The man who has meant so much to Aspen for so long received a fitting tribute Monday afternoon.
Hundreds of people packed the Hotel Jerome ballroom for Klaus Obermeyer’s 100th birthday party. Women showered him with kisses. Men gave hearty handshakes. Tons of people took selfies with Obermeyer, one of the original ski instructors on Aspen Mountain after he arrived in 1947, inventor of numerous pieces of ski gear and founder of skiwear manufacturer Sport Obermeyer.
A Bavarian band, alpenhorns and all, set the mood with music. German food, beer and, of course, apple strudel with whipped cream was served.
Aspen Mayor Torre designated Dec. 2 Klaus Obermeyer Day. Klaus’ son Wally Obermeyer gave a touching homage.
The man of the hour unleashed a righteous yodel and wore a sash saying “Klaus 100 years young.”
“There’s something about you, Dad, when you walk in the room you light it up,” Wally said in his short speech.
Klaus has hosted small birthday parties for years, sometimes at Aspen Mountain but mostly at his company’s headquarters at the Aspen Business Center. But the special birthday required a special location.
The party started with a private gathering at 1 p.m. There were lots of nice touches, like scores of postcard-type historic photos such as Klaus skiing powder on Aspen Mountain in 1958 lining the tables and patches and baseball hats that said “Live Like Klaus.” There were posters of historic photos and video playing that highlighted Klaus through the decades.
When the man of honor arrived at 2:09, the bandleader announced, “Klaus is in the house” to an eruption of applause. The band then led singing of “Happy Birthday” in English and German. Klaus responded with two thumbs up.
After that, he was the constant center of attention at a party that opened to the public at 3 p.m. and continued until 5.
One of the more stirring moments was when Klaus and Wally took to a small stage and thanked everyone for attending. The audience included everyone from longtime friends from throughout the Roaring Fork Valley to representatives of companies that supply materials to Sport Obermeyer to relatives from Germany. Former employees reunited for the special occasion.
“It’s like a blast from the past with the design team,” Wally said.
Wally credited three major qualities to contributing to his dad’s longevity. One was having such wonderful people in his life. He singled out Nome Obermeyer, his stepmother and Klaus’ longtime wife.
Another characteristic is, “Being mission-minded instead of money-minded,” Wally said. Klaus often told him a person can only have one steak dinner at night.
The third quality is controlling your choice of perception. As everyone who knows Klaus or even meets him anew can attest, his outlook is always positive.
“Thank you on behalf of the entire community for the example you set,” Wally told his dad.
Klaus shared a couple of stories and repeated his frequent refrain that Aspen is the best ski town in the world. But clearly, he wanted to be off the stage and sitting at a table in the middle of the ballroom, where he could mingle with a steady stream of well-wishers.
Klaus previously has said his next goal is to reach 103 years of age, which will mark a century on skis.
“Aspen is great,” Klaus told the crowd on Monday. “And the downside of greatness is it’s hard to find a parking space. But everything worked well from the very beginning, and now look at all these nice people. Thank you for being here.”