In its sixth year, the four-day Après Ski Cocktail Classic, March 8–11, takes on a welcome twist. Previously, admission to all of the events required shelling out some cash. This year, après appreciators simply have to register online in order to join in on many of the booze-filled events, which will be held at restaurants and bars throughout town.
“We are always thinking of ways to be more creative in our presentation, to get people engaged in the après scene,” says the festival’s founder and producer, Joe Lang, about this and other changes to the annual event.
Since the festival is still relatively new—it started out on a smaller scale in Snowmass Village—Lang says it’s easier to be nimble. Another example: the centerpiece Grand Tasting, which includes all of the classic’s liquor sponsors pouring samples of their products, used to be held outside at The Little Nell. This year, the event has been renamed the Après Tasting Experience and will be spread out among five local restaurants/bars, as well as the Sundeck atop Aspen Mountain, for three hours on Friday and Saturday, giving guests a chance to experience different beverages at various locales. Says Lang, “It’s fun to get deeper into the community and the commercial core, and celebrate a lot of these different establishments. I’m really excited to see how the Après Tasting Experience events are received."
Other happenings include on-mountain parties and seminars like the Johnnie Walker Blenders Lab and a hot toddy session at the Cooking School of Aspen, along with Sunday's Après Temperance Society Ski Race Invitational on Aspen Mountain. On Saturday evening, there will be a whiskey-paired dinner at Velvet Buck with Doug Kragel, an ambassador and educator for Diageo, and what's billed as a plated experiential dining event at the Cooking School with James Beard Award–winning chef Robert Del Grande and Roxor gin co-founder Donald Short; tickets must be purchased for both.
One of the other things that still has a price tag on it is Sunday afternoon's Great Après Ski Pub Crawl & Cocktail Competition. For this event, 11 restaurants will craft a speciality cocktail that includes a sponsored liquor, and attendees will vote on their favorites. The Otone Brass Band returns for an encore performance and will take to the streets, playing its New Orleans–style jazz/funk for everyone to groove to while walking in between venues. Cheers to that!