As gas prices took another stratospheric leap yesterday in Aspen, locals and visitors stopping by the Aspen Shell station said they are filling their tanks begrudgingly or not at all.
Regular unleaded cost $5.13 per gallon at the Aspen Shell station on Monday, 14 cents higher than it was last week, and more than $1 above the national average of $4.11 reported by AAA.
Gas prices topped $5 in Snowmass Village and at the Aspen Airport Conoco as well, with both places reporting $5.02 for regular unleaded on Monday.
“It’s very expensive, the life in general,” said Ismael Orozco, who lives in Snowmass and works in Aspen doing landscaping and hot tub maintenance. “They move the prices, but they don’t move the salary.”
Orozco said gas prices affect him because he doesn’t have money in his pocket for other things. He said he is careful to only use his car, which he needs for work, when it’s absolutely necessary.
Aspen’s gas prices, as usual, are the highest in Colorado, which is currently averaging $4.05 per gallon, according to AAA Colorado. Even in places like Vail, which in the past has had the highest prices in the state, gas is a mere $4.43.
Another Shell customer, Hayes Hollenbeck, who lives in Aspen eight months out of the year, said he recently bought a motorcycle to avoid paying high gas prices. He said his “scooter” gets 90 miles to the gallon, so he doesn’t have to fill up on gas too often.
“What’s nice about living in Aspen is that you can walk and bike everywhere,” he said.
According to a recent Associated Press report, the most expensive metro area in the country to buy gas is San Francisco, where regular costs $4.53 per gallon. Still, California’s average gas price of $4.52 is slightly cheaper than gas in Alaska and Hawaii, which are the most expensive states to fill up at $4.55 and $4.58, respectively. The least expensive gas is $3.82 in Tucson.
Visitors to Aspen from those less costly areas are also choosy about when to use the car. Nancy Randall, who is visiting from Houston, said her family tries to avoid using their car unless they absolutely have to. Monday morning they drove to go for a hike, but she said they usually use bikes or their electric car to get around town.
Randall said gas prices in Houston are less than $4 per gallon — a full $1.13 less than in Aspen.
“It’s a little bit of a gouge, I guess, but what can you do?” Randall said. “Everything seems to cost at least 25 percent more in Aspen.”
Like the rest of the country, Aspen has seen gas prices go up quite a bit in the last year, but most precipitously in the last few months. Both the national and state averages were under $3 until last fall, and prices at the Aspen Shell hovered under $4 until mid-March, when they shot up to $4.10. By the end of April gas was $4.34 and by early June it was $4.89, which is where it stayed put for about five weeks. Last week the price went up to $4.98 and this week, $5.13. Diesel topped $5 at the end of May.
Nik Buchholz, who was in Aspen for a conference, said he tried to avoid filling up his gas tank because the prices are at least a dollar higher than they are in his hometown of La Salle, Colo.
Bucholz finally was unable to avoid buying gas — before leaving town on Monday, he put just enough in the tank of his SUV to get him over the pass to Leadville.
“I think it’s ridiculous, but you can’t fight it,” he said. “You’ve got to have gas.”
It’s rare to find people who don’t worry about the price of gas — but Fernando Asenjo, who is from Argentina and works as a polo player in Aspen and Boulder, is one of them.
“It really doesn’t affect me very much,” said Asenjo, explaining that he doesn’t pay for gas because he drives his boss’ truck. “I know it’s a bad situation, but I don’t really care too much because it doesn’t affect me.”
A representative at AAA Colorado said she didn’t know of any particular reason for the 14-cent spike in Aspen, but a lot of places in Colorado are hitting historical highs and gas prices rose anywhere from a penny to 3 cents in one day.
“This is another in a long series of spikes,” said Wave Dreher, AAA Colorado spokeswoman.
Dreher said she hasn’t heard of any indication that there will be any relief in the near future with the rising prices.
“They always say, ‘truckers, watch your brakes, you’re not down yet.’ That can apply to gas prices,” she said.
A Snowmass Resort Conoco attendant put it more bluntly, describing the price of gas as “$5.02 and climbing. And the word is it’s going to go up again this week.”