Meet Rippin’ Hotdog: A Snowmass trivia team, friend group and lifestyle

When it comes to the name “Rippin’ Hotdog,” its origins are up for debate, but most agree the locally coined term stemmed from an evening screening of “Hot Dog…The Movie” about a year ago at the New Belgium Ranger Station in Snowmass.

“When we sort of stumbled into the Rippin’ Hotdog name we just sort of said, ‘Oh, that’s our new name for sure,’” said Matt Fersch, one of the founding members of Rippin Hotdog, the trivia team his roughly 15-person friend group competes as and lifestyle it lives by. “If Rippin’ Hotdog is about anything, it’s about being open to the community… everyone out there having fun on the mountain is a rippin’ hotdog.”

Fersch and his friend group officially became Rippin’ Hotdog about a year ago. But for over two years, the group has made it a weekly ritual to meet up for the Ranger Station’s Tuesday trivia night and has been a family, or as Fersch says a “wolf pack,” of friends for a decade.

“Honestly, it’s structured fun,” Fersch said of their weekly trivia night tradition. “As adults when we get older its harder for our schedules to line up and this and that, but we know at least once a week one of your friends is going to be there at trivia waiting to see you.”

At the Feb. 4 trivia night, this fun-focused spirit was evident. The station was packed with patrons and trivia competitors, including the Rippin’ Hotdogs, who met each question with intense focus and each break with casual conversation.

When asked how the hotdogs met, team member Lexy Mirante said most were all rookie ski instructors for Aspen Skiing Co. about 10 years ago, bonding over skiing and working together.

Some of the hotdogs are still with Skico and others have moved on to other jobs in and out of Snowmass Village, but Mirante said most have stuck together and grown to become family.

“We celebrate all of the holidays together and even when we think we’re sick of seeing each other, we’ll hang out multiple times a day, skiing or biking together then going out for dinner later,” Mirante said. “It’s really special to have that close of a friendship with that number of people.”

But even though the Tuesday trivia nights are more of an excuse to meet up than anything else, Mirante and other hotdog members said it wouldn’t be the team’s preferred hangout of choice if it weren’t for trivia host Elliott Audette.

Audette is credited for the revival of the Ranger Station trivia night after its former host moved away from the village a few years ago.

Up until winter 2018 when he stepped up to host, Audette said he had been a weekly trivia competitor, often playing on the team that rivaled Rippin’ Hotdog, though they weren’t known by that name at the time.

“I guess you could say we started out as sort of enemies or rivals, but once I started hosting I really got to know them and we’ve become great friends,” Audette said. “It means so much to me that they show up week after week.”

As the Ranger Station trivia host, Audette said he aims to create a fun, non-intimidating and welcoming atmosphere that all locals and visitors feel they can be a part of.

He hopes to keep the weekly trivia at the Ranger Station going for groups of regulars like those with Rippin’ Hotdog, and even has goals of expanding the game night to other village locations.

“I think it’s important to have community connectors like game nights, live music and open mic nights and think this is a nice little tradition once a week where people know they can meet up and have fun,” Audette said of trivia night.

“It really is more about having fun than the trivia. … It’s half-comedy, half-trivia and I don’t think anyone ever leaves disappointed.”

As for Rippin’ Hotdog, they hope to see the weekly trivia continue at the Ranger Station as well, and have dreams of turning Rippin’ Hotdog into a local, lifestyle ski brand everyone can get in on.

Adele La Roche, the hotdog member who came up with the team design and logo, runs its social media, and crafts stickers, T-shirts and other themed items out of her village home for the group, said the brand is just a dream at this point, but that the longtime friends are adamant about sharing their Rippin’ Hotdog-spirit with the rest of the village community.

“It started off as more of a joke to begin with but then it got a bit more serious,” La Roche said. “Anyone can be a hotdog with us and carry our values of having fun and protecting winter.”