here,” Abello said. “Every year we still get a group of people from New Orleans who participate in the parade and the revelry.”

What’s also special about Snowmass’ Mardi Gras event is the mix of international visitors and valley locals that it draws.

“We have quite a few domestic guests as well as international guests” in Snowmass around Mardi Gras each year, Abello said, and in particular, “quite a few Brazilians.”

“However, Mardi Gras isn’t just for guests,” she said. “Snowmass employees, locals, and guests all attend the celebration.”

Altogether, Abello estimated that more than 1,500 people participate in the event each year, adding that folks from Aspen and downvalley also venture to the village to celebrate.

“The Mardi Gras celebration is famous in the valley,” Abello said. “And folks want to be a part of it.”

To be a part of this year’s celebration on Feb. 28, here’s what you need to know.


7 a.m.: Mother of All Ascensions 25th anniversary Uphill Race

The infamous Mother of All Ascensions’ race returns this year for a quarter-century of Mardi Gras shenanigans. Competitors meet at the Snowmass Base Village Plaza for a 7 a.m. start with snowshoes, stabilizers, track or telemark skis. The race ends at Gwyn’s High Alpine Restaurant with a special breakfast for participants. Mardi Gras outfits are encouraged. Tickets are $30 in advance or $40 day-of. A portion of this year’s proceeds will benefit Aspen Hope Center. Register in advance online or in-person at select locations; for more information or to register, visit

11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m.: Mardi Gras Party at Elk Camp Restaurant

New to Snowmass’ Mardi Gras lineup this year is the on-mountain party at Elk Camp Restaurant. DJ Tenza of Aspen DJs will provide the entertainment from 12 p.m. to 3 p.m., along with 50-piece jazz band “The Basalt Longhorns.” Costume-clad attendees will be eligible for prizes. Party favors include beads, masks and streamers. Food and drink specials – from New Orleans-inspired dishes like jambalaya, gumbo and muffuletta to beverages that include hurricanes and craft beer samples – will be offered from 11 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.

2 to 3:30 p.m.: Face-painters and performers on Snowmass Mall

Stilt walkers and other performers will showcase their skills for all to witness along the Snowmass Mall during the afternoon. Face-painters also will be around to decorate childrens’ (and adults’) faces.

3 to 3:15 p.m.: Ski parade down Adams Avenue

Sport your best Mardi Gras costume and join the jazz band in a ski parade down Adams Avenue from Elk Camp Restaurant to the Snowmass Mall. Skiers and snowboarders of all levels are welcome to participate.

3 to 4 p.m.: Bead Toss on Snowmass Mall

What would a Mardi Gras celebration be without beads? Snowmass Village is locked and loaded this year, with more than 30,000 beads ready for action.

4 p.m.: Mardi Gras parade on Snowmass Mall

In Snowmass tradition, the community will parade together and honor their Mardi Gras King and Queen on the mall. This year’s Queen is Marianne Rakowski, a town employee of 35 years, and the current finance director. The 2017 Mardi Gras King is John Quigley, director of sales and marketing at The Viceroy. The parade will kick off at 4 p.m. by the Roaring Fork Transportation Authority stop and loop through the mall.

7:30 p.m.: Fireworks over Fanny Hill

Ending the 12-plus hour day on a high note and with a bang, fireworks over Fanny Hill will light up the night sky and slopes starting at 7:30 p.m.