It costs how much!!! |

It costs how much!!!

Tim Mutrie

As gasoline prices continue to skyrocket across the nation, consumers in Aspen and throughout the valley are paying handsomely to fill their tanks.

“I think the prices are ridiculous,” Bettina Ringsby said yesterday afternoon as she filled her Isuzu Trooper at Main Street Gas in Aspen (Amoco).

“I’m filling up with the ultimate at $2.39 a gallon,” the Snowmass Village resident continued. “Can you believe that?”

After pumping slightly more than 19 gallons of high-test fuel into her rig, the bill topped $45.

“I don’t drive very much, only when I need to,” she sighed. “But I have two young kids, so I do need it.”

Nationally, rising fuel costs have been attributed to increased oil costs, pipeline problems, short supplies, cleaner fuel requirements as well as patent disputes, to name a few industry scapegoats. But the economic intricacies that factor into the per-gallon prices at the pumps are lost on most valley drivers.

“It just sucks,” said Judith Ann Metzger, a vocalist with the Music School who was pumping just a few dollars’ worth of gas into her sedan yesterday at the Aspen Store (Texaco) on Main Street.

“I’m from the Cincinnati Conservatory and when we left to come out here, gas was $1.80. And, of course, the summer when I take a big road trip, the gas prices are higher than they’ve ever been. It’s killing me.”

Most service stations throughout the valley contacted Tuesday agreed that the current gas prices have reached an all-time high for the valley. And, they noted, the summer is only beginning.

“We’ve never broken two dollars before, even when we were all full service,” said Mike McLarry, owner of the Conoco in Snowmass Village.

The station broke the $2 threshold about three weeks ago, and yesterday, McLarry was selling a gallon of regular unleaded for $2.179.

“It’s been going up steadily – by about two or three cents a day,” he said. All you’ve got to do is look in the national papers. It’s crazy.”

“Most gas station owners are just as pissed off as anyone else,” said Tony Brevetti, co-owner of the Old Snowmass Conoco station.

Yesterday, Brevetti was selling a gallon of regular unleaded for $1.999.

Station owners make the same amount per gallon regardless of the price per gallon, Brevetti explained. “And to compound it all, people aren’t buying as much gas.”

According to the American Automobile Association, the average price for a gallon of regular unleaded was selling for $1.622 in Denver yesterday, up from $1.473 from a month ago. In the valley, gas typically sells for about 20 to 40 cents more than in Denver, Brevetti said.

“It’s typical of everything in the valley – that’s the way it is,” he said. “The funny part is – and I can’t explain it – when I was selling gas for a $1.40 and say it was a $1.20 in Glenwood, people were comfortable with that. But now, with the same spread, people aren’t buying from me because they see that two dollar figure, even though the spread, percentage-wise, is less than it was before. I think it’s sticker shock.”

The cheapest gallon of regular unleaded in the valley was selling for $1.739 at Bradley Petroleum (Sinclair) on Grand Avenue in Glenwood Springs, a record-high price for the station which typically boasts the lowest prices locally.

Mike Haisfield, manger of Main Street Gas (Amoco) in Aspen and the Aspen Store (Texaco), said his two stations were selling regular unleaded for $2.189 and $2.209 per gallon, respectively.

“It’s the highest price we’ve ever charged,” Haisfield said.

Haisfield explained that the higher prices at upvalley pumps can be attributed to the cost of trucking in the fuel charged by distributors, as well as the higher cost of operating a business in Aspen.

“Really, it’s not our fault,” he grimaced yesterday afternoon.

“And we’re selling less gas, and it hurts us,” Haisfield continued. “Everybody’s waiting to get downvalley before they fill up, even though it’s expensive downvalley, too.”

Haisfield noted that the two Aspen gas stations offer a locals discount of 5 cents a gallon, though customers must mention it to the clerk before their purchase is rung up.

The general manager of the Roaring Fork Transit Agency, the valley’s bus service, noted yesterday that ridership has been steadily climbing this spring.

“We think the fuel prices may be having an impact on our increasing ridership,” Dan Blankenship said.

“Everybody knows it’s getting expensive everywhere in the country,” Haisfield said. “They understand it, but nobody likes it and customers always mention it. Chicago is higher – that’s what I keep telling everyone.”

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