| AspenTimes.com

Too much tourism or just right in the Roaring Fork Valley? Residents can weigh in

A family enjoys a scoop of local ice cream on Midland Ave. in Basalt on Wednesday, October 20, 2021. (Kelsey Brunner/The Aspen Times)

Residents and business operators from Aspen to Glenwood Springs have an opportunity this month to comment on whether the surge of tourism the past two years has been a good or bad thing, or a mix.

The chambers of commerce in the five Roaring Fork Valley towns are conducting surveys that seek extensive feedback on tourism impacts.

The tourism organizations of Carbondale, Basalt, Glenwood Springs, Aspen and Snowmass Village were selected to participate in the Colorado Tourism Office’s Restart Destinations Program, designed to help plan for recovery from COVID-19 pandemic and long-term economic resiliency.

Kris Mattera, executive director of the Basalt Chamber of Commerce, said the survey results will help the various tourist organizations plan strategies, individually and potentially collectively.

“I think it helps dictate where we go from here,” Mattera said. “That’s why I think the questions are so blunt. We really want to get a litmus test on how people are feeling about the level we’re at.”

The Basalt Chamber sent an email to people on its list Oct. 14 that provided links to the surveys. One survey is directed at Basalt-area residents and the other to business owners and operators.

The questions indeed are blunt. One section in the resident survey asks respondents to rate statements from strongly agree to strongly disagree. One statement says, “Overcrowding by tourists is spoiling our natural resources.”

Another statement says, “The quality of public services has improved due to the tourism industry in Basalt.”

Other statements include, “The growth of tourism is causing prices to rise, making things less affordable for residents.” Again, respondents are urged to indicate whether they strongly disagree, disagree, are neutral, agree or strongly agree.

The Basalt Chamber is urging people to fill out the survey by Oct. 31 so the results can be tabulated and directions charted. If people feel tourism is too overwhelming right now, the chamber will definitely take that into account, Mattera said.

“We are stewards of this community and we take that responsibility very highly and we’re not going to put us in a direction the community doesn’t want us to go,” she said.

Mattera said the chamber’s philosophy has always been about building a sustainable economy.

“I think what we’re looking at is continuing to head in the direction of being very smart about how we promote our area and surrounding trails, mountains and other outdoor rec amenities in a way that still benefits our businesses in the long run,” she said. “We really want to accommodate that homegrown approach of how do we continue to get our businesses to whatever the next level is for them that’s in sustainable fashion.”

After taking a hit early in the COVID-19 pandemic, Basalt’s economy has surged. Sales in July 2021 were up 24% compared to what was a very strong July 2020. Year-to-date through July, sales tax collections were up 18.7% from the same period in 2020.

The Basalt Chamber of Commerce doesn’t undertake extensive tourism marketing, especially when compared to other towns in the Roaring Fork Valley. The Basalt Chamber receives 1% of the town’s 4% lodging tax. In 2019, that produced $76,133 for the chamber. The funds were used for marketing.

The link for the Basalt-area residents survey is surveymonkey.com/r/8G5Q9LM.

Other tourism bureaus in the valley have embraced the tourism impact surveys with varying levels of gusto. Carbondale Tourism alerted people on its email list about the survey opportunity on Sept. 30.

Spokeswoman Sarah-Jane Johnson said the surveys are part of a groundbreaking Colorado Tourism Office program that the Roaring Fork Valley towns were selected to participate in. As part of the bigger program the CTO will provide the valley’s tourism organizations will each receive a recovery assessment, a full-day planning session, 75 hours of technical assistance and $10,000 of direct marketing support.

Residents of Carbondale can find the survey at surveymonkey.com/r/27FMYKD.

Glenwood Springs residents can go to SurveyMonkey.com/r/2B3KDKN.

Aspen Chamber Resort Association provided a link to the business owner stakeholder survey in its most recent newsletter. It previously sought opinions in a similar Resident Sentiment Survey. Snowmass Tourism said residents who want to fill out the survey can do at surveymonkey.com/r/WDZKJB5.

A separate stakeholder survey for business owners and operators throughout the valley can be found at surveymonkey.com/r/GN6J86G.


Kudos and Kindness (Dec. 6, 2020)

A reflection for the holidays

We have a new rule in our house. I can’t start the day discussing politics or the pandemic. I can’t begin with strife if I am to view the rising of the sun like the rising of hope.

What seems most clear to me right now is that we, the people living our lives right now, are not special. It is not our fate to live without suffering. Whether it’s slaves under Pharaoh, Africans chained in boats, Jews in WWII, Londoners during the Blitz, or Tutsi’s and Hutu’s in Rwanda, unimaginable suffering has happened through the ages.

We are no better or more special in some way that absolves us of the possibility of deep tragedy and suffering. There is nothing new going on here. If you are somehow lucky enough to be rich/connected/powerful in such a way that you are sheltered from the storm, that isn’t new either.

People paid others to take their place in the Civil War, people used connections to avoid Vietnam. My father in law, a great man died on Thanksgiving Day, stepped up and did his duty in Vietnam as a doctor. His job was to triage, to quickly assess who could be saved and who had to be left to die. Nurses and doctors in ICUs across the country are being asked to do the same right now. This is terrible and terrifying and sad, but it is not new.

Fear, anger and divisiveness are tightly connected, and amplified by the kind of circumstances in which we find ourselves. But I think instead of screaming at each other, we need to find our humanity and help each other. Like we teach our children at school, we need to ask ourselves, am I a stand-up person, or a stand-by person? We need to answer hate and fear with empathy and compassion if this is ever going to end.

We need to try and accept the unacceptable. Businesses won’t make it. People will die.

Here in Pitkin County, we have created our own color — Orange Plus. Orange Plus is probably not going to get it done. It’s a Hail Mary, a grasping effort to halt the inevitable. Or maybe, it will be just enough. Who am I to judge?

I do not believe in a cruel God, but I know there were people consigned to life in a wheelchair a week before the polio vaccine became available. There was a last man to die as Armistice was declared. Now, there will be businesses and people irrevocably damaged right before we get a solution to our current problem. Orange Plus is a last gasp effort to fight what might be inevitable, and sometimes we just can’t face that. It’s too much.

I personally don’t think we have that kind of power. Our collective belief in our ability to manipulate the swirling waters of life in our chosen direction is overstated. What am I being called to do? What is the next right step for me to take? Those questions, and the ability to reach out a helping hand are things I can control.

Outcomes? Not so much. My fervent hope for this holiday season is that we can all find ways to help and support each other, with the sure knowledge that we are all trying to be our best selves.

Bettina Slusar



Students gain support from Pathfinders

We live in an incredible community and since COVID-19 began we have witnessed an extraordinary effort by so many people to keep us safe, to keep us fed, and to keep us healthy, both physically and mentally.

This year, we have called on Allison Daily and Pathfinders to support our staff as they navigated the angst of Covid, and the feelings of loss that are so pervasive. Pathfinders is also working with us to support our students as they wrestle with the loss of their “normal” social & academic experiences. Allison Daily and Pathfinders have been a saving grace for many in this community for a long time; Allison has personally comforted our students and staff in times of crisis and grief. She is our “go-to” person (along with her stellar staff) when someone in our AHS family has suffered a loss or been given a terrible diagnosis. We are forever grateful to have an organization like Pathfinders in our Valley.

We are now in the thick of the holidays, and for so many people in our community these holidays will be harder than the celebrations of previous years. Thankfully, Pathfinders will be there to lend support to those who need it. Please reach out to Pathfinders if you or someone you know is struggling. And, if you can give to Pathfinders in some way, it will only strengthen our already incredible community.

With gratitude …

Sarah Strassburger, principal

Becky Oliver, assistant principal

Aspen High School


Congrats to winning photographers

Roaring Fork Conservancy would like to publicly thank all the photographers who participated in Roaring Fork Conservancy’s 16th Annual Roaring Fork Watershed Photo Contest. We would also like to thank Jordan Curet, John Newbury and Shannon Outing — three local, professional photographers who served as volunteer judges. Here are the winners:

Professional Division, Roaring Fork Watershed category: Riparian Bird by Dale Armstrong

Professional Division, Enjoying the Watershed category: Roaring Fork Eagle by Travis Newcomb

Amateur Division, Roaring Fork Watershed category: Blue Heron Over Roaring Fork River by Paul Hilts

Amateur Division, Enjoying the Watershed category: Serenity With My Sister by Eryn Barker

People’s Choice Award (via popular vote on Facebook): Blue Heron Over Roaring Fork River by Paul Hilts

Roaring Fork Conservancy provided an illustrated map of the Roaring Fork Watershed as prizes for all the winners. Winning photographs can be seen at http://www.roaringfork.org/news.

Rick Lofaro

Executive director, Roaring Fork Conservancy