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Summer races give boost to towns east of Independence Pass

Andre Salvail
The Aspen Times

TWIN LAKES — While it was a typically crowded summer weekend in Aspen with hotel occupancies hovering around 60 to 70 percent, the city’s neighbors to the east were so busy they had to turn away visitors.

That’s mainly because a 50-mile mountain-bike race and a 50-mile race for runners on the weekend helped fill every hot bed Friday and Saturday night not only in host city Leadville but also Twin Lakes, Aspen’s closest neighbor to the east, 40 miles away on the other side of Independence Pass on Highway 82 and 22 miles south of Leadville.

James Dougherty, co-owner of the 11-room Twin Lakes Inn, said people were calling at midnight Saturday to see if there were any available rooms. He also owns A Wolf Den, a bed-and-breakfast in Twin Lakes.

“Our season starts once the pass opens around Memorial Day, and we’ve been busy,” he said. “I think the word is out that we renovated last year, and we’ve got the only restaurant in Twin Lakes. But this weekend, nothing was available in all of Twin Lakes, not the cabins, lodges or the bed and breakfasts.”

Spillover from Leadville had a lot to do with the crush on Twin Lakes. In Leadville, the Super 8 on the edge of the city, the historic Delaware Hotel downtown and even all of the cheaper highway-side motels were packed to the gills.

Hotel clerks repeated over and over to room-seekers they might be able to find something in Dillon, more than 35 miles away to the north, or Buena Vista, 35 miles to the south — tough sells to road-weary travelers.

The Delaware Hotel has 36 rooms. It’s busy all summer, but the weekends are especially packed because of events such as the race series and people hiking Mount Elbert, according to a front-desk clerk who said he didn’t want his name printed in the newspaper. Even with the weekend races finished, no rooms were available Sunday evening, either.

The Super 8, normally considered an economy motel, was charging its guests $100 per night. Notes taped to the door there and at all the other lodging facilities said the same thing: “No vacancy.”

A big crowd turned out Saturday night to the Scarlet Tavern on Leadville’s main drag, Harrison Avenue, for the earthy sounds of funky jam band Leadville Cherokee. Less than a block away, a clerk at the Kum & Go convenience store was so busy she had no time to make coffee — all four industrial containers had been drained during the afternoon.

Mona Robertson, a Boulder resident, was hanging out at the Scarlet with friends Saturday who had competed in the mountain-bike race, a qualifier for a 100-mile test that will be held in August.

“Leadville in the summer — it’s hip, laid-back and pretty cheap — as long as you can book a room in advance,” she said. “It’s got a different vibe from the other summer resort places. I like coming here.”

As another patron noted, 50-cent servings of Pabst Blue Ribbon on tap and live music for no cover charge are tough to beat.

asalvail@aspentimes.com


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