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Vail Valley’s Welcome Home second-home owners program making progress

Even after its launch in May, Jeremy Rietmann is a little surprised his late-night idea has caught on in the valley.

Reitmann, Gypsum’s town manager, thought up an idea that became the valley’s Welcome Home program in a flash of late-night inspiration. The idea is to invite second-home owners to come to the Vail Valley for a season instead of a week or two, thereby helping reinvigorate the local economy. The owners, in turn, have a chance to get away from the cities where most live, and out into a more relaxed environment.

The Vail Valley Partnership and local real estate companies latched onto the idea and have been promoting it. More advertising and outreach is coming this summer.

So far, the results have been promising.

Flying in, staying longer

The Vail Valley Jet Center is the Eagle County Regional Airport’s hub for private jets.

There, general manager Paul Gordon said he’s seen business starting to come back. Like most valley businesses, April was a tough month at the Jet Center, with business down nearly 80% from the previous year. Through June, business is at about 80% of the normal rate, Gordon said.

Traffic may be down, but Gordon said much of that is due to people coming for longer stays.

As part of the effort to attract visitors, Gordon said the Jet Center has gone all-in on cleanliness. NetJets, one of the leading subscription services for private jets, has a program to ensure that aircraft are cleaned before and after every use.

On the ground in Gypsum, Gordon said the Jet Center has its own cleaning program. Pilots, passengers and employees are all required to wear masks in the facility.

This time of year, a number of second-home owners play a good bit of golf in the valley — a sport that’s easily adapted to social distancing.

At the Eagle Springs Golf Course, a private club just east of Wolcott, Mike Steiner said play at the course isn’t up from last year, but added the facility is more busy than expected.

Members are wearing masks and giving each other plenty of space, Steiner said. No large gatherings are being held, and everyone who crosses the covered bridge over the Eagle River into the club has to have his or her temperature checked.

Steiner added that he expects people to stay a little longer into the fall this year, perhaps due to longer stays in second homes.

No problem with capacity

While it appears that more people are staying a little longer on their visits, there’s plenty of room for everyone.

Vail Valley Partnership President and CEO Chris Romer said the community, especially in the resort areas, is built for its busiest time.

“We’re prepared for as many second-home owners who want to home here,” Romer said. “Our carrying capacity is much larger than our population.

Romer said early feedback from the program is positive, and the effort’s “natural ambassadors,” including property managers, real estate agents, nonprofit groups and others, are enthusiastic about welcoming second-home owners to the valley.

The Welcome Home website has had more than 1,000 visits so far, fueled entirely by word of mouth.

In addition to reaching out to current owners — those who have already invested in the community — Slifer Smith & Frampton Real Estate President and employing broker John Pfeiffer said that company is seeing a lot of business from people who want to become part of the community.

“A lot of our owners are here now,” Pfeiffer said. “But we’re having near-record weeks for this time of year.

“People have realized they can work remotely,” Pfeiffer added. “What was once a two-week second-home local is becoming someone who’s here for months, or permanently.”

Pfeiffer added that people coming for a season, or more, “bring more sense of community.” More people enjoying the valley will add to that, he said.

And, with the loss of many of the valley’s traditional events, Pfeiffer said people are finding new, more socially distant, activities.

“People are having to learn a new valley,” Pfeiffer said. “There’s a lot more than just the normal events.”

Vail Daily Business Editor Scott Miller can be reached at smiller@vaildaily.com.

Glenwood Springs Community Center closes temporarily after employee tests positive for COVID-19

The Glenwood Springs Community Center will be closed Monday after an employee tested positive for COVID-19 on Sunday.

City Manager Debra Figueroa said Garfield County Public Health was notified Sunday and is conducting contact tracing to determine who might else have been exposed. The employee who tested positive checks people in for pool laps and had been off for a couple of days, but was tested Sunday at Valley View Hospital after becoming symptomatic. She said she did not believe the employee was symptomatic before taking time off.

“We did have a COVID-19 social distance plan in place that we followed,” she said. “I think we have to wait and work with public health tomorrow (to know more).”

In the meantime, other city employees who worked with the individual were being contacted by the city Sunday night. Any city employees in need of testing or time off to self-quarantine will be covered under city policy.

“We have a policy where sick time will be covered for quarantine,” Figueroa said. “We have to work through the process to figure out who needs to be tested.”

This isn’t the first such positive result which required a facility to close or partially close since Glenwood Springs began to reopen in late May. Last week, the Sopris Cafe at Iron Mountain Hot Springs closed temporarily after two employees tested positive. Figueroa said that the potential for similar incidences will likely exist for the near-future — and serve as a reminder of the importance of social distancing, wearing a face covering and generally limiting one’s exposure.

“We can all try to be as safe as we can but we all have to realize that COVID-19 is still out in the community and we need to be careful to protect our loved ones,” she said.

Figueroa said more information should be available Monday, but that anyone with questions in the meantime should contact Garfield County Public Health at 970-945-6614.


Have you started investing for your future?

Financial Advisor Brian Thomas, of Edward Jones in Aspen.
Financial Advisor Brian Thomas, of Edward Jones in Aspen.

About 42 percent of Americans between the ages of 18 and 29 don’t have a retirement savings account, and research shows that nearly 40% of Americans couldn’t come up with $500 in cash without selling assets or taking out a loan.

Financial Advisor Brian Thomas, of Edward Jones in Aspen, wants to help young professionals and business owners in the Roaring Fork Valley buck these trends. 

Thomas grew up visiting Aspen with his family on ski trips. After he finished graduate school and picked up a master’s degree in finance from The Ohio State University, he knew this was where he wanted to end up. But his goals are much greater than just living here to enjoy the lifestyle. 

“This job gives me an opportunity to become a member of my community by helping individuals and businesses plan for their future,” he said. “I want to partner with clients throughout their life stages to achieve their goals — building these lifelong relationships with my clients is really important to me.”

Here are the three types of clients in the Roaring Fork Valley that Thomas is particularly excited about helping. 

Young professionals

Young people in Aspen and throughout the valley often make sacrifices in order to live here. Those who work jobs in the hospitality and service industries also face drastic seasonal shifts in earning potential.

“Unfortunately in this valley, there are a lot of hurdles to being able to live and work here sustainably. You have to create a budget for yourself and understand your long-term goals,” Thomas said. “A lot of people don’t budget, and that’s a great place to start.”

The first step when Thomas meets with young clients is understanding what their long-term goals are. Too many people don’t think about where they’d like to be in 10, 20 or 30 years, he said. 

Once those goals are identified, it’s time to create a more rigid budget to help clients understand what they can spend on discretionary items and what they could be saving. 

“You want to be able to spend the money you earn and have fun, but it’s so much more advantageous to save small amounts when you’re young rather than play catch-up when you’re 40,” he said. “It might not be fun to put $100 a month into a Roth IRA when you’re in your 20s, but you’ll thank yourself and the power of compound interest 30 years from now.”

Are you ready for an investing strategy?

Brain Thomas, Financial Advisor at Edward Jones, wants to help Roaring Fork Valley individuals and businesses develop customized savings strategies. If you’re not sure where to begin, Thomas can help. 

Email brian.thomas@edwardjones.com for more information or visit www.edwardjones.com/brian-thomas.

Parents who want save for children’s education

Student loan debt is a major hurdle for young people in America. Instead of contributing to a 401K or a Roth IRA, many people are spending $500 to $1,000 a month on their student loan payments with no money leftover for savings. 

“It can really affect individuals for quite a long time post-graduation,” Thomas said. “One of the greatest gifts you can give to your children is financial freedom after college.”

He believes strongly in 529 plans, which are tax-advantaged savings plans for future education costs. The money in the account grows tax-free and there are no penalties as long as the funds are used for qualified education expenses. 

“I love to work with young families and bring value to their lives,” Thomas said. “I want to understand what’s important to my clients and create customized strategies for them, and 529 plans are a really great option for parents.”

Business owners

The strong core of small businesses in Aspen and the Roaring Fork Valley are major drivers of the local economy. Thomas wants to help those people create sustainable, long-term businesses that don’t just help the business owners, but also their employees. 

Business owners who offer some sort of retirement savings plan have greater employee retention and satisfaction, Thomas said. And that leads to greater economic good for the community and better quality of life. 

“It can be tough to get retirement solutions through smaller businesses, but I can help set those up,” Thomas said. “I want to help businesses help their employees save for retirement.”

What’s the Big Deal: Snowmass ranch sells for $7.2 million

“What’s the Big Deal?” runs Mondays and is based on the week’s most expensive property transaction recorded in the Pitkin County Clerk and Recorder’s Office.

Price: $7.2 million

Date recorded: July 2

Address: 7850 and 7848 Snowmass Creek Rd.

Subdivision: Perry Christensen

Buyer: CH4 Aspen Ranch LLC

Seller: Henry Ranch I LLC/Henry Ranch III LLC

Property type: Single-family residential

Year built: 2000, actual; 2000, effective

Total heated area: 2,504 square feet

Lot size: 46.6 acres

Assessor’s office actual value: $2.9 million

Assessor’s office assessed value: $207,350

Business briefs: July 6, 2020

Aspen Meadows goes 100% clean energy

Aspen Meadows Resort is switching to 100% clean electricity, which means a 59% reduction in carbon emissions from the campus’s electricity usage, officials announced recently.

The Aspen Institute’s Energy and Environment Program and its Green Team already have implemented a recycling program and adhere to the principles of the slow food movement with a focus on sustainable and local ingredients. In addition, the hotel’s main conference facility was designed and built with the environment in mind and is LEED Gold certified.

“Now, we’re broadening those strokes and lowering our carbon footprint as a whole by switching to using 100 percent clean electricity for our resort campus,” vice president for Aspen campus facilities and operations Richard Stettner said. “We know that the climate crisis will not wait for a more convenient time, so it’s imperative that we move forward in making changes that will benefit our employees, guests, community, and planet by reducing our greenhouse gas emissions.”

The resort worked with Holy Cross Energy to purchase 100% clean electricity including wind, solar, and hydro generated in Colorado.

Poss Architecture celebrates 44 years in Aspen

Poss Architecture + Planning and Interior Design is celebrating its 44th anniversary this month, coming off a number of honors in the past year.

Poss received the 2019 Business of the Year Award from Aspen Chamber Resort Association and was voted the first runner-up for best architecture firm in Colorado by ColoradoBiz magazine. Other notable awards include the 2019 Best Architecture and Interior Design Firm in Aspen by The Aspen Times’ Reader’s Choice magazine and the 2019 Legacy Award by Mountain Living magazine.

Founded in 1976 by Bill Poss, the Aspen-based firm has become an award-winning, nationally recognized firm that specializes in mountain-modern, high-end residences, luxury resorts, hospitality properties and mixed-use architecture.

“Great businesses are carefully nurtured by incorporating the vision of talented employees, the challenge of complex projects and a supportive environment for individuals to put their unique abilities to work,” states Bill Poss, Founder of Poss Architecture + Planning and Interior Design. “This organization is not just an Aspen design firm I started in 1976, it is a culture of collaboration and a dedicated team I like to call family. I am incredibly grateful for the opportunity to provide service and employment for the Roaring Fork Valley.”

Poss has led more than 350 projects in its history and currently employs 31 people between offices in Aspen and Carbondale.

Alpine Area Agency on Aging reveals new name, brand

The Alpine Area Agency on Aging, which provides services to older Coloradans in the mountains, is changing its name to Vintage, the organization announced last week.

Vintage serves Pitkin, Eagle, Grand, Jackson and Summit counties and helps with transportation, dental and vision assistance, options counseling, nutrition programs, caregiver support, respite services, evidence-based health programs, volunteerism and educational programs.

“Our brand at its core is still the same,” Vintage director Erin Fisher said in a news release. “We are excited to continue to serve older adults throughout this time and be able to share a brand that reflects our commitment to older adults in mountain communities. This is a time of rebirth for the world, and this is our time of rebirth as well.”

For more information and their services for older adults, go to yourvintage.org.

We’re Open: Sol Studio Aspen

Business name: Sol Studio Aspen

Address: 630 E. Hyman Unit 202, Aspen, CO 81611

Phone: 970-404-1606

Web: www.solstudioaspen.com

Email: jacqueline@solaspen.com

Instagram: @solstudioaspen

Aspen Times: How have you gotten creative during this time? What have you done to keep your customers engaged?

Sol Studio Aspen: We had to close the physical studio just after opening but most of our clients were open to Zoom sessions. We got creative with people who do not have their own equipment and used props like kitchen counters, couches, chairs and dish towels. It was fun and challenging to find new ways to move and engage with clients.

AT: What’s the most important thing the community can do to support you?

SSA: Come move with us! The studio is private, meaning one client and one teacher at a time. We are cleaning, using UV air filters and taking every precaution to stay safe!

AT: Where can we find your most current offerings and updates?

SSA: Our website has the most comprehensive information: www.solstudioaspen.com.

AT: What has been the best customer experience or comment you’ve had since the crisis started?

SSA: I think the appreciation for the privacy has been the main thing. Our studio is private and set up for your privacy and health in mind all of the time, but especially now it makes sense to have a space all to yourself.

Theatre Aspen summer events are highlighted by major Broadway stars

From six-time Tony winner Audra McDonald to local favorite Beth Malone, Theatre Aspen’s “All for One” summer season is taking shape with Monday’s announcement of the Celebrity Concert Series lineup starting later this month and as well as other productions.

As the company works around the new realities of the pandemic, Theatre Aspen producing director Jed Bernstein said they have adjusted to the reality of a different summer but put together a lineup that upholds the town’s reputation and the company’s three-plus decade history.

In addition to McDonald and Malone, the concert series, which starts July 27, will include well-known Broadway stars Carolee Carmello, a three-time Tony Award nominee, and Kelli O’Hara, who also is an Emmy Award nominee.

“Aspen is certainly famous, between the Ideas Festival and Music School Festival, for attracting world-class intellect and performing talent,” he said late last week. “And this concert series lineup is every bit in that same category.”

There will be two shows each night from Malone (July 27) and Carmello (Aug. 3) and the Aug. 10 and 11 shows with McDonald and O’Hara (switching time spots).

“I’m really proud, as there were a lot of obstacles, of course, that we’ve been able to put together not just a ‘nice to have’ season but a really interesting season,” Bernstein said. “It’s not the one that we maybe would have planned, but it’s certainly one to be proud of.”

The season also includes consecutive weekends for the Summer Cabaret Series; an old fashioned-style radio show performed onstage; the Theatre Aspen Education program, which will perform the Disney shows “Beauty and the Beast,” “Frozen Jr.” and the “The Lion King”; and the second year of the Solo Flights, which is a festival of one-person shows (Sept. 1 to 7). For more information and tickets, go to theatreaspen.org.

Nearly all of the shows will be performed in a modified Hurst Theatre Tent near Rio Grande Park. To comply with rules around the COVID-19 pandemic, there will be less seating, and the sides of the tent, when weather permits, will be opened up to all for better airflow and a bit of an outdoor feel, he said.

“It also will allow us to have multiple entrances, to avoid crowding situations there,” he said.

All the shows will be one act with no intermission, he said, so there won’t be the chance for crowds to gather. The theater will be cleaned multiple times a day, masks are required to enter and leave, and hand sanitizer will be readily available.

The Cabaret Series, which is in its third year and traditionally performed at Aspen restaurants, will move to the tent where there will be a cabaret-style setup inside with small tables spaced around the venue.

The Cabaret Series opens July 30 to Aug. 1 with “From Alone to Aspen.” Bernstein says the show is “a tongue-in-cheek tribute to everybody’s quarantine experience.” It will include songs about how people are adjusting to the new, new reality.

The next weekend will be “Don’t Stop Believing: The Best of the Theatre Aspen Songbook.” He said they are working to get it narrowed down to the top 15 or 20 songs, “but there are a lot of them to choose from over the decades, so we may just stay and sing all night.”

New this year is the performance of a radio show, and he chose the Judy Garland classic “Meet Me in St. Louis: A Live Radio Play,” which is about the Smith family just before the 1904 World’s Fair in St. Louis.

Bernstein, who lives near Buttermilk Ski Area, said he is hoping the “All for One” season will be in the spirit of the graduation events that came together for the Aspen High School seniors at the Buttermilk parking lot.

“It wasn’t just the ‘OK, this is the best we can do for high school graduation.’ But it was more like, ‘Wow, this is really cool,’” he said. “And I think we have a shot to get to the ‘it’s really cool’ level.”

Pandemic prompts Aspen couple to start E-bike business

Like many people in Aspen and across the country, the COVID-19 pandemic forced Derek and Ryan Attema to reassess their lives.

The restaurants where the longtime Aspen locals worked shut down in March and the couple found themselves home alone with nothing but time — and wine — to contemplate their future.

“We were forced not to work,” Derek said in a recent interview outside their Hunter Creek apartment. “So the timing was perfect.”

Perfect, that is, to execute their plan for Silver City Cycles — an E-bike rental business idea the couple had been kicking around since a trip to Europe four years ago.

“We were thinking all winter about doing it,” Derek said. “Then COVID hit.”

Four months later, Silver City Cycles is one of Aspen’s newest businesses, complete with 10 superfly, motorcycle-style E-bikes and a mobile workshop and trailer to deliver bikes to waiting customers.

“(During the lockdown), we did take the time to evaluate what was important to us,” Ryan said. “We loved our restaurant jobs, but the whole thing changed us, too.”

The couple — who got married last fall after nine years together — first experienced the wonders of E-bikes about four years ago during a trip to visit Derek’s parents, who were living in Basel, Switzerland, at the time.

“Everyone there has E-bikes,” Derek said. “We went to France, Germany and Switzerland for breakfast, lunch and dinner. It was such a fun experience just cruising around all day.”

Not long after, Derek was back in Aspen folding napkins at a local sushi restaurant and getting ready for another shift waiting tables when he saw a chopper-style bicycle roll by the front window. A motorcycle aficionado, he said he remembered thinking how difficult it would be to pedal such a contraption and wondered if it was possible to convert one to an E-bike.

So he tracked down a chopper bike frame, stripped it, bought an E-bike conversion kit and spent the next couple years perfecting the design. He said he also noticed the reaction he’d get riding the bike around Aspen, not to mention the ear-to-ear smiles people wore after he let them take it for a test ride.

“I got such a big response from everybody,” he said. “People would ask, ‘Where can I get one?’ I said, ‘I think I have something here.’”

E-bikes are great because they can be ridden on trails — with the exception of single-tracks ­­— on paved roads, dirt roads and just about anywhere bicycles can go, he said.

“They look a little intimidating at first, but then you get on and people are like, ‘OK, this is great,’” Ryan said. “I’m kind of a goofy bike rider — I’m not very coordinated — and I feel totally comfortable on them.”

In addition, E-bikes are totally green and quiet — as opposed to motorcycles and mopeds, she said. They also provide the added benefit of a bit of exercise, Derek said.

“With E-bikes, they say you pedal 60% less and ride 600% more,” he said. “You get in better shape because you use them all the time.”

Fast-forward to the pandemic shut-down, when the Silver City Cycles business plan came into focus.

The couple leveraged their solid credit and bought a mini school bus that Derek converted into a mobile workshop, a trailer and 10 E-bikes they ordered from manufacturers that Derek built up. They also put a website together and a Facebook page and have debuted their new business just in time for the Fourth of July weekend.

“We’re open for business starting this week,” he said.

The E-bikes Derek and Ryan settled on are more like motorcycles than traditional bikes in that the rider is set back from the pedals, the handlebars are more upright and the fat-tire bike itself is lower to the ground. The different setup works because unlike traditional bikes where the rider is situated over the pedals so body weight can propel the bike, the electric motor takes care of most of the momentum, he said.

“They have a more comfortable feel,” Derek said. “It’s like you’re on a La-Z-Boy or a couch. They’re real head-turners.”

The bikes cost $100 to rent for four hours, or a half-day, and $130 for a full day. Multi-day rentals also are available. More information and online booking is available at silvercitycycles.com, as well as Silver City Cycles’ Facebook page. In addition, because the business is totally mobile, the bikes can be delivered to hotels or rental condos and picked up there, as well.

“I always felt like I had to sacrifice a career to live here,” Derek said. “Now, for the first time, I’m able to do something I’m really passionate about.”


Lottery for new Aspen apartments to be held Wednesday

Almost 200 people will be in a lottery this week for nine new deed-restricted apartments on Main Street.

The lottery for the units at 802 W. Main St. will occur at noon Wednesday via Zoom, according to the Aspen-Pitkin County Housing Authority.

There are 122 people signed up for the category 2 units and 46 signed up for the category 3 units. There are a total of 10 apartments — five one-bedrooms at category 2 and five one-bedroom units at category 3.

However, the city of Aspen provided a previous tenant of the complex prior to the redevelopment of the property a priority for one of the units so only four units are available for the category 3 lottery.

Two lotteries will be held Wednesday. The list of names has been put in alphabetical order and each individual has been assigned a number. A ping pong ball with each number will be placed in the lottery drum and APCHA will draw one ball at a time and announce that number, according to Cindy Christensen, deputy director of the agency.

APCHA will select 25 balls in each lottery. The first lottery will be the category 3 units, followed by category 2. In between the first and second lottery, APCHA will replace the 25 balls that have been pulled and add the additional numbered balls from 47 to 122.

The top five people for the category 2 units and top four people for the category 3 units will be contacted immediately after the lottery. They will be provided a deadline to submit all required paperwork. If they do not meet the deadline or do not qualify, APCHA will notify the next individual on the list. The individuals will be able to pick units in the order their numbers were pulled.

The list of potential tenants will be posted on APCHA’s website by category, as well as information on how to log onto the Zoom meeting.

Apartments are available to those who make as much as $65,750 and $100,600 a year for a one-person household. The income limits change as the number of people who live in the household grows. Monthly rent for category 2 apartments is $1,112 and $1,576 for a category 3 unit.

The Main Street apartments are one of three projects that private developer Aspen Housing Partners is doing as a public-private partnership with the city of Aspen.

The others, located at 517 Park Circle and 488 Castle Creek Road, are expected be completed in the fall.

The Park Circle complex will generate 11 apartments, seven of which are one-bedroom units and four two-bedrooms. The Castle Creek building will have 23 units, 14 of which are one-bedrooms and 10 are two-bedrooms.

Combined, they bring 45 new apartments into the inventory, which addresses a need for low-income housing.

The city bought the three parcels, along with what is now the Harbert Lumberyard property near the Aspen Business Center, in the mid 2000s as part of a land banking effort for future affordable housing.

The public-private partnership consists of the city leasing the land to Aspen Housing Partners, as well as serving as the construction lender for the developments.

Combined, the construction loans amount to around $9 million.

The city’s financing gets paid back within three months of when the units are occupied.

Aspen Housing Partners owns the buildings on the land for 15 years and if the city wants to buy them at that time, it can exercise that right.

Otherwise, Aspen Housing Partners owns the buildings in perpetuity and the city can exercise its right to buy every 15 years.


Slideshow: Aspen, Snowmass make best of Fourth of July during a pandemic

Things were a little different Saturday as far as Fourth of July celebrations go in Aspen and Snowmass Village. Even without Aspen’s Old Fashioned parade, fireworks and the Snowmass community celebration, visitors and locals made the best of it.

The holiday weekend brought out the biggest crowds around the Roaring Fork Valley since the area shutdown in mid-March because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Instead of meeting up for the traditional Snowmass community celebration and concert, the Ice Cream Anti-Social rolled through the streets and neighborhoods throughout the village.

In Aspen, parks and restaurants remained busy throughout the day despite no parade and no official events taking place.