Downtown valet service characterized as ‘elitist’ by Aspen’s elected officials

Calling it too elitist to have parking spaces reserved for valet parking at the base of the gondola in downtown Aspen, elected officials want to park the operation somewhere else.

“It had a huge insulting factor to locals,” City Councilwoman Rachel Richards said earlier this week in a work session. “It was like separating the rich from the poor, and here you are going skiing and those rich people have something they can afford that you can’t.”

Last season, four spots were reserved on the south end of Hunter Street for the city’s contractor, Ameristar Parking Solutions, to valet cars in the Rio Grande parking garage across town.

It was an experiment and the spots were taken all of Christmas week, and then on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays during the season, said Mitch Osur, the city’s director of parking and downtown services.

“We did it because there was no parking by the gondola on a busy day,” he said.

On average, between 20 and 30 people — mostly tourists — paid $40 a day to have their car parked for them, according to Osur.

“I call it a win,” Osur said, adding those drivers would have driven around the core looking for a space, creating traffic congestion, and 20 to 30 spaces were freed up.

That might have been well and good, but the appearances of it didn’t sit well with locals.

“That is something I heard more complaints about than anything else in this community,” Richards said.

Councilwoman Ann Mullins agreed that reserving spaces in prime real estate in downtown Aspen sent a bad message.

“I wish it was someplace else that it wasn’t quite in your face,” she said. “It’s this equity thing.”

Mayor Torre said Thursday that he wasn’t on council last year when the decision was made but if he was, he wouldn’t have supported it.

“I question the equitability and ethic of that,” he said.

Torre, Richards and Mullins said they would support reserved valet parking somewhere else.

Osur was directed to look for alternative spots and will notify the valet company that things are in flux as they were planning to start Dec. 21.

“We need to have a discussion sooner or later,” he said.

The daily and nighttime valet operation will remain where it has been in the past, in front of the Caribou Club on Hopkins Avenue.