No one expected a pandemic to deliver a tsunami of new shops, galleries, and experiences to Aspen and Snowmass. Then again, (mostly) no one expected a pandemic. “It has been a very busy retail leasing season,” says Karen Setterfield, president of Setterfield and Bright, which handles the majority of commercial rentals in downtown Aspen. And that means there’s plenty to do this winter and spring, even when you’re not socially distancing on the ski slopes.
After a year of figurative darkness, the nights are bright in Snowmass Village this winter with mountainside artistic light displays. Snowmass Luminescence (through Feb 28, from sunset to 9 p.m. each evening) features a series of interactive, LED-illuminated walkways and arches on Fanny Hill between Base Village and the Snowmass Mall.
Meanwhile, UK-based artists and digital media all-stars Squidsoup exhibit an immersive walk-through piece, Submergence (also until Feb 28), with the trippy self-described premise of “many thousands of individual points of suspended light to create feelings of presence and movement within physical space.” And production agency Creos and creator Raw Design (a Canadian architectural firm) present Prismatica (Feb 1–28), a modern ice palace of giant rotating prisms that trigger a kaleidoscopic effect on the ice and snow. gosnowmass.com
Flash back to another era
Half a century before Joe Biden mounted his campaign for the soul of the nation, a local election set off a “wave of political competition for Aspen’s soul,” according to a display in the Aspen Historical Society’s new exhibition, Decade by Decade: Aspen Revealed. The exhibit connects the town to national events by offering local context within the larger cultural and political landscape.
In that 1970 race for Pitkin County Sheriff, novelist Hunter S. Thompson, fresh off his “Battle of Aspen” story for Rolling Stone about the previous year’s mayoral election, unsuccessfully ran against incumbent Carrol Whitmire. But Thompson’s campaign helped set the stage for Sheriff Dick Kienast’s election six years later. Dubbed “Dick Dove and his Deputies of Love,” Kienast advocated for law enforcement officers wearing jeans, freezing out undercover drug agents, and eschewing guns to better reflect the values of the community.
Find memorabilia from from the Victorian era through the late 20th century at the exhibit. 620 W Bleeker St, open Tuesday–Saturday, aspenhistory.org
Be entertained, by others or yourself
Jazz Aspen Snowmass (jazzaspensnowmass.org) plans to host five weekends of JAS Café performances for smaller audiences in February and March at the St. Regis Aspen Resort. (All dates and artists are subject to change based on current health guidelines.) Likewise, the Aspen Music Festival and School (aspenmusicfestival.com) has announced four concerts in its Winter Music Series, with limited, socially distanced seating at Harris Hall: violinist Robert McDuffie with Robert Spano on piano (Feb 11 & 12); pianist Tengku Irfan (Feb 18); and the Calder Quartet (Feb 25).
Every Wednesday at Snowmass Base Village, local and touring comics will do their best to wring some laughs out of a year that has been the opposite of funny at the Snowmass Live Comedy Series presented by the Collective (thecollectivesnowmass.com). Or create your own laughs at the Collective’s new Selfie Den, where more than a dozen artistically adorned photography stations let users grin, guffaw, and grandstand for the ’Gram.
Does this outfit go with my mask?
New stores of all sorts are tugging at purse strings, so to speak. Among them, Aspen Athleisure’s (534 E Hyman Ave) signature trucker hat is having a moment among the fit and fabulous along with the homegrown shop’s other lifestyle apparel. Pick up a pair of luxe sneaks at Golden Goose (413 E Hyman Ave); a handcrafted, sustainably harvested beaver-felt fur topper at Nick Fouquet, hatmaker to the stars (520 E Hyman Ave); and an outfit that reads French girl cool at Ba&sh (228 N Mill St).
Go luxe at Giorgio Armani Aspen’s winter-themed, two-story boutique (521 E Hyman Ave), which includes selections from the men’s and women’s ready-to-wear, evening, EA7, and Neve collections, plus a La Prima bag exclusive to Aspen. Or browse the sophisticated contemporary clothing at the newest location of Perch (535 E Hyman Ave), which has a loyal following among fashion-savvy women in Vail and Denver. Need a touch of Texas glam? Wing on over to Angels & Outlaws (402 S Galena St).
For that special bauble, visit Kate Maller Jewelry (525 E Cooper Ave), which uses recycled precious metals and reclaimed or ethically sourced diamonds and gemstones for handcrafted-in-Colorado pieces. Atlas Fine by Ashley Wein (406 S Galena St) is the newest jewelry endeavor from the celebrity-favorite former J/Hadley designer.
Pitkin Projects (516 E Hyman Ave) offers tastefully curated artisan furnishings, fine art, and tabletop accessories, including vintage Swedish furniture, ceramics from contemporary artists Adam Silverman and Tony Marsh, and custom cashmere blankets from local company Hangai Mountain Textiles. Alicia Adams Alpaca (601 E Hyman Ave) produces luxurious wool textiles and clothing with fibers sourced from the Adams’s own herd of Suri alpacas in New York’s Hudson Valley. Montauk’s wildly popular Wyld Blue store opened here (210 S Galena St) to offer vintage and one-of-a-kind luxury items, cozy-chic homewares, and kids’ and women’s clothing. And doesn’t a pop-up called The Art of Cozy (411 E Hyman Ave), by Toronto-based retail experience curator Brika, sound just like a store for our times?
Explore a hopping gallery scene
Aspen’s number of art galleries has grown, starting with the arrival of Galeria Mascota (631 E Durant Ave), where the offerings include an exhibit of midcentury French furniture design inspired by a similar show at the gallery’s Mexico City location. At Eden Fine Art (534 E Cooper Ave), the colorful contemporary works include exclusives from renowned street artist Alec Monopoly and sculptor Dori Levinstein. Discover “gilded modernism,” with Japanese Kamakura-period gold and silver leaf influence, on display at Patrick Guyton Gallery (413 E Hyman Ave), while House of Hart (426 E Main St) painter Hallie Hart takes a deep dive into abstract expressionism.
Stay safe at home
There’s nothing wrong with settling in fireside with a good book and a mug of tea (may we recommend one from Basalt-based Two Leaves and a Bud?). To that end, Aspen Words (aspenwords.org) has moved its popular Winter Words author series online. Upcoming virtual events include playwright and novelist Ayad Akhtar in conversation with Washington Post book critic Ron Charles (Jan 13) and poet Billy Collins speaking with poet and theologian Pádraig Ó Tuama (April 13).