Fall is our favorite: For those in the know, the ‘golden season’ is Aspen and Snowmass at their best
Gold leaves and colorful foliage. A multitude of biking and hiking trails with less users. More peace and quiet.
These are just a few of the standard aspects of fall in the Aspen-Snowmass area, a more colorful time of year and traditional “offseason” for locals as they begin to prepare for the winter ahead.
But this year, as more people are working remotely and education for many has shifted online due to the coronavirus pandemic, there’s been more of a push for fall visitors to come and enjoy the mellower, sort of secret “golden” season the Roaring Fork Valley has to offer.
“It certainly is a quieter time,” said Sara Stookey Sanchez of Snowmass Tourism. She went on to say that fall usually isn’t as much of an offseason as spring here, but that it does allow people to do more of their favorite summer activities with more solitude.
“The weather is great and it’s an awesome place to come visit, even for the day or the afternoon if you want to be outside but you want to be away from larger crowds.”
Typically, Sanchez said Snowmass Tourism has done a lot to promote September and early October as a continuation of summer, which is when events like the JAS Labor Day Experience, Cidermass, Septemberfest, the Snowmass Balloon Festival and mountain bike competitions have taken place in years past.
This year, the village tourism department has had to make “shift happen” as most of the big September events besides the balloon fest were canceled and strict social distancing requirements are still in place.
That’s why the town has debuted a fall-specific marketing campaign geared toward visitation to Snowmass this fall, anchoring on Snowmass and the entire Roaring Fork Valley’s designation as an International Mountain Biking Association (IMBA) Gold Ride Center with catch phrases like “Ride gold-level trails among the gold-colored leaves” and “Fall for Snowmass this fall.”
The town also is continuing to push out its “Love a Local” campaign, which aims to drive more people to shop at village businesses and boost the local economy during the COVID-19 crisis.
Both Aspen and Basalt chambers of commerce are putting out similar fall messaging.
But it isn’t just local tourism officials that are marketing the golden season a little differently this year. The Colorado Tourism Office has launched its first-ever fall campaign focused on resident travel and tourism, encouraging Coloradans to explore their own state.
The integrated marketing campaign includes advertising, public relations and social media efforts to inspire and educate state residents and visitors while on the road this fall.
“Our collective goal is to spur Coloradans’ interest in exploring both urban and rural adventures to drive recovery,” the Colorado Tourism Office website states. “At the same time, we’re encouraging our visitors to travel responsibly, both to address new impacts on public lands and to protect everyone’s health and safety.”
Like the state tourism office, the Aspen Chamber of Commerce also is ensuring Aspen area visitors know what to expect when they get here in regards to COVID-19 mitigation regulations and requirements in place and good parks and trails etiquette.
Eliza Voss said that while the Aspen chamber refers to spring as the area’s “secret season,” she thinks fall is a locals’ favorite and offers a lot for residents and visitors, too.
“There is a little bit lower volume of visitation and the weather has been historically reliable in terms of crisp, cool mornings and bluebird skies for hiking and enjoying the outdoors,” Voss said. “We have the Maroon Bells and leaf peeping around Independence Pass and our respective valleys. All of that is a draw for people to the area.”
Voss said that the Aspen Chamber of Commerce has been pushing out messaging around the IMBA Gold Level Ride Center status, and has worked to encourage weekday visitation, as weekends are typically busier with weddings and other events, and especially now with more remote learning and working in place.
Kris Mattera, executive director of the Basalt Chamber of Commerce, expressed similar thoughts, saying that her team has worked with other area tourism officials to sort of “extend the summer season” into fall this year since people can still drive to the valley and travel via driving has been more popular amid the pandemic.
On top of mountain biking, hiking and leaf peeping, Mattera also said the Basalt chamber encourages people to take advantage of fly-fishing the Fryingpan River this fall, which she described as “on point” this time of year. And if fishing isn’t your thing, there’s always the sort of pumpkin scavenger hunt up the Fryingpan River valley to enjoy — an informal search for the small pumpkins left by the “pumpkin fairy” in all sorts of places along the river road, Mattera said.
Like Voss and Sanchez, Mattera said she feels fall is great time to slow down and continue to enjoy all of the summer activities the Roaring Fork Valley has to offer, and a beautiful time of year to visit.
“There’s just a lot more breathing room I would say in terms of what you can go out and do, and just this relaxed atmosphere that comes with it,” Mattera said. “In general, no matter what year it is, summer is this opportunity to try to cram everything in that you want to do and I think fall is like this nice kind of ease into the colder season. We all tend to slow down a little bit, and I think especially with this year there’s that need to slow down, take it all in, enjoy where we live and make the most out of it.”
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Just in time for Halloween, the Pitkin County Board of Health voted 4-2 to reduce the size of informal gatherings from 10 to five for at least the next two weeks starting Friday. According to the public health director, officials are currently investigating 11 outbreaks in Pitkin County.