Our end of the road towns are changing. As a part-time winter resident for the last ten years and a very long-time visitor to Aspen (since 1972), I have to admit that this winter’s ski crowd is exceptional — as in exceptionally large.
I believe a convergence of events has allowed this to happen: a better economy, better marketing by the stakeholders (SkiCo, hotels, airlines etc. …), social media. A great snow year doesn’t hurt either. This is all then energized by a more knowledgeable and flexible tourist who can book his room, change his route, rate his options on sleeping and dining all with a super computer disguised as a cellphone while his partner is driving towards some optional ski destination provided by his Epic, Ikon or Mountain Collective pass.
This has definitely changed the makeup of skiing in Aspen this year, and as I talk to friends who live in Crested Butte, Jackson Hole and Telluride they tell me the same thing. The common quote seems to be, “I have never seen crowds like this.”
While locals have always been aware of the expected crowds at Christmas, Presidents Day Weekend and Spring Break this seems to be and feels different.
If this is/was the desired result by the marketers then hats off to them. I hope however that they take a long look and talk to a lot of people (we are all stakeholders) about whether this is a desired result long-term. Perhaps this year is an anomaly.
There is a lot at stake. Increased ski traffic decreases the quality of the ski experience for everyone, yet a certain number of skiers is required to sustain the resort and Ski Company. Increased rode traffic is a bane to the everyday worker, resident, tourist and the sensitive environment in which we live and play. Property values and tax revenues increase or decrease given the overall quality of life the community ultimately provides.
A long-term view and several rounds of public discussion would seem to be needed and appropriate given what is at stake. The infrastructure nor the environment is simply not built for this level of tourism (my opinion). My other hometowns are experiencing the same issues (Key West Florida — Traverse City Michigan).
Good luck to us all in solving these issues.
Aspen, Key West, Traverse City