Summer Tourism, Business Looking Good

Jul 15, 2014

A visitor asks questions about upcoming events at the Aspen visitor information kiosk.
Credit Elise Thatcher

If it feels busier in your town in the Roaring Fork Valley, that’s because in general this summer has been particularly bustling. Statistics from the National Forest Service to Chamber of Commerce organizations up and down the valley say there are more tourists, and business is up compared to years past.

A woman named Sue is surrounded by pamphlets, handouts, and posters. She’s holding down the fort with a colleague at the Visitor Information Kiosk, in downtown Aspen. Sue says this year feels different.

“We feel like it’s busy, a lot busier, and people are interested in doing more things, I think, when they’re here.”

Sue’s been helping out visitors at the booth for at least six years now,

“It just seems like this summer people are really wanting a lot of information. And looking at doing a lot when they’re here.”

Family events are in high demand says Sue, and there are many-- from ACES events to the Music Festival to hikes nearby. The Maroon Bells is a top one. There’s been some trail closures to prevent any moose encounters, but when it’s open there’s a lot of traffic.  The Fourth of July weekend was one of the busiest in recent years. Forest Service spokeswoman Martha Moran is with the White River National Forest.

“The revenue showed that as well, as well, as far as people going up and the parking was overflowing. We’re seeing record numbers of use levels, whether it’s up in Maroon Bells Scenic Area, our wilderness trails, our campgrounds are even real full early, and most of the time.”

The numbers are still coming in when tallying the official numbers on tourists spending the night the Upper Valley. A spokesman for the lodging group Stay Aspen Snowmass said Friday that anecdotally there are slightly more people in Aspen this summer, but there are a lot of people staying in Snowmass Village than last year. Aspen Skiing Company is in the same boat. Ski Co runs summer activities on Aspen Mountain and Snowmass, and so far it’s too early in the season to gauge how well it’s going.

In Carbondale, the trend is clear enough to say that business is definitely up this summer, compared to recent years. Andrea Stewart is Executive Director of the Carbondale Chamber of Commerce.

“Both of our hotels have been, if not sold out, very close to selling out this season. Tourism is up and our lodging tax is up.

As anyone passing through Carbondale knows, there’s a big chunk of road construction going on. Even that doesn’t seem to be hurting business.

“So we are tracking close to 2007 numbers, 2008 was our prime and we’re not quite there. But it’s definitely up from 2010 to 2012.”

In Glenwood Springs, the climb back to pre-recession levels may be even farther along. Marianne Virgili is President and CEO of the Chamber of Commerce there.

“We are having a great summer. It’s so busy, if everything keeps going like this we’re gonna have a record breaking summer. We are going to back to our high level prerecession, and then some.”

Already a pleasant outcome for the year so far, with busy beginning of the summer coming on the heels of a bustling winter season.