Times Colonist

Pre­cau­tions help Aspen re­main a des­ti­na­tion dur­ing pan­demic

- JOHN MAR­SHALL Travel · Infectious Diseases · Health Conditions · Colorado · Aspen · Snowmass, Colorado

ASPEN, Colorado — March is Aspen’s mon­ey­mak­ing sea­son, as spring break­ers and fam­i­lies head to the moun­tains to ski.

When the coro­n­avirus pan­demic hit, all four Aspen/ Snow­mass ski moun­tains shut down, along with nearly ev­ery­thing else in the alpine town, which banks on tourism dol­lars.

Then a funny thing hap­pened: As peo­ple be­came ac­cus­tomed to life in masks and be­gan ven­tur­ing out more, Aspen again be­came a des­ti­na­tion.

The small town made peo­ple feel safer than big, crowded cities. Out­door ac­tiv­i­ties are Aspen’s call­ing card, and the moun­tains were a per­fect place to es­cape the dol­drums of months-long lock­downs.

Pre­cau­tions by lo­cal gov­ern­ment and busi­nesses — and the con­sci­en­tious­ness of nearly every­one in town — added a layer of com­fort.

“Aspen and all the other moun­tain towns in Colorado ac­tu­ally did re­ally well be­cause peo­ple want to get out of the metropoli­tan ar­eas and get to the clean air of the moun­tains,” said Bar­clay Dodge, chef and owner of Bosq restau­rant in down­town Aspen. “The town was thriv­ing and, sur­pris­ingly, it thrived in a safe man­ner.”

Aspen is known as an out­door mecca, from hik­ing, bik­ing and raft­ing in the warm months to ski­ing and snow­shoe­ing in the win­ter. As the pan­demic wore on and health of­fi­cials be­gan en­cour­ag­ing peo­ple to get out and ex­er­cise, the town be­came a pop­u­lar spot once again.

Since Aspen has just three ICU beds, res­i­dents and the town were ex­tra cau­tious with the coro­n­avirus. As re­stric­tions started be­ing lifted in Colorado around the end of May, lo­cal busi­nesses took a proac­tive ap­proach to safety.

Aspen in­sti­tuted an in­door mask man­date in late April and cre­ated a manda­tory mask zone in most of down­town in July. Signs were placed all over down­town to alert lo­cals and tourists to the man­date and en­cour­age so­cial dis­tanc­ing.

Se­cu­rity per­son­nel and vol­un­teers gently re­mind peo­ple to wear their masks, and con­fronta­tions have been rare. Hik­ers pull up their masks when cross­ing paths on the trails.

Busi­nesses put lim­its on the num­ber of cus­tomers al­lowed in at a time, of­ten with an em­ployee at the front door to keep track.

Tick­ets for the gon­dola at Aspen Moun­tain can be pur­chased on­line and scanned in with a phone QR code. Only mem­bers of the same fam­ily are al­lowed to ride the gon­dola to­gether, and out­door eat­ing at the top of the moun­tain was ex­panded.

The Aspen Ski Com­pany said it will in­sti­tute nu­mer­ous new mea­sures this win­ter to keep skiers so­cially dis­tanced and safe.

“Ev­ery­thing other than the ski­ing will be dif­fer­ent,” said Jeff Hanle, vice-pres­i­dent of com­mu­ni­ca­tions for Aspen Snow­mass. “There’ll be some things that may make it more con­ve­nient and eas­ier to get up the moun­tain, in ad­di­tion to keep­ing your dis­tance and things.”

Ho­tels re­vamped their pro­ce­dures dur­ing the lock­down and in­tro­duced changes when they were al­lowed to have guests again.

Aspen Mead­ows Re­sort, on a sprawl­ing prop­erty above the Roar­ing Fork River, be­gan hav­ing its clean­ing staff leave san­i­tizer on all sur­faces in the rooms for at least 10 min­utes be­fore wip­ing, and cleaned bath­room ameni­ties. Most ev­ery­thing now must be sched­uled, in­clud­ing the pool, fit­ness cen­tre and room clean­ing, to en­sure so­cial dis­tanc­ing.

Break­fast is to-go only and reser­va­tions are nec­es­sary at the re­sort’s Plato’s Restau­rant. Masks are re­quired, and there are dirty and clean pen cups at the front desk.

“For those that love hos­pi­tal­ity, it re­ally was just an­other pivot to fig­ure out how to op­er­ate the busi­ness,” Aspen Mead­ows gen­eral man­ager Jud Hawk said. “It’s cer­tainly been one of the big­gest chal­lenges of my ca­reer.”

Restau­rants in Colorado were al­lowed to serve at 50% ca­pac­ity in late May.

Dodge in­stalled a new ven­ti­la­tion sys­tem in­side Bosq and, like many restau­rants in town, has an en­closed out­door seat­ing area.

Bosq does tem­per­a­ture checks at the door and san­i­tiz­ing on all shared sur­faces in­side. The restau­rant is build­ing an en­closed area for out­door din­ing for when it re­opens for the win­ter sea­son on Dec. 10.

“Win­ter brings on a whole other set of what — what’s around the cor­ner, is it go­ing to be great?” Dodge said. “We just don’t know.”

 ?? THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS ?? Tourists gather at the top of Aspen Moun­tain in Aspen, Colorado. Aspen has not seen much of a drop-off in vis­i­tors dur­ing the coro­n­avirus pan­demic be­cause of its nu­mer­ous pre­cau­tions in town and mul­ti­tude of out­door ac­tiv­i­ties.
THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS Tourists gather at the top of Aspen Moun­tain in Aspen, Colorado. Aspen has not seen much of a drop-off in vis­i­tors dur­ing the coro­n­avirus pan­demic be­cause of its nu­mer­ous pre­cau­tions in town and mul­ti­tude of out­door ac­tiv­i­ties.

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