No evidence found that hotels hogging reservations to Maroon Bells |

No evidence found that hotels hogging reservations to Maroon Bells

Parking reservations for scenic area snatched quickly; shuttle seats still available

Visitors to the Maroon Bells area wait for a RFTA bus. Reservations are suggested for the shuttle.
Anna Stonehouse/The Aspen Times archive

There is no evidence that Aspen and Snowmass Village hotel concierges are hogging reservations for access to the Maroon Bells, officials with Pitkin County and the U.S. Forest Service insist.

The reservation system for this summer went online April 11. By April 18 there were 9,083 reservations made for parking for private vehicles and 937 reservations for seats on shuttles, according to Brian Pettet, Pitkin County public works director.

The parking reservations represented 91% of the capacity for the season, he said. The shuttle reservations represented only 9% of the capacity on Roaring Fork Transportation Authority buses.

The contractor handling the reservation system was asked by the county to study if large blocks of reservations were being made by commercial entities.

“They did drill into the data more, and to the best of our determinations, there were no bulk reservations taking place,” Pettet said. “Basically what it showed was individuals were making reservations and there weren’t any commercial reservations being made through the data collected to date.”

The reservation system was implemented in summer 2020 and carried over to summer 2021 to promote social distancing and limiting overall visitors as COVID-19 precautions. It was continued this year as a tool to help control numbers.

Some local residents frustrated by the lack of reservations have speculated that hotel concierges were snaring reservations for their guests through the summer. Commissioner Patti Clapper asked at a meeting two weeks ago for an exam of the reservations to make sure everyone had equal opportunity for access to the popular Maroon Bells area. At that time, she noted some locals felt commercial entities had an advantage in snaring reservations. She thanked Pettet for having the data checked.

“I think that clarifies a lot of questions the board may have had,” she said Wednesday.

Over the past three years, Forest Service officials have consistently said they don’t see evidence of commercial entities gobbling reservations.

“We really don’t think it is happening,” White River National Forest spokesman David Boyd told The Aspen Times earlier this month. “The contractor is able to check for bulk reservations and is just not seeing it, this year or last year.”

The reservation pattern this year does confirm other suspicions.

“We love our cars, right? And we want to take them whenever we can,” Commissioner Kelly McNicholas Kury said.

The county and its partners might want to consider additional incentives to get people on the shuttles and out of their vehicles, she said. One incentive could be opening the bus reservations prior to the parking reservations, she suggested.

Pettet said a recreation master plan that is in the works would examine all types of access and use issues at the Maroon Bells Scenic Area and recommendation adjustments. Pitkin County, the Forest Service and partners are hiring the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Volpe National Transportation Systems Center to conduct the master plan. The county commissioners gave final approval Wednesday to helping fund the effort.

Pettet said Volpe Center officials would seek public input on access and use of the Maroon Bells Scenic Area at a meeting from 4 to 7 p.m. June 9. The meeting will be held at the Pitkin County commissioners meeting room. More details will be released closer to the meeting.


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