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Father Christmas of Redstone

Memories of the Crystal River Valley's Legendary Santa Claus, Bob Stifter

Christmas in Redstone is nothing short of magical. To walk along the village’s boulevard in December feels like stepping into a merry snowglobe, or a storybook illustration. An essential part of Redstone’s famous holiday festivities, for many years running, was resident Bob Stifter’s treasured portrayal of Santa Claus. 

“He was just the best,” says Bob’s son, Craig Stifter. “He would sit for hours, entertaining the families who came to visit during the holidays. He absolutely loved being with kids—they brought the biggest smile to his face.” 

The Stifter family has had ties to the valley since 1958 when, as a young college student, Bob first visited Aspen and fell in love with the burgeoning ski town. He married his wife Patricia, an artist, and raised his family in Chicago, but could never seem to get Colorado off his mind. Eventually, he saved enough money working multiple jobs to buy a second home in Aspen in the 1960s. The family visited every year throughout Craig’s childhood, in both winter and summer.

Decades later, in 1999, empty-nesters Bob and Patricia packed up and fulfilled their longstanding dream of living full-time in Colorado. They purchased a home in Redstone and never looked back.

“Right away my dad joined the community association and became very involved with the town,” Craig says. “And in 2001, he thought it would be fun to play Santa for the local kids at Christmas. Then for years afterward he just kept going.”

Patricia purchased a Santa suit for Bob, and added her own details to make it extra special. She dressed her husband with extra padding around the middle—for that “bowl full of jelly” look—and decked him out in a curly white wig and full makeup. Fortunately, Craig says, his father already had the natural beard to go with it.

“He kind of looked like Santa Claus already. He had a white beard, and was ‘jolly’ and fun-loving. He had a kind of spark,” Craig remembers fondly. 

Bob would kick off the holiday season with a stroll down Redstone Boulevard during the annual Grand Illumination tree-lighting event, and then retire to the town’s old museum to sit and greet children. In later years, he also appeared at the Redstone Inn and expanded Santa’s visiting hours to include every Saturday between Thanksgiving and Christmas.

Bob loved every minute.

Once he was in the suit, “We couldn’t get him out of there!” Patricia recalls.

By 2015 however, Bob’s health had declined significantly, and Redstone lost its beloved Santa Claus. As of yet, no one has been able to fill his shiny black boots.

“My dad was often called a pillar of the community,” Craig says. “He was recognized many times by the community association for his contributions, and he was loved by many, many people.”

Today, Craig carries on his father’s legacy as the owner of Tiffany of Redstone, the vintage goods shop on the boulevard. Bob worked every day in the store for 15 years before his passing, and visitors still drop in to talk about his impact on the town.

“The town isn’t incorporated, but people will joke and call him the ‘mayor’ of Redstone,” Craig says. “And sometimes younger adults tell me about how they remember seeing my dad as Santa Claus every year while they were growing up. It means a lot to know how much he meant to them.”

There are hundreds, if not thousands, of local kids who sat upon Santa's knee in Redstone over the years. If a life well-lived could be measured by the number of Christmas wishes entrusted to oneself by adoring children, Bob Stifter easily lived one of the best around. He is remembered and loved by his family and the greater community throughout the year, but especially at Christmastime.