Air quality

A haze rests over the Roaring Fork Valley in August, a direct result of the Grizzly Creek Fire and compounded by other surrounding wildfires in the region.


Aspen has good air most of the year, and 2020 was actually better than both 2018 and 2019 in terms of number of healthy days.

That’s according to the city of Aspen’s recently published Air Quality Report 2020, which “catalogs the air quality protection efforts ­taken by the city and its partners, outlines air quality and its importance and presents recommendations to withstand and combat negative air quality impacts now and into the future,” according to a city of Aspen press release.

According to the report, there were only two days of unhealthy air in Aspen in 2020, largely due to smoke from the Grizzly Creek Fire and other wildfires in the region. Aspen had not experienced such high pollution days since the dust storms in 2009 and 2013.

Among the efforts taken by the city of Aspen to preserve Aspen’s good air quality — something not to be taken for granted, as the city in the 1980s failed to meet Environmental Protection Agency standards — is the usage of air quality monitors. Monitors provide high-quality data about the pollutants that infiltrate Aspen’s troposphere.

“This data influences the implementation of programs and ordinances that help protect Aspen’s air quality. Construction mitigation, anti-idling, and wood-burning ordinances, as well as traffic reduction programs, aid in decreasing the number of pollutants that can infiltrate Aspen air,” the press release explains.

City of Aspen Senior Environmental Health Specialist of Air Quality Jannette Whitcomb touted the importance of collecting accurate data as a public health tool.

“The City of Aspen focuses on providing accurate air quality data and recommendations to the community so it can take the proper precautions in the case of a negative air quality event such as a wildfire,” Whitcomb said in a statement. “Short- and/or long-term exposure to air pollution can be associated with a wide range of human health effects including increased respiratory symptoms, hospitalization for heart or lung diseases, and premature death. Specific groups within the general population may have a greater risk of pollution effects due to a variety of factors such as age, lung or heart conditions, and intensity of outdoor activity.”