You may have noticed traffic jams and crowded streets in Aspen this summer. These are all anecdotes indicating the resort experienced a busy summer. But, the data proves it too. Aspen Public Radio’s Marci Krivonen reports.
You may have experienced headaches on your drive into Aspen this summer...as eastbound traffic piled up on Highway 82. Turns out, the number of cars heading in and out of town in June, July and August was up three-and-a-half percent over last year.
"Traffic is a symptom of the local economy and as the economy improves and there’s more employment, more jobs, more construction, more activity going on, then the traffic counts tend to relate that," says John Krueger, Director of Transportation for the City of Aspen.
He says traffic counts have been steadily rising since 2011 when the local economy was recovering from the recession.
This July, the average number of trips in and out of town was about 27,000 each day. The heaviest traffic day was July 3rd, when nearly 31,000 vehicles entered and then exited Aspen.
"That’s a lot of cars for a two lane road coming in and out of town," Krueger says.
Unlike Winter, when traffic is heaviest just in the morning and evening, in the summer, traffic picks up in the morning and stays busy until 6 o’clock at night.
Sewage flow is another way to gauge how many people are in town and the numbers are up over last year. Figures from the Aspen Consolidated Sanitation District show, on average, about 17,000 people were in town in July. That’s about 1000 people more than in the same month in 2013. June also showed a larger number of people in town than the year before.
When it comes to lodging, it’s a mixed bag. Bill Tomcich is President of the resort booking company, Stay Aspen Snowmass.
"When you combine Aspen and Snowmass together, there’s absolutely no question that overall occupancies were up considerably this summer versus last summer, boosted largely by some very significant increases in Snowmass Village," he says.
In July, hotels in Snowmass were 21 percent more full than the year before. Again, Tomcich.
"They’ve had a lot of special events and groups that have driven occupancies to some very peak levels, with a couple of the most notable events being Wanderlust over the July 4th weekend and then, coming up is Tough Mudder, which has completely sold out the entire village."
It’s a different story in Aspen, where hotel occupancy in July was down 5.6 percent from the year before. Tomcich says the decline could be due to an increase in the number of private residences, like condos, being rented out. One factor may be websites such as Airbnb.
"That’s something we’re really trying to get our hands around is to see whether or not there is a significant number of owners that suddenly have made friends through VRBO and/or Airbnb, and so those bookings could be counted as owner-occupied bookings," Tomcich says.
Overall he says things are moving in a positive direction for Aspen, Snowmass and the entire mountain resort industry. As for the upcoming ski season, Tomcich says early, advanced hotel bookings are generally higher than last year except during one of the resort’s busiest times: Christmas and New Year’s. He’s optimistic things will pick up as the holidays get closer.