Where else, after a full day of thigh-crushing skiing or snowboarding, can a mountain lover mingle with New York and Paris-based fashionistas while sipping Veuve Clicquot and watching supermodels strut the slopeside runway wearing new collections from iconic designers?
And "iconic" in this case is not an inflated term: Norwegian Helly Juell Hansen started designing oilskin jackets in 1877. Klaus Obermeyer, who turned 90 last December, has been making ski apparel in Aspen for 60 years. Marmot, one of the most authentic and innovative brands in the mountaineering world, opened its first store just down the road in Grand Junction in 1974. Norwegian Lasse Kjus, the visionary behind KJUS ski wear, owns a combined total of 16 Olympic and World Championship medals.
Together, these four companies have more than 200 years of experience designing and creating technical ski and mountain gear. Add Germany's Dannenmann, Italy's Parajumpers), Switzerland's Heidiskis, and many others, and Aspen Fashion Week is like a global summit for mountain style.
A recommendation: For this week only, get in the habit of drinking Red Bull or taking an après nap. Whether you ski, snowboard, or spend a day wandering the trunk shows for new brands, like L.A.-based Aether at the Gallerie or old classics like Wolverine at Tenet, or getting skincare tips from Juice Beauty at their tent at the base of the gondola, you've got to save some energy for the evening.
Events this year included a packed kickoff party sponsored by W magazine at the Dancing Bear Aspen, a swank private-residence club where fires roared on the second-story deck. On Tuesday, there was an in-store party at Ralph Lauren, where Lauren Bush debuted a 100-percent organic cotton and burlap tote she and partner Ellen Gustafson created to raise money for their FEED Foundation, which has provided 50 million school meals to kids worldwide through the UN World Food Program. Later on, John Forte of the Fugees played a FEED benefit concert at Belly Up, which was followed by Late Night at the Sky Hotel. And that was only Tuesday. By Thursday, members of the U.S. Ski Team, including Julia Mancuso, were in town.
"Aspen Fashion Week is a celebration of the winter lifestyle, from ski to après ski," says Lisa Johnson, the founder of the two-year-old event. "Where else do you get to see runway shows at the base of a beautiful mountain?"
And where else can you put it all in perspective from a man like Klaus Obermeyer, who learned how to ski in Bavaria at age three on boards made from orange crates? "The changes that have come about in this industry are phenomenal," Obermeyer told me at lunch as he took off his Obermeyer jacket made out of recycled plastic bottles. Or maybe the changes have come full circle.