COVID-19 precautions, outdoor focus help Aspen remain a destination during pandemic

ASPEN, Colo. — March is Aspen’s moneymaking season as spring breakers and families head to the mountains to ski.

When the coronavirus pandemic hit, all four Aspen/Snowmass ski mountains shut down, along with nearly everything else in the alpine town, which banks on tourism dollars.

Then a funny thing happened: As people became more accustomed to life in masks and began venturing out more, Aspen again became a destination.

The small town made people feel safer than in big, crowded cities. Outdoor activities are Aspen’s calling card, and the mountains were a perfect place to escape the doldrums of months-long lockdowns.

Precautions by local government and businesses — and the conscientiousness of nearly everyone in town — added a layer of comfort.

Ski season and COVID-19: What you need to know before you head to the slopes

“Aspen and all the other mountain towns in Colorado actually did really well because people want to get out of the metropolitan areas and get to the clean air of the mountains,” said Barclay Dodge, chef and owner of Bosq restaurant in downtown Aspen. “We actually did really well this summer. The town was thriving and, surprisingly, it thrived in a safe manner.”

Aspen is known as an outdoor mecca, from hiking, biking and rafting in the warm months to skiing and snowshoeing in the winter. As the pandemic wore on and health officials began encouraging people to get out and exercise, the town became a popular spot once again.

Since Aspen has just three ICU beds, residents and the town were extra cautious with the coronavirus. As restrictions started being lifted in Colorado around the end of May, local businesses took a proactive approach to safety.

Aspen instituted an indoor mask mandate in late April and created a mandatory mask zone in most of downtown in July. Signs were placed all over downtown to alert locals and tourists to the mandate and encourage social distancing.

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