One of the most extravagant destinations in the US, Aspen is known for its rocky mountains, ski resorts and luxurious restaurants and welcomed most of its guests in March.
But this year the pandemic hit forced the alpine town to close all the four Snowmass ski mountains including Aspen, with nearly everything else that bagged the tourism dollars.
Soon after people got accustomed to the coronavirus and the mask life and started to roam around Aspen witnessed a surprising surge in its tourists’ number and again the ski resort town became a destination for nature admirers.
One reason for people to venture into small towns is that they felt safer there than in the bustling cities and for Aspen, its outdoor activities and the mountains gave a perfect treat for people to get away from the months-long woe of the lockdowns.
When the tourists started to stream into the town, the local government and businesses jointly laid down the precautionary measures, which everyone cautiously followed, added a layer of comfort to the tourists as well.
“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,” Mr. Dodge added.
Aspen is known as an outdoor mecca, the divine beauty of nature added with hiking, biking and rafting in summer to skiing and snowshoeing in the winter. When the pandemic passed on the health officials started asking people to get out and once again the town became a popular spot.
As the town has only three ICU beds, residents and the town were extra cautious with the virus and when Colorado lifted its restrictions around the end of May local businesses took a proactive approach to ensure the safety of its customers.
In late April, Aspen mandated people to wear masks indoors and created a mandatory mask zone in most of downtown by July. Signs were placed all over downtown to encourage locals as well as tourists to practice social distancing.
Security personnel and volunteers were employed to gently remind people to wear their masks and confrontations have been rare. Hikers pull up their masks when crossing paths on the trails.
Local businesses put a limit on the number of customers entering at a time, often deploying staff in front of the door to keep track.
Gondola at the Aspen Mountains is one of the major attractions of the spot and the authorities have made its tickets sale online considering the comfort of the tourists.
Only members of the same family are allowed to ride the gondola together and the outdoor eating at the top of the mountain was expanded.
The Aspen Ski Company has stated that it is planning to institute numerous new protective measures this winter to keep skiers socially distanced and safe.
“Everything other than the skiing will be different. There’ll be some things that may make it more convenient and easier to get up the mountain, in addition to keeping your distance and things,” said Jeff Hanle, vice president of communications for Aspen Snowmass.
Hotels also restructured their procedures during the lockdown and introduced changes when they were allowed to have guests again. Aspen Meadows Resort, on a sprawling property above the Roaring Fork River, instructed its cleaning staff to leave sanitizer on all surfaces in the rooms for at least 10 minutes before wiping.
Every facility in the hotel including the pool, fitness center and room cleaning is working on a properly scheduled timeframe to ensure social distancing.
“For those that love hospitality, it really was just another pivot to figure out how to operate the business. It’s certainly been one of the biggest challenges of my career.” Aspen Meadows general manager Jud Hawk said.
Restaurants in Colorado were instructed to only serve at 50 percent of its seating capacity by late May. Mr. Dodge installed a new ventilation system inside Bosq and has an enclosed outdoor seating area, also mandated temperature checks at the door and shared surface sanitization.
The restaurants are building enclosed areas for outdoor dining and getting prepared for another season as it reopens for the winter on December 10.