Editorial: Visiting Aspen? Save money, stay here
In this moment of low gas prices, our sister paper The Aspen Times reported last week that upvalley visitors and residents continue to get gouged.
Pump prices were $1.39 more per gallon in Aspen than the lowest prices in Glenwood Springs — where even those prices, per usual, remained above the state average.
It’s well-known that gas prices rise with the elevation around Colorado, a fact of life that periodically angers residents.
Yes, fuel transport costs are higher, but a big part of the explanation, offered in a 2014 PI story, is simple, if infuriating: “Retailers aren’t bashful about charging higher prices in a tourism market,” GasBuddy.com analyst Greg Laskoski told us.
So, the recent Aspen Times story said, visitors filling up in Aspen “are probably suffering sticker shock at the gas pumps — as do locals when they fill up.”
The answer, of course, is to fill up in Glenwood Springs.
We’d like to humbly suggest to Front Range and out-of-state visitors that they can reduce their costs and headaches even further by doing more in Glenwood — if money matters to you, that is.
We’re going to make an assumption here: If you are a visitor driving to Aspen rather than flying in, how much you spend does, in fact, make a difference.
So why drive all the way to Aspen anyway?
If you’ve previously traveled Highway 82 through the Roaring Fork Valley, you know that traffic can at times be pretty heavy for an essentially rural area. Add to that the vicissitudes of winter weather and road conditions, and you’re inviting headaches for yourself.
While Glenwood Springs hotels and motels are pretty much full in the summertime, that’s not the case in winter.
So for your valley excursions, stay in Glenwood. Take RFTA buses (which accommodate skis) for your upvalley ski days. Soak in Glenwood’s hot springs — two choices now — and enjoy any of several darned good restaurants. Or stop in Carbondale or Basalt, both of which have ridiculously good restaurants and charming shops, particularly for towns their size.
We’ll stipulate that our suggestion contemplates giving up a couple of things that our society believes to be conveniences, but we do these things without necessarily even seeing the inconveniences it creates to drive everywhere.
Life is full of trade-offs. If you take the bus, you’ll have to plan a bit and pack some kind of equipment bag. It will take longer. You’ll need to carry your skis a bit farther in some instances, particularly if you do seize the idea of stopping in a midvalley town.
• Parking is extremely tight in Aspen in any case, and traffic is increasing. The town, which strives to hold its traffic count to 1993 levels, doesn’t really want your car clogging its streets anyway.
• You can be on WiFi on a RFTA bus, emailing or reading Facebook —or maybe reading a book, the Post Independent or Aspen Times — instead of inching along from the Aspen airport through its S curve and then trying to find a parking spot. Again, unless money is no object and you have personal staff, you’re going to be carrying those skis for a ways anyway.
• Buses within Carbondale and Aspen are free. F-R-E-E. It costs just a buck to ride the Glenwood bus system, though RFTA buses will take you from upvalley to downtown. Check RFTA.com for schedules and details.
• When it’s time to go home, you’ll hop on I-70 right away instead of driving 45 minutes downvalley to get there. That gives you more time to enjoy the last morning before heading home.
• You are much less likely to encounter a cocaine-addled fellow tourist.
• Speaking of family-friendliness, taking the bus lets you show your kids that public transportation is OK — a useful life lesson as more and more people live in cities and drive less.
• And if you might get sticker shock paying $20 more to fill your gas tank, you probably don’t even want to look at your Aspen hotel bill. You can save a couple lift tickets worth of cash over a weekend staying in Glenwood versus Aspen.
We would note, too, that Sunlight Mountain south of Glenwood isn’t as steep or glitzy as the upvalley resorts, but there’s never a lift line, the facilities were upgraded this year and the snow is good. You have plenty of shuttle options to the mountain if you don’t want to make that drive.
No offense to our upvalley neighbors. We like Aspen and visiting there now and then — a bit like going to the amusement park. The skiing is world renowned for a reason, the pricey food is good (but not necessarily better than any number of mid- or downvalley spots) and the people-watching peerless.
We’re just suggesting a money-saving, stress-reducing solution to one little First World problem. If you’re into saving money and stress.
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