The winter storm advisory in effect this weekend couldn’t come at a more appropriate time for Aspen.
While this tiny mountain hamlet might be increasingly known for the glitz and the glam, the culture and the nightlife, the parties and the fashion, at its core Aspen is still a ski town.
So amidst the soirees and fashion weeks, literature and film festivals and the gallery and museum openings, there is still just one festival that truly celebrates the season that made Aspen’s evolution from tiny mining town to bustling ski resort and cultural epicenter possible: Wintersköl.
“Wintersköl has been, and still is, a toast to winter,” says Aspen Chamber Resort Association special events manager Julie Hardman. “It’s about celebrating the mountains and the town we live in.”
Wintersköl got its start back in 1951 when a group of locals decided to combat the lull in business a few weeks after the holidays (when the lifts used to close) with a winter carnival, like those in European ski resorts. Jack DePagter, previous owner of the Holland House lodge, came up with events to entertain the locals and, perhaps, even draw in a few tourists. And thus Wintersköl was born.
More than six decades later, Wintersköl is a four-day event featuring tons of live music, snow-sculpting events, uphill and downhill races, fashion shows (of the canine variety), street fairs, a torchlight decent, and even a fireworks show over Aspen Mountain. And the best part? Most of the events are free.
“All of the events the Chamber hosts are free,” says Hardman. “Well, except the beer tent.”
One of the most anticipated events of Wintersköl is Soupsköl, a soup competition that pits locals chefs against one another, on Friday evening from 4-6 p.m. on the corner of Cooper Ave. and Hunter Street. Last Year’s winner, Ute City restaurant, hosted a special tasting of his winning soup on Thursday evening.
Each chef is required to make 30 gallons of soup, which can cost them each $500 or more, depending on the ingredients.
“It’s a great advertising tool though, so it’s worth the expense,” chef Clark Church, owner of Garnish Café in Snowmass, said last year of the event.
Fresh off the heels of 12 Days of Aspen, a nearly two-week holiday celebration culminating with New Year’s Eve fireworks, Hardman sees Wintersköl is somewhat of a continuation of that event.
“They both get a great mix of tourists and locals,” she says, “and are both celebrating everything that’s great about Aspen.”
Wintersköl Schedule Highlights
For complete schedule of events, visit www.aspenchamber.org/calendar-of-events/annual-special-events/winterskol... 
Friday, Jan. 11
All Day Anderson Ranch Arts Center’s “Wintersculpt.” Aspen Walking Malls
9:30 a.m. - 12:30 p.m. Anderson Ranch Arts Center’s “Kidsculpt.” Mill St. Mall (by McDonalds’).
9 a.m. - 5 p.m. Men’s Health & Women’s Health Village at Aspen Wintersköl. Aspen Mountain. Lounge with games, Internet café, prizes, spa services, beer and wine, and DJs.
10:30 a.m. - Noon Apple Strudel Downhill. Apple Strudel Trail. Aspen Highlands. Free to everyone!
2 - 4 p.m. AVSC Rail Jam. Wagner Park. Practice 1-2 p.m. / Competition 2-4 p.m.
4 - 6 p.m. Soupsköl, Aspen’s 10th Annual Soup Cook-Off. Cooper Ave. & Hunter Street.
5 - 7 p.m. Aspen Skating Club Wintersköl Skating Exhibition. Aspen Ice Garden. Free Admission. Public Skate 5-6 p.m. / Exhibition 6-7p.m.
8:00 p.m. Live Music: Andy Hackbarth
Wheeler Opera House. Free
10:00 p.m. Men’s and Women’s Health Snow Jam Concert featuring The Spazmatics. Belly Up Aspen. Cost: $25. www.bellyupaspen.com 
Saturday, Jan. 12
All Day Anderson Ranch Arts Center’s “Wintersculpt”. Aspen Walking Malls. Juding at 4 p.m., winner announced at 5 p.m. at CP Burger
9 a.m. - 5 p.m. Men’s Health & Women’s Health Village at Aspen Wintersköl. Aspen Mountain.
11:45 a.m. - 1:15 p.m. Wintersköl Public Skate. Lewis Ice Arena. Free admission. Aspen Recreation Center, 970-544-4100
Noon - 3:00 p.m. WinterFest. Cooper Avenue Mall. Clowns, face painters, jugglers, Aspen Kettle Corn and family fun! Free and open to everyone.
Noon - 1:00 p.m. Canine Fashion Show
Cooper Avenue Mall.
2 p.m. Live performance by the US Air Force Drum & Bugle Corps. Cooper Avenue Mall.
4 - 6 p.m. CP Burger Family Skating Party. Silver Circle Ice Rink. Free skating and rentals.
6 - 8 p.m. Aspen Valley Ski & Snowboard Club Nordic Bonfire Dinner. Aspen Cross Country Center. www.teamavsc.org 
6 - 7 p.m. Free Public Skate. Aspen Ice Garden. Free Admission.
8:15 p.m. Torchlight Descent. Little Nell, Aspen Mountain
8:30 p.m. Wintersköl Fireworks Extravaganza. Little Nell, Aspen Mountain
Sunday, Jan. 13
3:30 p.m. David Shrigley Snowman Building. Aspen Art Museum. Build a snowman with the 2012-2013 lift-ticket artist David Shrigley at this family workshop.