Crowds are the Constant in Colorado

Jon Roubik | | Featured ArticleFeatured Article
You can only wish this were a bad dream. Image:

Colorado was pretty Coloradical until it became Crowdarado. Whether you like to admit it or not, the reality is the Centennial State is becoming increasingly more crowded and it doesn’t show any sign of slowing down. Between 2010 and July 2017, the population in Denver and its suburbs increased by an average of nearly 51,000 annually.

What we’ve been experiencing is significant stress all those additional people put on the state’s infrastructure. 

While the state’s population has increased 53 percent since 1990, the lane miles of highway have only increased 2 percent according to CDOT officials. Highways, especially I-70, are being pushed to their maximum capacity and beyond.

“Traffic has increased incredibly statewide, and nowhere do you see that more actively than on the I-70 corridor,” Amy Ford, CDOT Spokesperson

To make matters worse, CDOT is confined to making improvements while operating with a limited budget. Of the $1.6 billion 2018-2019 budget, about 45% is allocated towards the maintenance of existing infrastructure, while only about 22% is allocated towards expansion. The result is numerous small projects and solutions to minimize the impact, rather than any comprehensive solution to resolve it altogether.

Among those efforts, CDOT has widened tunnels at Idaho Springs, installed metering lights at east-bound on-ramps throughout Summit County and at the Eisenhower Tunnel and reallocated easement for an express lane through the Highway 40 junction. Although these measures have helped, they haven’t come close to eliminating the issue.

Vail, CO among the most visited resorts in North America. Image:

It’s not only the highways that are being impacted, but ski areas and resorts are also feeling the pinch as well. Areas across Summit and Eagle Counties are reaching parking capacity well before visitors finish pouring in for the day.

Ski Resorts have even started deploying their own tactics in order to counter the growing dilemma. Arapahoe Basin implemented a program in December, dedicating its base-adjacent Early Risers lot to those who have four people or more or are willing to pay. A recent update indicates the lot has been filled with 71% carpooling vehicles which prove this to be a small step in the right direction.

The area also recently announced more drastic measures to combat the problem in what some like to call VRexit. The full departure from their +20-year partnership with Vail Resorts was attributed to parking challenges and available facilities for the sheer number of people visiting on a typical weekend.

Furthermore, high demand for short-term vacation rentals has driven the available housing market to a full-on crisis for those living and working in these areas. Nearly every aspect of life is currently being squeezed by the volume of people who want to ski or ride.

The ski industry, specifically regarding access to ski areas, is in a bit of an awkward place right now. In Spring of 2018 when the Ikon Pass was announced, there was a lot of positive response surrounding a legitimate competitor to the Epic Pass. People were excited that a new pass was available that would potentially shake the industry and knock the juggernaut that is Vail Resorts from their feet.

That was until the snow starts falling and the impact of that competition was felt throughout mountains in Colorado and surrounding states that rarely saw large crowds. Now, these areas and resorts where you could previously escape to find uncrowded runs are being infiltrated by the masses and bringing similar issues along as well.

When it all boils down, crowds are where you make them. You’ll never successfully keyboard-warrior your way into convincing people they should leave because it means more convenience or a better experience for you. Creativity and sacrifice in our own approach to living in and visiting the mountains are the only keys to finding some resolve. Here’s a tip for starters – find out where OpenSnow is telling everyone to go ski this weekend. Great. Now drive the other way!

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4 thoughts on “Crowds are the Constant in Colorado

  1. Is it irony, or of the Alanis Morissette variety, that crowds are ruining resort skiing, but resorts are and have always been tourist hubs — to get people to come to a place and spend money. The problem is both the negative effect and the problem itself, simultaneously; The ski resort industry is intended to lure crowds, and the crowds harm the ski experience. Crowdarado has doubled in size in about 40 years, in part due to the ski industry and the image of the state as a mecca for recreation — which really caught on with new marketing campaigns. Want crowds to go away? Stop skiing at places that were intended and built for getting crowds to show up.

    1. Crowds are the constant on the I-70 corridor. There are SOOOO many options not on I-70. This is a hot take some east coast or midwest hater would have.

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