Pay the price to party on Independence Pass
I was glad to see that the Pitkin County commissioners and the USA Pro Challenge team were able to hammer out what looks to my novice eyes an excellent route to kick off the race in Aspen and Snowmass this year. It seems that the race has gotten better each year – except in one respect.
In 2011, I had the pleasure to take a drive to the top of Independence Pass and see the party that was taking place on the summit the day before the race. There was a great deal of enthusiasm for the event, to say the least. Cycling fans from all over the world lined the road, and a good time was had by all.
The following day, the crush of race fans was truly impressive, Tour de France-like. The scenery was spectacular, the mood was jubilant, and the coverage was international. Just what the community had hoped for. Sadly, the impact on the pass itself was judged to be too harsh, and no camping was allowed last year.
We need to bring Independence Pass camping back to the Pro Challenge. And I know just how to do it – the Independence Pass Pass. First, some rules, because you have to have rules.
• Car camping only! This should eliminate a good deal of the damage to the tundra up top.
• Camping in your assigned spot only.
Now how do we manage this system? First is the Independence Pass Pass itself. The pass should be a bright-orange and very large ticket made out of the same type of paper they make NASTAR bibs out of. Those who have a pass must affix it to the inside of the front windshield of their vehicle. This will make it easy for the Forest Service, the Colorado Department of Transpiration or the race committee to verify that those who are parked in restricted areas are holders of the Independence Pass Pass without so much as slowing down their cars.
CDOT, state police and the Independence Pass Foundation decide where and how many vehicles can camp at all the restricted areas along the route. Those spots will have to be marked and numbered using some environmentally friendly spray dye the day before. Access to said spots will be by raffle. For, say, $10 (Colorado residents) or $15 (anyone else), anyone can enter the raffle for a camping spot. The first winner drawn would have first choice of the prized spots and pay an additional fee for the camping spot itself. An RV spot in the summit area could easily go for $150 or more, a car spot for $50, with lower amounts for less desirable spots.
If 1,000 people enter at $10 per person, there’s $10,000 to get the ball rolling. If 200 spots are sold off at an average price of $50, there’s another $10,000. I think those are conservative numbers. What to do with the money? The majority would cover cost of the raffle, extra portapotties, man-hours for labeling spots, etc. Any dollars remaining would go to the Independence Pass Foundation.
Let’ face it: Camping, partying and going up the pass are all popular things to do here. Providing people with the chance to camp and party on the pass is the cool, fun, old-school Aspen thing to do. To make a few bucks off it at the same time is the modern necessity for the race and the pass itself.
Innkeeper, Annabelle Inn
President, Gems of Aspen
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