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Challenge America stands united with veterans for September golf fundraiser

Challenge America’s programs include an entire initiative devoted to the design and manufacture of aids to daily living. (Photo Courtesy of Challenge America)
Challenge America’s programs include an entire initiative devoted to the design and manufacture of aids to daily living. (Photo Courtesy of Challenge America)

As the 20th anniversary of the catastrophic 9/11 attacks approaches, a local charity with a national mission hopes that valley residents will come together to help honor and support the sacrifices of veterans.

Challenge America, a broad-reaching veterans’ nonprofit, will host its inaugural Remembering 9/11 Memorial Weekend with a dinner, live auction and concert on Sept. 10th and a golf tournament Sept. 11, both at the Aspen Glen Club.  

It’s designed as a significant fundraiser for the innovative, Basalt-based organization, which has helped thousands of veterans in the U.S. with specialized resources and solutions that complement and enhance the lives of former service members.

Dallas Blaney, PhD, serves as executive director of the 501(3)c nonprofit. Blaney, himself a Navy veteran, came to the Roaring Fork Valley after a career in higher education, and said that September’s weekend of events – and its theme, Standing United – reflects Challenge America’s larger mission to give back to the veterans’ community.

“If there was ever a moment for Americans to show their resilience, that was it,” he said. “We all stood shoulder to shoulder on that terrible day twenty years ago, coming together to stand united as a people. Our event offers an opportunity to revive this feeling of unity and celebrate the brave men and women whose service and sacrifice keep us safe.” 

Unique programs provide support and help veterans heal

Challenge America’s programming takes a slightly different tack than the more than 40,000 other veterans’ organizations that have emerged in the U.S. in recent years. That itself is a remarkable number, Blaney notes, considering the lack of support and resources Vietnam-era veterans often experienced when they returned home from combat. 

The post-9/11 era, he said, has instead seen a flourishing of veteran service organizations. Founded in 2009, Challenge America has earned national recognition for its innovative efforts to address the unmet needs of Veterans and their families. For example, Challenge America partnered with the VA to develop products and programs to address the many challenges faced by injured veterans. That includes an entire initiative devoted to the design and manufacture of aids to daily living, as well as a one-of-a-kind art program created to offer a new avenue of expression and community connection for vets.  

“Our organization leverages technology and the creative arts to improve the lives of veterans and their families,” he said. “What we’re doing – well, no one else is doing that. And the feedback we’ve received is nothing but praise. Veterans tell us that we’ve totally transformed their lives, or that they’ve finally been able to sit down with someone who cares, listens and really incorporates them into their programs. It’s been a great way for vets to connect with one another and overcome the trauma of their military experience.”

To that end, Challenge America’s trademark programs include the Military Sisterhood Initiative, the largest peer-support network for female veterans in the country, serving more than 5,000 women in the U.S and 19 countries. 

The MSI is complemented by Challenge America’s Makers for Veterans, which has teamed injured veterans with entrepreneurs and inventors to come up with dozens of specialized tools and technological aids, ranging from more stabilized support canes to a virtual service dog app. During the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, Blaney said the organization also received a special request from the VA to create 50 products designed for first responders and essential workers, which produced new tools including a UV light decontamination system. 

Three valley locals and a veteran from Wisconsin have been training to summit Mt. Elbert on September 16 in support of Challenge America. (Photo Courtesy of Challenge America)
Three valley locals and a veteran from Wisconsin have been training to summit Mt. Elbert on September 16 in support of Challenge America. (Photo Courtesy of Challenge America)
Support Challenge America

Tickets and sponsorship opportunities for the Remembering 9/11 Memorial Weekend are still available and include dinner and a concert by New York’s Alan Harris Quintet, featuring the acclaimed jazz-soul vocalist and guitarist who has been called “the heir apparent to Nat King Cole.”

For more information on the fundraiser or to purchase tickets, visit the event webpage at 911golf.org or call 970-279-1323.  

Making an impact through art

But it is Challenge America’s Veteran Arts Community that might be having the longest-lasting impact, Blaney said. The organization has sponsored various artistic endeavors designed to provide an inclusive outlet for veterans, ranging from music therapy programs to this summer’s national veterans’ 9/11-themed art competition.

“The winner will have their art reproduced on postcards sent to 50,000 first responders, veterans and active-duty service members,” Blaney said. “Winners will also have their work displayed at the National Veterans Art Museum in Chicago.”

And if that’s not enough, Challenge America is also sponsoring four severely injured veterans to take part in its Mount Elbert Challenge on Sept. 15. Three valley locals and a veteran from Wisconsin have been training to tackle the Fourteener; an online Strava Club has been set up with a goal of having supporters climb 4,500 flights of stairs by the event date.   

Measuring up: Driving the travel economy by changing how – and what – we measure

Bookings in the end of March were up 1580% versus 2020, and up 58.5% versus pre-pandemic 2019.
Source: Inntopia Business Intelligence
INSIGHTS FROM ASPEN & SNOWMASS

Traditional tourism metrics may not help in 2021

Eliza Voss, vice president of destination marketing with the Aspen Chamber Resort Association, said that 2020’s unusual numbers will require some different metrics to predict this season’s tourist traffic.

“ACRA’s Destination Marketing and Snowmass Tourism’s efforts are partially funded by the lodging tax, so we have always looked at occupancy and average daily rate metrics,” she said. “Historically we have viewed these metrics as year over year measurements. Of course, this year, we need to look back 3 years to get a sense of where we are as compared to a pre-pandemic world.”

Voss said the booking window for many travelers is now much closer to their arrival date, so the ACRA will also see how continued flexible cancellation policies influence future booking patterns.

Additionally, factors such as the vaccination rates in top feeder markets or even the availability of flights from traditional tourist hometowns need to be looked at more closely, she explained. But those numbers don’t tell the entire story, she admitted.   

“Something a little outside of the ‘metrics and data’ box is measuring local sentiment, and the change in makeup of our communities with new residents, or part time residents spending more time here,” she said. “ACRA will dive into a destination management planning process in the summer of 2021, which will involve gaining insights into local sentiment so we can plan for what tourism should look like in our community for many years to come.”

A destination management plan is also critical to the community’s success as a sustainable destination, with flexibility being absolutely important to adapt to any future changes, she said.      

Snowmass looks to visitors who drive, versus fly

Rose Abello, director of Snowmass Tourism, said that a report outlining the origins and destinations of Aspen Airport travelers has traditionally been an important planning tool.

“This information helps us to geographically target the audiences we go after,” she said. “For example, our Phoenix flight not only serves the greater Phoenix population but also serves as a very important connection to key southern California cities.”

But Abello said last year’s drop in air traffic has prompted more marketing directed at car travel.  

“In 2020, as we watched the numbers of passengers going through TSA plummet, we expanded our ‘drive’ marketing efforts to include destinations within a 12-hour drive, especially targeting mountain bike enthusiasts with our IMBA Gold messaging,” she said. “Summer has always been a more important ‘drive market’ for us than winter and we will continue to assess that balance of spend between fly and drive markets as we see how 2021 evolves.”

Listen to the accompanying podcast from the Insights Collective here.

Download

Destination travel providers have long since adopted reliable, actionable metrics to gauge the success or failure of their efforts to create thriving travel economies. And whether it’s the relatively isolated nature of their economies, the seasonality of revenue streams or the significant infrastructure requirements of snow sports, mountain travel partners and suppliers are proactive with a wide range of data.

But suppliers and their overall communities have both a need and opportunity to change how and what they measure to drive the evolution of the industry.

“How” you measure – recovery vs trajectory

Typically, suppliers and governments measure quantitative performance such as taxes, visitation and resource use in terms of year-over-year (YOY) comparisons. Measuring during similar periods helps ensure that conditions such as weather, economic cycles and holidays are similar in both periods, allowing them to identify what is and isn’t working on the operational or promotional side.

The resulting data provide a measure of annual growth or decline, which becomes actionable. But when you encounter disruption in one of the data sets (say, a pandemic, to use an unlikely and extreme example), interested parties need to adjust to ensure they’re seeing performance in the right context.

For example, if we measure lodging bookings at mountain resorts in the third week of March 2021 versus 2020, we find that bookings are up 1,580% due to shuttered destinations at the same time last year. That, in a nutshell, is a recovery metric that helps you understand emergence from the downside, but has little long-term value.

For long-term value we add more data and also compare the same week versus 2019. The results? Bookings are up 58.5% compared to the same week in 2019. We now have both a recovery metric and a long-term trajectory metrics to qualify our recovery findings and make sure we’re on track. For the record, the current 2021 gains are dominated by pent-up demand, with the dramatic gains over 2020 also largely attributable to last year’s shutdown.

While this is a simplified example, the Insights Collective and I recommend that a multi-year discipline be applied across all data points measured, so that decisions through the recovery keep the long-term interests of the supplier or destination on track.

“What” you measure – shifting long-term interests? 

Major disruptors have a way of creating challenges and opportunities, but rarely as aggressively as 2020. While many suppliers and towns are looking forward to a return to “normal,” others see this as an opportunity to drive change and address long-standing challenges like workforce housing, community relations, over-visitation or differentiation, to their competitive advantage.

Some of what was important in 2019 – generating foot traffic in a particular part of a town, for example – is still important, but may be lower on the list in 2021. Shifting away from volume in favor of exclusivity, visitor infrastructure in favor of local lifestyle, lodging tax in favor of workforce housing or any one of a dozen other shifts, are all initiatives destinations may identify that will require new ways to measure success.

Carl Ribaudo, president of SMG, and a co-founder of Insights Collective, suggests that resorts may pivot towards “looking at residents’ satisfaction with tourism as it’s currently delivered, making sure it truly benefits all segments of the community.” Ralf Garrison, founder of the Collective, has another approach, but perhaps to the same end, suggesting there’s an opportunity for suppliers and destinations to be more selective in “identifying the type of visitors that are most compatible with the destination.”

Local satisfaction vs. visitor compatibility

In the first instance, we’re adding Resident Satisfaction to the things being measured, while the Garrison approach compels you to identify and measure traits of consumers before they arrive, then refine, repeat and measure again. As an aside, and not to diminish the targeting efforts of destination marketing organizations, while many are engaged in some version of that exercise, visitor traits have most often been driven by price and access rather than premeditation.

In a quantitative example, Bill Wishowski, director of operations at the Breckenridge Tourism Office, says “focusing on room nights (instead of occupancy) has become a higher priority for us as the number of available units has changed year-over-year” an example of getting in front of changes to second-homeowner and rent-by-owner markets by measuring differently.

The travel industry has largely measured success as revenue gained through price since the Great Recession, but is also something of a victim of that success. There are compelling reasons to measure recovery and trajectory in terms of a return to normal. But there are equally compelling reasons to embrace changing consumer, resident and societal dynamics to measure success in new ways, something mountain travel professionals have proven themselves more than capable in the past twelve months.

ABOUT INSIGHTS COLLECTIVE

Insights Collective; a Tourism Economy Think Tank and Resource Center – is a collaboration of destination travel industry experts who are collaborating and working, together with mountain resort communities and their stakeholders, to understand, plan, and navigate through the emerging tourism marketplace. www.TheInsightsCollective.com  /  info@theinsightscollective.com 

Drivers on the Road to Recovery: Vaccinations, Vacations and Visitor Values

This Illustrative Example demonstrates how resort communities might characterize visitor types based on their Visitor Fit Factor.
Source: Insights Collective Think Tank
Insights from Aspen & Snowmass

Keeping things safe for an anticipated travel boom

Tourism leaders in Aspen and Snowmass say they expect 2021 travel to rebound considerably. That also means making a concerted effort to keep both visitors and local residents safe and happy.

 “We know there is a direct correlation between vaccine announcements and consumer confidence to travel,” says Eliza Voss, Vice President, Destination Marketing, with the Aspen Chamber Resort Association. “So vaccinations, coupled with pent up demand, are absolutely influencing the desire to get back out and travel.”

 And much like the “Visitor Fit Factor” model, Voss says that the older “haves” have become a high priority for summer 2021 marketing.

 “Baby boomers, one of Aspen’s key demographics, were first in line to the vaccine and are eager to connect with friends and family, and we hope they consider Aspen as a destination for restorative multi-generational travel,” she says.

 To expedite a safe season, Voss says visitor education remains front and center.

 “ACRA’s role as a destination management organization during this time of transition is to educate, with programs like ‘How to Aspen,’ and manage expectations for our guests this summer,” she says. “Economic recovery is tied to public health, and so we will continue to work alongside our public health officials and business owners to ensure success on both sides and create an environment for Aspen to thrive.”

Snowmass encourages longer summertime stays

Rose Abello, Director of Snowmass Tourism, says Snowmass is working hard to take advantage of pent-up consumer demand for travel, as well as encouraging visitors to consider longer stays as a more pleasant setting for their continued work-from-home arrangements.  

 “Consumer confidence for travel is at a 12-month high, with 87% of those surveyed saying they have a trip planned in the next 6 months,” she says. “In addition, we believe that more and more people are going to take advantage of the flexibility to work from ‘home’ to plan longer stays – possibly with extended family. To appeal to these visitors we are tweaking our advertising campaign to include the line ‘this summer, summer in Snowmass.’” 

 Abello also reiterates Snowmass’s commitment to public safety.  

“State and local health officials are working diligently to balance easing restrictions with keeping our communities safe and economies vibrant,” she says. “In Snowmass we are planning events and activations that will scale to the public health orders/restrictions while still creating fun and engagement for locals and visitors alike.”

Listen to the accompanying podcast from Ralf Garrison and Insights Collective here

Download

Our first article in this Road to Recovery series established that vacation demand is strong. Seemingly everyone is thinking about vacation travel, and the Inntopia/DestiMetrics data shows that advanced bookings are strong, particularly for end-of-season visitation.

But COVID-19 and its variants also love to go traveling. They are spread by congregation and are full of surprises, and demand our respect and careful consideration. “Infections are trending upwards in most states, and several, including Colorado, reported increases of more than 30%,” according to Washington Post reports. Dr. Fauci cautions that we have not turned the corner but are approaching the intersection.

As summer season approaches, community leaders face tough decisions as they contemplate who, how and when to invite visitors back. It’s all in an ongoing effort to strike a balance between the safety of pandemic protocols and the benefits of economic liberation. The CDC is currently advising against non-essential travel, but promising imminent guidance, according to CDC Director Dr. Wilensky. 

So now what? The Insights Collective took on the subject, from which I offer the following synopsis.

A destination-centric shift

Traditional destination tourism promotion has been largely based on marketplace demand but then the concept of “over-tourism” emerged and COVID-19 considerations accelerated, creating a distinct local-resident-centric perspective. Travel Weekly’s Jeri Clausing writes: “some… tourism economies are pushing back on attempts to return to the status quo and advance tourism management… with an emphasis on more local input and control.” Not a new concept, but easier said than done.

Now, with the prospects of what one community leader called “more demand than we know what to do with,” there may be a unique opportunity to be more selective: identifying, inviting and hosting the type of visitors that are most compatible with the character and values of local and part time residents. Let’s call it the “Visitor Fit Factor.”

To illustrate, we’ve segmented prospective visitors by typology to demonstrate how it might work and why it matters:

1. HAVES: Those already vaccinated – over 70% of those over 65, and over 50 million who have completed vaccination per CDC at writing, plus many more with natural immunity – are all injected with a sense of liberation and impunity about travel. Our Think Tank destination experts Carl Ribaudo and Brian London expect Baby Boomers (born 1948-1964) to lead the way and emerge as the preferred target guest for many discerning destinations.

2. HAVE-NOTS: Interested but not yet vaccinated, much of the U.S. population is still in queue, but as per Dr. Fauci, “anyone who wants one (vaccination) should be able to get one by May.” Mostly mid-life and younger population (Gen X, Y, Millennials), this has been the most active emerging market segment for travel in recent past, and likely will be again in the future. For now, eager to travel and anointed with the hubris of youth, some Have-Nots are demonstrating conflicting values and generating friction with local residents in some markets – the coastal spring break news being a recent case in point.

3. WON’T/DON’T: A significant portion of the U.S. population does not intend to become vaccinated – as many as 30% of all Americans, per National Institute for Health estimates – but have already been traveling and intend to continue. This WON’T/DON’T typology is not age specific, appears to have overriding interest in freedom of choice, distrust of science and government, and follows political influence that trumps any concern for personal welfare or the greater good. As such, they could be least likely to be in sync with the values of their destination residents, and subsequently earn the lowest Visitor Fit Factor.

While all three visitor typologies demonstrate strong marketplace demand for travel, the wellbeing and compatibility with their destination community residents means their Visitor Fit Factor varies widely. And so should be the priority as resort leaders determine who, when and how to restart tourism promotional efforts going forward. 

At stake is not just the ability to defend against a spring 2021 spike in COVID-19 infections in the short term, but longer-term local sentiment about the future of a tourism-based economy down the road.

The least compatible may be the most likely visitors

Ironically, absent strong leadership and a premeditated, inclusive policy on what, when and who to target, visitors will make travel decisions based on their own preferences. The result could be counterproductive, with more business from the least compatible visitor types, and even less business from those most attractive and compatible, who have the highest Visitor Fit Factor.

The road to recovery is neither smooth nor straight, with curves, potholes, road closures and detours, especially for those who are not clear about their final destination, haven’t thought out their route map or lose their way along the path.

While the challenges are steep, the pandemic has brought with it a silver lining: a unique opportunity to emerge with a clear road map to a new reality and more sustainable future for all. The war against the pandemic is global, but this battle will be waged, won or lost locally.

About Insights Collective

Insights Collective; a Tourism Economy Think Tank and Resource Center – is a collaboration of destination travel industry experts who are collaborating and working, together with mountain resort communities and their stakeholders, to understand, plan, and navigate through the emerging tourism marketplace. www.TheInsightsCollective.com  /  info@theinsightscollective.com

Introducing a new series examining post-COVID economic trends in mountain resort communities

Insights Collective; a Tourism Economy Think Tank and Resource Center – is a collaboration of destination travel industry experts who are collaborating and working, together with mountain resort communities and their stakeholders, to understand, plan, and navigate through the emerging tourism marketplace. www.TheInsightsCollective.com  /  info@theinsightscollective.com

The Collective’s Resource Center is comprised of its founding members, each a specialist in their own right
Jane Babilon, Lodging Research Consultant
Dave Belin,  RRC Associates
Chris Cares,  RRC Associates
Barb Taylor Carpender, Taylored Alliances.
Tom Foley,   Inntopia/DestiMetrics
Ralf Garrison,  Advisory Group of Denver
Brian  London.  London Tourism Publications
Carl Ribaudo, SMG Consulting
Susan Rubin Stewart, Contact Center Consultant
Jesse True,  True Consulting

From Ralf Garrison

I am pleased to join Bob Brown, The Aspen Times and its sister mountain town publications, to announce a second series of articles in our ongoing collaboration with resort community leaders and stakeholders, who have been working to understand, plan, and navigate through this pandemic economy and now, finally, beginning the road to recovery.

It was almost exactly a year ago that the World Health Organization declared a global pandemic, the Centers for Disease Control issued a “quarantine in place” order, and the 2021 winter season came to an abrupt end. Most of us were caught totally off guard by this unprecedented event.  Understandably gob smacked, we experienced intense emotions as we struggled to make sense of the ramifications to the very lifestyle to which we all aspire. 

As decade-long business partners with mountain resort communities, we launched The Insights Collective as a pandemic economy think tank and resource center and formed a collaboration with The Aspen Times, with a series of articles publishing in the fall of 2020.

What a difference a year makes.  Now, with COVID-related cases, hospitalizations and deaths on the decline and vaccinations becoming widely available, the data points to a bright future. There are already signs that the forthcoming summer season could be quite strong, with vaccinated boomers and general pent-up demand leading the way.

But, as we’ve all learned, COVID-19 spreads by travel, loves to party and, with its variants, is full of surprises. It’s best addressed with humility and respect, or we may find ourselves going backward again.

Baseball legend Yogi Berra said, “The future ain’t what it used to be.” Neither is the road to recovery. It’s unclear what we’ll experience, or how closely our eventual destination will compare to the good old days.

Our new nine-part weekly series is intended to track the anticipated recovery, what will return to some sense of normalcy, and what may have changed forever.

Supporting research and insights will be provided in written and audio formats by Insights Collective team members, featuring their trademark spin on “why it matters.” And once again, we’re partnering with The Aspen Times; long time associates of ours who support the greater good in the resort communities they serve.

Our original mantra, “We’re smarter together than any of us, individually,” has proven valid and we’re happy to continue this collaboration with The Aspen Times and any/all like-minded resort community stakeholders.

Ralf Garrison is the Founder of Insights Collective

From Bob Brown

“Unprecedented,” “remarkable,” “stay at home” and “flatten the curve” are just a few of the terms that have grown tiresome over the past 12 months. On this one-year anniversary of our world shutting down, we are looking forward with optimism and resilience, still seeking to understand our new reality moving forward.

Last year, The Aspen Times partnered with the Insights Collective, who are leading western ski community research and marketing professionals. The anchor companies represented by these individuals are Inntopia/DestiMetrics, RRC Associates and The Strategic Marketing Group. Together we produced a series that illuminated insights around emerging travel trends, consumer sentiment and long stay travel residency.

Now, with restrictions relaxing and a clear path for immunization providing the prospect of herd immunity across the U.S., there are more learnings and opportunities to share as we prepare for the year ahead and what looks to be a fantastic summer season.

Over the last several months, the Insights Collective has been gathering more data, engaging with consumers and observing emerging trends. Now, we are partnering for a new series focused on “The road ahead.” The Insights Collective brings a more global view, while our team at The Aspen Times will provide a local perspective on trends impacting our community.

This collaboration will provide information to be acted upon in local businesses or community organizations, improving results in the year ahead.

Along with Ralf Garrison, our goal is to bring communities together to grow and prosper. In our original series, I included the mission of The Aspen Times and its sister publications to “Champion the Power of People to Improve Communities,” and the purpose of this new effort is the same.

Looking forward, we’re optimistic for this summer and a robust recovery. Fortunately, the data and consumer sentiment supports our instincts, which we’re excited to share for the next nine weeks. The series begins March 24 and ends on May 19.

Bob Brown is the president of Swift Communications, parent company of The Aspen Times

Holy Cross Energy’s journey toward 100% renewable energy

HCE former CEO Ed Grange. To learn more about Ed’s story, visit HolyCross.com/the-co-op-that-climbed-mountains/
Holy Cross Energy’s Journey to 100%

Learn more about our Journey to 100% at www.holycross.com/100×30.

At Holy Cross Energy (HCE), our legacy remains rooted in the original ranchers and farmers who called our valleys home in the late 1930s. It is because of their commitment to bring electricity to the Eagle and Roaring Fork River Valleys that we are able to provide safe, reliable, affordable, and sustainable energy and services for our members and their communities today. As HCE embarks on its ambitious goal to bring 100% renewable energy to our members and communities by 2030, we honor our remarkable past.

Thank you for being part of our Journey to 100%.

Below, former HCE CEO Ed Grange discusses how bringing electricity to a new ski area called Vail in the 1950s almost didn’t happen:

This article originally appeared in Rural Electric Magazine in November 2020. Written by Frank Gallant.

Ed Grange grew up on an unelectrified ranch high in the Rocky Mountains of western Colorado. He watched his mother pump water by hand and cook on a wood stove. Late in life, he could still hear the “god-awful” noise made by the gasoline-powered washing machine on the front porch.

“In the winter, we had to bring it into the kitchen and run the exhaust pipe outside. The noise filled the house,” he recalled in a March 2019 newspaper interview.

Grange didn’t want that kind of a life for himself, so with his Italian immigrant parents’ blessing, he went to college and then graduate school, expecting to get a job teaching mathematics.

Then the direction of his life changed. Home for the summer in 1950, he took a part-time $1.15-an-hour job with Holy Cross Electric Association that grew into a 60-year career.

Vail, the early years

Holy Cross Electric emerged in 1939 after the federal Rural Electrification Administration (REA) recommended that two groups of farmers and ranchers who wanted to organize a co-op—one from the Eagle River Valley in Vail and the other from the Roaring Fork Valley in Aspen—band together if they hoped to get a loan. A county extension agent suggested the incorporators name the co-op after the Mount of the Holy Cross, a local landmark.

REA approved a loan for $119,000, and Holy Cross Electric started building lines in the two valleys. The first line was energized in September 1941, bringing the comforts of central station power to 175 rural families.

By the time Grange came along, Holy Cross Electric was expanding up side valleys and along the main streets of mountain villages in both directions. The acquisition of two small utilities, Eagle River Electric Company and Mountain Utilities, further enlarged the co-op’s service territory.

Then around 1962, the ski industry—and the co-op—took off like a downhill racer. Aspen, Vail, Snowmass, Buttermilk, and other ski resorts were developed. Holy Cross Electric nearly quadrupled in size between 1962 and 1971, growing from 2,300 consumers to 8,700.

Grange saw the boom coming in the late 1950s when many resorts still used noisy diesel engines to power ski lifts. He noticed that a number of large sheep ranches near what would become Vail had changed hands, from the original local owners to a Denver-based buyer named Transmontane Rod and Gun Club. This didn’t make sense because back then, no one bought land in Gore Valley for hunting and fishing preserves.

He investigated and discovered that Transmontane Rod and Gun Club was a front for an investment group headed by Pete Seibert, a former U.S. Ski Team member, and Earl Eaton, a local mountaineer, who wanted to build a world-class ski resort.

Vail Gondola, 1962

“Seibert and Eaton knew that if they said they were planning to build a ski area, land prices would soar,” Grange told the Post Independent in Glenwood Springs, where the co-op has its headquarters. “So over the next few years, they acquired practically all of the land from the bottom of Vail Pass down to where Vail exists now. Some parcels were hard to get because some ranchers didn’t want to sell, but Seibert and Eaton eventually got everything.”

Busy running a growing utility, Grange and his boss, cigar-chomping George Thurston, Holy Cross Electric’s first general manager, didn’t pay much attention until they started seeing publicity about the new ski area. One day in April or May 1962, Seibert drove down to Glenwood Springs to talk to them.

He said Public Service of Colorado officials had laughed him out of their offices. They said his plan was a pipe dream; Gore Valley was too far from Denver to attract enough skiers to keep him in business.

“So Pete tells us, ‘I don’t have any more money. I spent most of what I had on the gondola. … Could you give me some help? Could you take it to your board and see if maybe they would be willing to build me a line up there so I could get open? Our targeted opening day is December 15th.”

All seven board members were ranchers. They didn’t know much about skiing, let alone big ski resorts. But they trusted their general manager’s judgment when he said the co-op shouldn’t pass up this opportunity to build membership in Gore Valley. Grange said it was clear to him Thurston would be out looking for work if the project flopped.

Both Thurston and Grange gulped when Siebert said, a few days later, “You’ve got to put everything underground that serves the lodges and the housing.”

Snowmaking in Vail

Holy Cross Electric had only scant experience with underground construction—one subdivision in Aspen. The co-op hired an outside engineer to lay out the distribution system and an outside contractor to build the overhead lines to the lifts.

Fortunately, 1962 was a dry year and not as cold as usual, allowing the work to proceed without delays.

“We just barely made the December 15th opening day deadline,” Grange said.

There was little snow at first and few skiers, but a few weeks later, the mountain got into its January rhythm of adding a few inches almost every day, and Vail was on its way.

“Never in the history of U.S. skiing has a bare mountain leaped in such a short time into the four-star category of ski resorts,” Sports Illustrated said of Siebert and Eaton’s dream in 1964, when Vail was becoming one of the most popular snow-sports destinations in the United States, welcoming thousands of visitors to its slopes every winter.

When Ed Grange went to work for Holy Cross Electric in 1950, seven employees served 700 consumers. Today, 158 employees serve more than 55,000, from major ski areas to farms, ranches, and rural communities.

Grange retired in 2011. Colorado Country Life, the statewide co-op magazine, reported he was still skiing in 2019 at age 84, though he no longer made the rounds to the ski areas to read the meters on the lifts, a task he happily completed into the mid-1990s.

Pros and cons of buying an electric vehicle in 2020 vs. 2021

Tesla’s electric vehicles (such as this Model 3) have long set the pace in the EV market, and they enjoy their own network of charging stations.
Credit: Benjamin Westby

With electric vehicles gaining market share and popularity, Colorado consumers are increasingly faced with tradeoffs. One such tradeoff presents itself this month as a key state tax credit is set to decrease significantly after Dec. 31.

The dilemma boils down to this: Buy an electric vehicle (EV) before the end of the year to save an extra $1,500? Or hold off until 2021, when a host of new models – including some electric trucks and SUVs – are expected to hit the market?

That’s because Colorado’s “Innovative Motor Vehicle” income tax credit, currently pegged at $4,000 on the purchase of a new plug-in hybrid or all-electric vehicle, will drop to $2,500 in 2021. Likewise, the credit for leasing an EV will decrease to $1,500 from the current $2,000.

There’s some consternation among EV advocates about the imminent reduction of the state’s tax incentive, but Stefan Johnson, transportation program manager at Clean Energy Economy for the Region (CLEER), sees both sides. 

“It’s not ideal having the tax credit step down just as we’re starting to see more models come onto the market in Colorado,” he says. “If I could wave a magic wand, I’d give folks another year to take advantage of the $4,000. But on the other hand, we all need a deadline to get us to act.”

The importance of tax credits

In addition to the state tax credit, new EV buyers can also claim a federal tax credit of up to $7,500. However, Johnson notes, results may vary: Tesla and GM vehicles are no longer eligible for the federal tax credit, and in the case of other vehicles the size of the credit will depend on the individual’s tax liability. The state tax credit applies to all models, and everyone gets the full $4,000 regardless of their tax situation.

“I definitely think the tax credits go a long way to moving the EVs,” says Tim Jackson, president and CEO of the Colorado Auto Dealers Association. 

Electric vehicles are expected to reach “price parity” with gas cars in the next five years or so, but for now, Jackson says, they need subsidies to make up the difference. He points to what happened when the state of Georgia suddenly ended its $5,000 EV tax credit in 2016 – EV sales plummeted by 80%.

Other incentives to buy EVs

But tax credits aren’t the only incentive to buy an EV. Some manufacturers are offering pretty hefty discounts on certain models, and local dealerships are offering extra deals of their own to make room for next year’s models. 

Added up, the breaks can make a big difference, says Michael Payne Sr., owner of Mountain Chevy in Glenwood Springs. For example, he explains that the Colorado tax credit plus GM’s manufacturer discount takes $15,000 off the price of a Chevy Bolt, putting it in the same range as a comparable gas car.

Barriers to putting more electric cars on the road

The state of Colorado has set an ambitious goal of getting 940,000 electric cars on the road by 2030 – a seemingly impossible task given that the current number is fewer than 30,000. Christian Williss, Senior Director for Transportation Fuel and Technology at the Colorado Energy Office, sees four barriers to achieving it:

  1. High upfront costs
  2. Lack of public awareness about EVs
  3. Lagging charging infrastructure
  4. Limited model availability

The state tax credit was designed to tackle barrier number one, but Williss says that policy can only do so much given barriers number two, three and four.

According to Williss, surveys have found that the majority of Coloradans have little knowledge of electric vehicles – and fewer still know about the state tax credit. He says the state plans to launch a multi-year education campaign next year to increase awareness about EVs.

As for charging infrastructure – that is, charging stations – state grant programs have been fueling a steady expansion of the network in the past couple of years, thanks in part to funding from a national legal settlement over Volkswagen’s diesel emissions scandal. (CLEER manages one of those grant programs in 14 counties across northwestern Colorado.) Xcel Energy has plans to add to the spree with a big spend of its own starting in 2021.

And the final barrier – limited model availability – is in the process of falling, thanks to Colorado’s 2019 adoption of California’s Zero Emissions Vehicle (ZEV) mandate. With that move, Colorado has in effect joined a common EV market with California and nine other states, with the result that the range of EV models sold in Colorado is expected to grow rapidly in 2021 and beyond.

The dilemma faced by prospective EV buyers right now

If a subcompact EV like a Chevy Bolt or Nissan Leaf fits your lifestyle, there’s every reason to buy now and score a great deal, says Williss. Just know that your choices will be limited to cars that are already on the lot, because any car that you order at this point probably won’t be delivered by Dec. 31. 

Meanwhile, Western Slope drivers who have been holding out for something beefier should set their sights on 2021, when a number of all-electric SUVs, crossovers and trucks are expected to make their debut.

CLEER’s Johnson thinks the new crop of EVs are positioned to make bigger inroads in the Colorado market. 

“Many Coloradans are environmentally conscious and want to do the right thing, but AWD and high clearance aren’t just optional features for them,” he says. “Having new models that are compatible with the outdoor Colorado lifestyle will be a game-changer for EV sales in the state.”

At the compact/crossover end of the SUV class, Ford is supposed to start delivering its much-anticipated Mustang Mach-E any day now. The new all-electric Mustang can drive 230 miles between charges and has a base price of about $44,000, before factoring in any state or federal-tax credits. 

Another crossover that’s eagerly anticipated is VW’s ID.4. Basically an electric updating of the Tiguan – and a likely competitor to the Tesla Model Y – the ID.4 has a 250-mile range and starts at $41,000. The rear-wheel-drive version will come out first in mid-2021, followed by an AWD later in the year.

Other crossover EVs worth looking out for in the coming year include Hyundai’s Kona Electric, Nissan’s Ariya and Cadillac’s high-end Lyriq. As for Colorado favorite Subaru, its plug-in hybrid Crosstrek should start selling in our state in 2021, but an all-electric Subaru remains unavailable anywhere.

Electric pickup trucks

Perhaps the most buzz-worthy development of 2021 promises to be the introduction of EV pickup trucks, such as the Rivian R1T.
Credit: Jeff Johnson

Perhaps the most buzz-worthy development of 2021 promises to be the introduction of EV pickup trucks from Rivian, Ford and Tesla. The Rivian R1T is expected by the middle of the year, sporting a 300-plus-mile range and a max payload of 1,750 pounds – and a $67,500 price tag. Tesla says its Cybertruck will carry a 3,500-pound payload and come with features like cold-rolled steel and armor glass, all for an incredible base price of just under $40,000. 

Less is known at this stage about Ford’s electric F-150, but given the brand’s icon status it promises to become a major player. To round out the electric truck field, look for additional entrants from startups Lordstown and Bollinger.

Are electric vehicles becoming mainstream?

“I have a very, very positive outlook for 2021,” says Jon Fruend, general manager of Audi Volkswagen Glenwood Springs. He sees EVs finally becoming mainstream, as Volkswagen and Audi, like many other manufacturers, will finally be offering electric models in every major class.

“I think what all the conventional manufacturers have to do is find a sweet spot of range versus price. I think they’ve got the models right. It’s finding that sweet spot. Is it 250 miles per charge? We’ll see.”

Lessons to Date: Legacies around the corner

Declines in taxable lodging sales across western U.S. mountain destinations.
About ACRA

The Aspen Chamber Resort Association is a destination management organization focusing our work in sustainable tourism around dispersion, education and communication. As stewards of the destination,and as members of the local community, the ACRA destination management work is mindful, focused on generating harmony between quality of life for the resident and maintaining economic vitality to ultimately create an environment for Aspen to thrive. To learn more visit aspenchamber.org/about/data-center/reports-surveys/2020-tourism-outlook.

With the 2020 election behind us and winter season just around the corner, it’s time to turn our attention toward the future and how it will impact those of us who live and work in mountain resort communities. Using Insights Collective think tank and lodging tax data, we’ll recap evidence to date, then summarize our current thinking about the key factors upon which 2021 will depend. 

COVID-19 pandemic: A new reality? Now significantly worse that originally modelled, cases are at an all-time high — nearly 125,000 new cases per day in the U.S. at press time. And with flu and holiday season upon us, Drs. Anthony Fauci and Deborah Birx both predict the worst is yet to come and will extend well into 2021 until the forthcoming vaccine reaches a worldwide critical mass. Until then, and certainly for winter 2020-21, pandemic protocol management is the likely new reality for some time to come.

Resulting Economics: COVID vs. the Fed? The COVID-19 pandemic is the economic driver and federal intervention is the offset, but results vary widely and favor many mountain resort communities with more rural, outdoor activities and established drive markets. But among residents and visitors, anecdotal data suggests negative impacts to be greater for the service industry workforce, and less for boomers/retirees whose assets are largely in the market and home ownership, both of which are holding up well. 

Geo-Political Considerations: a post-election shift? The election is finally over, notwithstanding a long tail of legal challenges and early 2024 positioning. But at press time, it is uncertain that a clear mandate will substantially change the disparity and polarization of a deeply divided nation. 

“To a remarkable degree, this traumatic election year (pandemic economics, etc. ) has not really changed the political divide of the political contour in America since 2016,” observed Gerald Seib, political analyst for Wall Street Journal.

New cases of COVID-19 across western U.S. mountain destinations.


Mountain Tourism 2020-21: Lodging reservation activity is the best indicator of destination tourism, having done better than feared in many mountain towns, but varied widely (see graphic. Our Insights Collective think tank, along with some of our national affiliates, offer some brief insights:

  •  ”While the broader travel industry has been hurt more than many market segments, the hardest hit are international; meetings and conferences; larger leisure groups, sporting, and special events.  None of these are likely to rebound soon or contribute much to winter ‘20-’21.” — Barb Taylor Carpender, Taylored Alliances
  • “Guests are seeking travel assurance in record numbers — up 40% year to date — and producing better summer business that had been anticipated as they do. And, looking forward, the trend is continuing; with warm weather coastal resorts booking more strongly than winter/mountain resorts, where winter weather and complicated ski area operational considerations may be contributing to slower booking patterns to date.” —  Laird Sager, CEO of Red Sky Travel Insurance, whose customers include both travelers and rental property owners around the U.S. and Hawaii.
  • “The initial wave of bookings that resulted from the release of operational plans by the big ski companies has waned,  and consumers have reverted to booking patterns akin to late summer, with short booking lead times and a “coast is clear” approach. The result is a mixed bag, with strong arrivals for now through December, but only modest activity beyond that.” — Tom Foley, Inntopia/DestiMetrics and The Insights Collective
  • There appears to be a (COVID-induced) shift in lodging preferences. Guests are showing preference for larger, stand-alone vacation rental lodging over more dense condominium rentals and traditional full-service hotels, whose usually attractive amenities and services are often being limited by COVID protocols.” — Kellen Kruse, Air DNA
  • “Just as the lodging data is a proxy for the destination guest,  we can similarly see that retail sales data indicates that local business and day traffic is rebounding more rapidly. For example, Vail’s taxable lodging sales are down almost 54%, while other taxable sales are only down 16%.” — Susan Rubin-Stewart, customer contact consultant and analyst for the Insights Collective

So while the vote’s in from a political perspective, it’s still, “too early to predict” mountain tourism ‘20-’21 and will depend largely on how we, together, manage the pandemic and adjust to the changing economic landscape. Charles Darwin’s statement about “survival of the fittest” is well suited to the pandemic, but his subsequent amendment to “the most adaptive” is the statement that best suits the broader situation and determines the winners and losers going forward.  So, stay tuned — we’ll be tracking the trends, working the data, and sharing our ongoing insights on a weekly basis.

ABOUT INSIGHTS COLLECTIVE

The Insights Collective is a pandemic economy think tank, established to provide insights and actionable recommendations to public and private sector decision makers in leisure travel destinations. For more information, visit www.theinsightscollective.com

Welcoming visitors while keeping communities safe

Tracking the Great Recession recovery in mountain destinations: Monthly 12-month moving average, Revenue Per Available Room (RevPAR) versus RevPAR at the time of the Bearn Stearns collapse in March 2008.
ABOUT INSIGHTS COLLECTIVE

The Insights Collective is a pandemic economy think tank, established to provide insights and actionable recommendations to public and private sector decision makers in leisure travel destinations. For more information, visit www.theinsightscollective.com.

Residents, not visitors, are the ultimate customers of destination marketing organizations, which is why it’s important that tourism address the needs of residents first. 

Resident sentiment can determine a destination’s ability to bounce back from the pandemic-recession. It’s hard to see a best-case recovery scenario without support for visitors from the resident population. 

“Residents matter. A critical aspect of COVID-19 management is communicating to residents how the tourism industry is working to implement management practices that will keep them, as well as visitors, safe,” said Ralf Garrison, founder of the Insights Collective, a pandemic economy think tank.

Given the wave of financial hardship that is hitting many destinations, the idea of complaining about visitor behavior may seem extremely out-of-touch. Everywhere you look in the tourism sector – hotel occupancy, airline traffic, cruise ships that can’t even leave port – declines of more than 90 percent forced organizations of all shapes and sizes to take drastic steps to survive. 

In these conditions, who wouldn’t trade an empty downtown for one bustling with visitors, even if they behaved a little impolitely?

Scrutiny of visitor behaviors

Open destinations are facing a growing backlash to tourism rather than appreciation that it continues to bring in revenue. If anything, visitors are being held to an even higher standard than normal. 

In Colorado, White River National Forest Public Information Officer David Boyd reported heavier use of trails in the region has led to more litter. 

Around Lake Tahoe, residents staged a series of rallies in five different locations to protest tourism-related issues. A historic heat wave recently sent visitors flowing into the destination, which is one of relatively few in the area that has remained open for business. A surge in travel that should have been spread out across the region was instead concentrated in places like Tahoe, resulting in packed stores, slowed traffic, and trash that overflowed from containers. 

The protests began with online complaints and pictures of trash sites, but they ended up drawing several hundred people to greet tourists on their way in and out of town with signs and demands for better behavior. 

Another protest took the form of a petition calling on tourism officials in Mammoth Lakes, Calif., to redirect marketing funds toward cleaning up after visitors. 

This is one of the underappreciated impacts of the pandemic – the presence of other people has gone from an inconvenience at worst to a potential threat to public health. And as tourism slowly resumes, this scrutiny of visitors will only increase. 

“I think we are seeing a “rise of residents’ and their involvement in the tourism industry within the destination because they have grown weary of the impacts. They want a voice,” said Carl Ribaudo, president and chief strategist of SMG consulting.

New COVID cases across western mountain resort destinations.

Health vs. quality of life vs. the economy

The danger of this trend is that we are increasingly left with two kinds of destinations for the next several months: places that can’t accept visitors for health reasons and places that don’t want any more visitors for quality-of-life reasons. That dynamic will only complicate an already slow climb back to a healthy level of tourism for everyone. 

“Mountain travel had a long, 70-month revenue recovery from the Great Recession, driven by a dramatic economic downturn.  All things being equal, we could expect the same as we travel along a Covid continuum. But things are not equal; the recent economic slowdown is a symptom of the Covid-19 pandemic, not a cause,” said Tom Foley, senior vice president of Analytics at Inntopia, a resort marketing and ecommerce platform. “While we fully expect economic recovery to be measured with a calendar, not a watch, until the pandemic is controlled and the long-term economic damage is fully understood, we can only guess as to whether recovery for the destination travel industry will be shorter or longer than last time around.” 

The Insights Collective recommends informing visitors of the impact litter can have on the natural environment through signage and educational outreach. Working with city officials to ensure trash receptacles are available for use is also a good idea.   

Visitors are guests in our communities. It’s appropriate to hold them accountable for their behavior to ensure they follow basic social responsibilities (and the law) by not leaving trash everywhere, or that they follow health and safety protocols. 

Remember, a place in which we’d want to live is also going to be a place in which others will want to visit.   

Britta Gustafson: Informed by the current

As mountain-raised kids, we didn’t have the ocean in our backyards to teach us how to ride a wave; but we learned early, and mostly from cautionary tales, that nature can be as ruthless as it is majestic. All is fair in love, war and nature.

Survival, we were taught before field trips and outdoor education weeks, is all about respecting the power of nature and accepting it’s fickle state. Assume nothing, learn from mistakes and adapt quickly to an unforgiving climate when necessary. We were groomed to prepare for the worst and learned that the necessary abundance of caution applied to everyone from the most experienced on down.

But it was my introduction to the ocean that taught me about the true power of nature. I was 5, maybe 6 years old the first time I was allowed to run barefoot into an incoming wave. I had fantasies about spontaneously growing gills and a fin and joining Sebastian and Ariel in an underwater musical.

But the sand was hot and instantly thwarted my run. Two strides in my little feet sunk and then wham, I was facedown tasting sand way before the salty turquoise waters were even within reach. Rebounding with urgency off the heated surface, I continued my run, more out of burning necessity than enthusiasm. Reaching the ocean’s edge, the cooler sand was a great relief, and arms spread wide, ready to dive, I embraced the oncoming wave. All I can remember is a gulp of sea water, then seeing the sky followed by the frothy underwater, gagging and gasping for air as my small body was folded in two.

By the end of my first beach day I had learned once again that nature is a force. I had been pummeled by the very ocean I had been dreaming of, drawing and reading all about. It caught me off guard and each ensuing wave continued to smack me down until I learned to appreciate its force and to stop trying to stand right back up.

It seems we are dealing with a force of nature right now. And it is not detached, it’s not amusement; we are a part of it and we are responsible for its momentum. Perhaps before we can ever really regain our stance, we will need to learn what it’s trying to teach and find a way to adjust.

And while we can’t see it, and many of us have not actually felt it, we may still be stumbling and scrambling to get back to our feet too soon. As each new wave seems to be in our face, ready to hit with unpredictable force, we keep trying to ignore its power. Reopening, “back to normal,” is that adaptation? Look at the new wave in South Korea, and — my heart be still — as we learn that there is a new surge in hospitalizations of children coming as the current continues to pulse in New York.

Perhaps to ride these waves we need to crawl before we can stand, we need to appreciate this moment. Here in the mountains we may not know much about the ocean, but we are mountain people and we know how to appreciate a climate that can not be controlled. We have our peaks and valleys, our in-seasons and offseasons that have forced preparedness into our annual routines. If we are anything, we are resilient. But I fear we will only reach our true potential once we bow our heads to this awesome, terrifying power and stop trying to deny the force of this pandemic in favor of standing up and reopening too soon.

Those in the breaking waves got pummeled, and the rest of us — watching from the beach —have not yet felt the power of getting the oxygen knocked out of our lungs, the struggles to hang on in the presence of a force that could snuff us out. We watched, and perhaps from our nightly news or social media sites, it didn’t seem as bad as it was. Or perhaps we turned away and stopped watching, feeling safe up here until the tide comes in.

Perhaps we have had the privilege of petty concerns and forming our opinions from our beach towels, and if we are lucky, perhaps we will learn from the rest as we watch from a safe distance. But until we appreciate its power, we are all still as vulnerable as a child in the waves.

Let’s exchange a piece of my mind for a little peace of mind; after all, if we always agree what will we talk about? Britta Gustafson appreciates an open mind; share yours and email her at brittag@ymail.com.

Volunteers needed to help domestic, sexual abuse survivors

Editor’s Note: Sponsored content brought to you by Response

Response is looking for more local volunteers to be that listener and safety net for those in crisis.
24-hour hotline

If you or someone you know is experiencing domestic or sexual abuse, Response has a 24-hour crisis helpline in the Roaring Fork Valley offering immediate response for victims any day of the week, any hour of the day.

To access this confidential crisis assistance, call 970-925-SAFE (7233).

The effects of domestic abuse or sexual assault can feel overwhelming for victims, especially when they feel trapped in an unsafe situation.

Response, a nonprofit that helps victims of domestic and sexual abuse in the upper Roaring Fork Valley, provides services that offer safety, comfort and relief for victims who need support.

In 2019, 181 clients  used the services provided by Response, and 250 people called their 24 hour crisis helpline.

Survivors of abuse who come to Response find a non-judgemental listener, referrals to other agencies, court and medical accompaniment and many other types of support. Many of these survivors were in the midst of a life-changing crisis and Response was their first stop on their journey of recovery.

Response is looking for more local volunteers to help those in crisis. An online training for volunteer advocates begins May 11 (see factbox).

Domestic and sexual abuse in the valley

One in three women, and one in four men, in the United States have experienced some form of physical violence by an intimate partner, according to The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence. Those statistics ring true locally, according to Response staff.

“There’s a common misperception that victims fit into some kind of mold,” said Response’s Executive Director Shannon Meyer. “Anyone could be experiencing abuse— your neighbor, colleague, family member — yet you may have no idea.”

Another misperception is that domestic abuse is always physical — it can also be psychological, emotional and financial. Domestic abuse impacts people from every education level, socioeconomic class, race, gender, sexual orientation, single or married.

“Abuse can touch anyone and victims don’t fit into any obvious stereotypes,” she said. “A lot of times, people are surprised by that.”

Rising need for more local volunteers

Response operates a 24/7 crisis help line staffed almost entirely by trained volunteers who work 12-hour on-call shifts on weeknights and weekends. 

There were 250 calls to the helpline in 2019 — however Response has been struggling to get enough volunteers to cover shifts.

“It’s really crucial that we have trained volunteers taking shifts on the crisis line. Volunteers give our full time staff a break and keeps them, our most important resource, from burning out.”

Volunteers must complete a 30-hour training program that teaches volunteers everything they need to know to respond to a victim’s immediate needs when they call in crisis. There is always a backup staff member on-call who can handle more complicated calls should a volunteer need assistance.

“The training provided to become an advocate prepares you to support and empower those in crisis, as well as expands a culture that provides safe harbor to survivors of violence and abuse,” said Greg Shaffran, a proud volunteer for Response since 2014.

Response asks its volunteers to take two on-call shifts per month, so the commitment is relatively minimal. The requirement for the on-call shift is pretty simple: volunteers must remain within cell range during their shifts to ensure they don’t miss a call. This means you might have to skip a backcountry skiing day or even areas of the ski resorts where cell phone coverage is unreliable. “Our volunteer advocates serve a very important role of stabilizing a caller until they can connect with one of our staff advocates during office hours triaging until the callers can connect with our staff advocates,” Meyer said. “Volunteers need to be able to listen, understand the dynamics of what’s happening, tell them what resources are available and help them into a safe position until they can talk to our staff.”

Response needs more volunteers

Are you interested in helping victims of domestic and sexual abuse in our valley? Response needs volunteers to be available ideally for two 12-hour on-call shifts per month. Crisis line calls are routed to volunteers’ cell phones, so all you have to do is remain within cell range during your shifts. A 30-hour training is required and during the current pandemic restrictions, the training will be offered entirely online for the first time. The next training begins May 11. Any interested volunteers should join an informational meeting via Zoom on May 4 at 3:30 p.m.

“I volunteer with Response because I believe in the transformative power of showing up for another person during times of deep sadness, confusion or fear,” said Response volunteer Shannon Birzon. “I feel eternally grateful for those who have done the same for me, and volunteering is a way for me to give back to my community.”

If you’re interested in volunteering, visit www.responsehelps.org/volunteer, call 970-920-5357, or email info@responsehelps.org.