Sure, the cliché is true that the holiday season in Aspen bring traffic jams of private jets and celebrity paparazzi along with the Dom Perignon and man-fur crowd.
But it also brings some reminders that remains Aspen, at heart, the small town it’s always been. Among them is the sweet and intimate Holiday Cookie Exchange at the Aspen Historical Society’s Wheeler/Stallard Museum.
This is the yearly community get-together where you’re invited to bring a plate of cookies — a dozen or more — and set them down and share them, while you do a taste test of everybody else’s batches as ski season kicks off and the town fills up for winter.
The Christmas cookie swap has been accompanied in some years by book signings or a big exhibit opening (like last year’s eye-opening one on Herbert Bayer and the Bauhaus in Aspen, which remains on display and runs through April). This year, the party includes caroling with the beloved longtime local pianist and Crystal Palace alumnus David Dyer.
The scene in this historic Victorian home-turned-museum, with locals and seasonal Aspenites sipping mulled wine and singing, is reminiscent of the end of “It’s a Wonderful Life” where everybody in Bedford Falls joins in to sing “Auld Lang Syne.”
The Historical Society’s winter tours started operating for the season on Dec. 6.
The robust offerings include a new interactive “Fireside Chats” series, which runs on Fridays through April at the Little Nell at 10 a.m. Coinciding with the Nell’s 30th anniversary, the program brings Historical Society staff to the lobby to fill in tourists and locals on the neighborhood’s mining and skiing history, along with the origins of the Nell ($15 or free for Nell guests).
The 2019-20 slate of tours includes the Historic Pub Crawl (Thursdays at 3:30 p.m., $20), the archive tour (Dec. 17, Jan. 21, Feb. 18 and March 17, free), a Hotel Jerome tour (Tuesdays and Thursdays at 1:30 p.m., $15/free for guests) and the Wheeler Opera House tour (Wednesdays, 1:30 p.m., free).
On the mountain, the historical society is reviving its free ski tours at Aspen Highlands (Mondays 11 a.m. and 1 p.m.) and Aspen Mountain (Fridays, 11 a.m. and 1 p.m.). These guided ski days from volunteer ambassadors include the history of skiing in Aspen, from the boat tow at Ajax to the mavericks of Highlands.
The popular “Snow Screw” demonstrations this winter will run on Feb. 20 and March 19 at the base of Buttermilk, showing off a recently restored 1930s-era Aspen-made snow machine in action.
This season includes two History on Tap programs, beginning Monday, Dec. 16, with “Magic in Snowmass” with the locally based illusionist Doc Eason at the Collective Snowmass ($10 to $15) and followed by a presentation on ski history by historian Duane Vandenbusche on March 19 ($10 to $15).
And throughout 2020, the Historical Society will commemorate the centennial of women’s suffrage in the U.S. through its Time Travel Tuesdays series, culminating with a performance of the opera “The Mother of Us All” at the Wheeler Opera House on March 3 by the University of Northern Colorado Theatre Department.
Teddy Bear Story Hour at the Wheeler/Stallard Museum (Dec. 23 and 24); Aspen History 101 and “Aspen Extreme” screening (Jan. 9); History Lessons with Larry Fredrick (Jan. 16, Feb. 20, March 19); History On Stage in Snowmass at The Collective (Jan. 19, Feb. 16, March 15) and the Retro Film Series at the Limelight Hotel (Feb. 13, March 12, April 9).