Aspen Wintersköl kicked off its annual four-day celebration on Jan. 10 during the Helen K. Klanderud Wintersköl Awards Luncheon. The event is named in honor of the former Aspen mayor, champion of health and human services and active participant on the Aspen Chamber Resort Association Board.

ACRA honors businesses each year during the luncheon, including the Business of the Year, Non Profit of the Year, the Defy Ordinary Award Winner, and the Molly Campbell Service Award Winner. Campbell spent 26 years on the board of Stay Aspen Snowmass, and twice served as the chairwoman of the Board of Directors for ACRA, according to a press release. She was instrumental in passing the first lodging tax that benefited local marketing efforts.

This year’s award winners were: Rick Balentine, Aspen Fire Chief/CEO; Tom Yoder, Kemo Sabe; WE-cycle and Limelight Hotel Aspen.

Molly Campbell Service Award —

Rick Balentine, Aspen Fire Chief and CEO

“Balentine was honored with the Molly Campbell Service Award for his courage, bravery and selfless contributions to Aspen,” according to the statement.

He came to Aspen to ski for a winter and the summer convinced him to live here full time, it continued. After 24 years as a volunteer for the Aspen Fire Department, Balentine in 2014 was appointed Fire Chief and CEO by the board of directors.

In addition to helping fight structure fires, “the department provides wildfire suppression and assessments, swift water rescue, hazardous material mitigation, motor vehicle and aircraft accidents technical rope and confined space rescue, fire education and prevention, as well as medical response and many other services as needed to deal with any and all threats to life and property,” according to the release.

In the wake of last summer’s Lake Christine Fire outside Basalt, Balentine stated, “You train for the worst and hope for the best. In this particular case, I’m very proud of our firefighters and everybody we worked with.”

Defy Ordinary Award — Tom Yoder

The owner of Kemo Sabe, the Aspen store he opened in 1993, Tom Yoder “is a master at making the customer feel important and conducts business the Cowboy — and Cowgirl way,” according to the chamber’s release.

“When you’ve been around for over 25 years and have traveled a lot of back roads and made thousands of mistakes, you can become great at whatever it is you do,” it continued.

Yoder is also not one to sweat the small stuff.

“His foundation consists of over-the-top customer service combined with a passion for the American West, building relationships along with showing respect. He shares ideas and is committed to providing exceptional customer service,” it was noted.

2018 Nonprofit of the Year —


Six years ago a husband and wife team chose to be a part of the solution and “what started as a small plan to offer alternative transportation to Aspen residents at a small fee has now grown to connect residents of Basalt and El Jebel, offer free rides to all users, provide RFTA bus stations with additional accessibility, and actively work to engage our Spanish speaking community to ensure accessibility,” it stated.

Since its 2013 inception, WE-Cycle has grown 529 percent while keeping operating costs down and making progress toward its and the community’s goals, according to the release.

2018 Business of the Year —

Limelight Aspen

“A staple in downtown Aspen since the 1950’s, this business has changed hands a few times, but has continued to remain a local brand that embodies the mind, body, and spirit of Aspen, and now carries that message beyond our city limits,” according to the chamber’s statement.

The Limelight’s contributions to nonprofits and support for local event space and emergency shelter to Response victims and the Lake Christine firefighters were recognized. So too were “the coordinated boiler systems and climate-controlled heating, almost zero disposable plastic use, and low capacity water systems.”

The hotel’s customer service “runs top down, with all employees, including executives, offering service with a smile.”