Given the circumstances — a one-day-early opening at Aspen Mountain and Snowmass, COVID-19 restrictions controlling crowds and gatherings, limited open terrain on the mountains and, of course, the Thanksgiving holiday — it might seem inevitable that businesses would experience an unusual start to the season to meet the trends of an especially unusual year.
Not exactly. In a twist of normalcy, a number of local businesses saw little change in opening week goings-on, aside from the now-familiar optics of social distancing and mask-wearing, this year’s season debut stuck to the status quo.
“As far as actual customer traffic, it’s been business as usual,” said Tyler Moore, a manager at Pitkin County Dry Goods on East Cooper Avenue. “It’s felt like a typical year.”
Moore said foot traffic for opening week at the resorts was consistent with what might be expected in a normal year unaffected by COVID-19 restrictions. Even with social distancing and mask mandates in place, “everybody’s been following the rules and going with the flow.”
A number of other businesses were busy — though not abnormally so — with opening week bringing more foot traffic through Aspen and Snowmass.
“Business has been good, steady, kind of busy,” said Betty Rivera, a manager at JUS Aspen on East Hyman Avenue. “It’s been going really great.”
Skiers and snowboarders on the slopes this weekend brought a new wave of mid-afternoon business to the juicery, plus a boost in foot traffic compared with earlier in the month. This weekend, the shop was “really busy for a Sunday,” Rivera said, but there were no curveballs for the business during the first week of the ski season.
Meat and Cheese, a market and restaurant on East Hopkins Avenue, also saw a solid customer turnout last week.
“We definitely got a pop the days leading up to Thanksgiving,” said Jaila Jafarabadi, a manager at Meat and Cheese.
“The day before Thanksgiving was really, really busy,” Jafarabadi said, with “a little bit more foot traffic” throughout opening week. Friday, however, was quieter for the shop — perhaps more an indication of Thanksgiving eating habits than overall business trends.
“I believe everybody was just eating leftovers Friday,” Jafarabadi said. “Honestly, every day is different.”
High Q, a marijuana dispensary located in the Snowmass Mall, likewise saw strong numbers during opening week, manager Alex Malacoff said. The increased foot traffic in the Snowmass Mall, which has been mostly quiet during the offseason, helped High Q experience “one of our biggest days of business since COVID,” Malacoff said.
“For it being COVID and everything, it was pretty busy this year,” Malacoff said. High Q has only been open for about a year, so the business doesn’t have years of sales data to analyze, but this week’s sales were in line with a typical week during the pre-COVID 2019-20 ski season.
“It’s making us hopeful,” Malacoff said.
Despite the relatively typical week for businesses as the mountains opened, it’s hard to say whether the winter season will continue on an uneventful path or be altered by ever-changing COVID-19 restrictions and rising case rates.
“I’m hoping it will kind of stay the course,” Moore said.
“I’m optimistic,” he said — with a caveat amid the unpredictability of this year. “With 2020, you just never know.”