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Tips for social distancing on the Aspen trails amid coronavirus outbreak

Aspen Times Staff

Just before 9 a.m. on March 15 at the base of the Silver Queen Gondola, few people gathered to start their day on the Aspen Mountain slopes.

A few more were skinning up the Little Nell run. None were in line to get on the gondola, which wasn’t running after Gov. Jared Polis ordered the state’s downhill ski areas to close the night before.

“The governor decided he didn’t feel it was appropriate for us to continue to operate,” Mike Kaplan, Aspen Skiing Co. president and CEO, said Sunday morning. “We received final confirmation at 6:32 p.m. last night.”

The executive order issued by Gov. Polis directed Colorado ski resorts to close for one week “due to the presence of (COVID-19) in mountain communities with limited care capacity.”

Kaplan stood with a small group of Skico staff at the top of the stairs to the Silver Queen Gondola, talking with people who may have questions about the closure and how long it would be in place.

Though the lifts may be done spinning for the 2019-20 ski season, there’s still skiable snow on the mountains and some temperate spring skiing weather to come. The public health calls for social distancing and avoiding groups of people in recent days also have included encouragement to go outside and to exercise in order to stay active. Aspen is certainly good at that.

As public spaces closed and events and workplaces went virtual in the first days of the local outbreak and widespread social distancing, the mountains filled with uphillers and local trails also were packed with hikers.

Uphilling on Ajax, Snowmass, Buttermilk or Aspen Highlands is open and encouraged. Kaplan noted in a March 16 virtual community meeting that Skico would continue to do some very basic maintenance on the mountains to keep uphilling egresses and such optimal.

“From personal experience, I’d recommend you don’t go too early — it’ll be too icy,” Kaplan said. “And don’t go too late, because it’ll be too slushy. … Getting out and getting some exercise is important for all of us.”

Kaplan also encouraged skiers to be cautious, lest they require medical personnel on the mountain during this public health emergency.

To contain the spread of the new coronavirus, you must observe “social distancing” etiquette while hiking and skiing — stay at least 6 feet away from any of your outdoor partners and others.

Some ideas for ways to social distance in the mountains

* Uphill on Ajax, Snowmass, Buttermilk and Aspen Highlands
* Snowshoe up Independence Pass
* Fly-fish on the Roaring Fork and Fryingpan rivers
* Jog the mellow East of Aspen Trail and Rio Grande Trail
* Hike Smuggler Mountain and the Hunter Creek Loop
* Cross-country ski near Ashcroft and at the Aspen Cross Country Center


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