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Ask Ashley O'Winter who the better skier is, she or her husband, Hughes, and you'll get a diplomatic answer. "It's technical. Alpine skiing, that's me," Ashley, a documentary producer and interior and event designer, explains. "But Hughes can telemark [an Alpine variation in which the skier's heel comes up] and snowboard, so it depends..." There's little doubt, though, that both of them can hold their own on the slopes.
Skiing is at the heart of the Denver-based couple's relationship, and it was their love of the sport that led them to each other: Ashley and her family were on a heli-skiing vacation at the art of 2011 in British Columbia, and Hughes was staying at the same resort. "My brother Hudson befriended him and introduced him as my ‘future fiancé,'" Ashley recalls. "Big brothers can be so embarrassing." But he was onto something. She kept bumping into Hughes around the lodge, "and I became smitten." The feeling was mutual.
After several months of distance while Ashley finished college in Chicago, she moved to Denver to be with Hughes, who works for his family's ski-and-snowboard business. In April 2015, Hughes proposed during an adventure-filled vacation in New Zealand and Australia. Before they'd departed, Ashley's sister Lyndsay, a jewelry designer, had helped him create the ring. His first thought was moonstone, but "Ashley's a bit of a bull in a china shop," Hughes says a affectionately. "So we decided on a sturdier colored diamond." He presented her with the ring and a romantic letter when they were midway through a mountain-biking excursion, and, true to form, Ashley had banged up her legs. "I was bloody and messy, but so excited," she recalls.
The pair quickly settled on a winter wedding in Aspen, Colorado. "It holds a special place in our hearts because, growing up, we both took trips there with our families," says Hughes. They made the most of the location, planning a day of backcountry skiing for friends and family early in the week, and a rehearsal dinner in a remote wooded spot that guests could get to by ski or sleigh. "I think Hughes even took a couple of runs on our wedding day," laughs Ashley.
On March 19, 2016, 145 guests gathered on the rooftop of the Aspen Art Museum just before sunset to watch the couple exchange vows again the background of Aspen Mountain's snow-covered slopes. The party that followed lasted until the early hours of the morning, but, Ashley says, they still managed to make it to brunch at the base of the mountain the next day—"dressed in our ski gear, of course."
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For their first look, Hughes O'Winter took a gondola to the top of Aspen Mountain, where his bride-to-be Ashley Sands was waiting. Picturesque scenery was around every turn, with the snowcapped Rockies as a backdrop for much of the festivities.
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Ashley's sister Courtney officiated the ceremony. "She's a beautiful writer, and she's been my rock," says the bride, who wore a wedding dress by Tara LaTour, with dotted point-d'espirit lace that reminded her of snow, and a Dennis Basso white fur cape. The groom donned a jacket by Samuelsohn and pants by Ermenegildo Zegna.
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The Bridal Party
Lane Compton (Hughes's best friend and a groomsman), Lyndsay Caleo (Ashley's sister and bridesmaid), Thomas O'Winter (Hughes's brother and best man), and Maddy August (Ashley's best friend and maid-of-honor) struck a pose on the way to the reception.
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The Escort Card Display
The escort card table featured branches hung with golden monogrammed compasses—small circular pieces of paper inserted into compass lids directed guests to their seats.
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"We love our nieces and nephews, and they were all in the ceremony," says Ashley. "After everyone walked down the aisle, I wanted them to have a fun, cozy place to go, so we set up a teepee with big shearling pillows and toys on the floor." The couple also arranged an accessories table for the kids to pick pieces like necklaces, crowns, and scarves from beforehand. ("One of my nieces was way overaccessorized. It was an adorable free-for-all," says Ashley.) The kids also enjoyed a special dinner of teriyaki grilled chicken, edamame, and rice.
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Fun for the Little Ones
An inviting play area stocked with toys was set up for the couple's nieces and nephews.
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A Little Shutterbug
One niece snapped a pic with an Instax camera. The cameras were set out on the guest-book table so friends and family could leave photos alongside their well-wishes.
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Guests enjoyed cocktail hour on the museum's rooftop before moving indoors for a three-course dinner.
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During the reception, guests dined at tables named for characters from the couple's favorite book, The Little Prince. The fun-loving pair adore the story, says Ashley, "because it reminds us to live a little bigger, love a little better, and never grow up."
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Arrangements created from the same flora as the table garlands (with the addition of Italian ruscus) were suspended above the reception tables.
For the after-party, the group moved to Chefs Club at the St. Regis Aspen Resort, where guests played vintage games like Pac-Man and Skee-Ball in an arcade tent, took turns in the photo booth, and danced until 2 a.m. The couple took a horse-drawn "getaway carriage" from the reception to the after-party.
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Time to Dance
Ashley changed into her grandmother's circa-1947 wedding dress for dancing. The newlyweds chose Jay Z's "99 Problems" for their first dance song—but Hugo's folksy version instead of the original. "We wanted something fun to let loose to," Hughes says. "The band nailed it."
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The Wedding Cake
The three-tiered vanilla-bean cake featured lemon and coconut, and was decorated with olive leaves and seeded eucalyptus.
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Ceremony and dinner location, Aspen Art Museum
Party location and wedding cake, Chefs Club
Event design, Ashley Sands O'Winter
Event planning, Bella Event Design & Planning
Event décor, rentals, and lighting, Pink Monkey Solutions
Flowers, Aspen Branch Studio
Photography, Lacie Hansen
Cinematography, Aflātis Films
Stationery, Wouldn't It Be Lovely
Rentals, Borrowed Blu
Tent, heaters, and stage, Premier Party Rental
Bride's gown, Tara LaTour
Hair, Hair Artistry by Hilary
Makeup, Divine Beauty Artists
Horse and carriage, Aspen Carriage and Sleigh
Transportation, Corporate Transportation Specialists
Arcade, Mile High Arcade
Photo booth, Chipper Booth
Rehearsal-dinner location, Pine Creek Cookhouse
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