Feeling the heat…tourism, health insurance and Vinotok

It seems to start earlier every year. It, of course, being the hot summer tourism season. This year it seems to have started Memorial Day weekend and isn’t letting up much.

June is the old July and July is expected to be Bangladesh in the backcountry. That’s pushing busyness into September and even October. Ouch. There’s a sweet spot somewhere in there—perfect crowds, no waiting, good tipping—maybe a Wednesday in late June.

I think it was warmer here than normal on Memorial Day and hotter everywhere else and that drove some folks into the mountains. We should have that advantage for a while—like for the rest of the planet’s existence while mankind is part of the biosphere.

The Tourism Association could take my suggestion from a few years back and simply stream a live picture of Paradise Divide on a billboard above the hottest piece of highway asphalt in Dallas, Houston and Denver and sit back and watch them roll in.

A quick perusal of the internet indicated hell has arrived in some spots before summer has officially begun. Forecasts include:

Tucson—111 degrees

Phoenix—113 degrees

New Orleans—92 degrees

Oklahoma City—93 degrees

Dallas—93 degrees

Denver—96 degrees

Palm Springs—104 degrees

Kansas City—96 degrees

Chicago—94 degrees

Atlanta—96 degrees

Cortez—95 degrees

Why wouldn’t you flee here, where to us it might feel hot but is still less than 80 degrees? Oh, and summer doesn’t officially begin for a few weeks, by the way. The solstice is June 20.

One of my other suggestions on how the TA could spend its $1.8 million, half of which is targeted to summer, is stop promoting summer altogether and spend all the money marketing January. Or spend the majority on mitigation that ends up enhancing everyone’s experience and gets people to come back. I’m sure those ideas will fly.

Health insurance hotness

Insurance is boring but it’s about to get smokin’ hot. A local insurance guy sent me a notice that the Colorado Division of Insurance confirmed that four companies now serving the state either will not offer or will significantly cut back individual plans (non-employer) next year. Premiums are also expected to go up on those plans by a lot. More than 90,000 Coloradans will be impacted. Bottom line is that if you buy your own health insurance, you are kind of screwed. You’ll get less for more money. It’s not pretty. The Republicans are throwing Obamacare on the coals and the Dems have been pretty silent on the issue.

Vinotok Fire

It’s not like the Vinotok fire is tame—thank god. That’s part of the beauty. But if it gets even a touch more wild and ends up torching a house or a person—either of which is very possible—then it won’t get changed, it will get tossed. And that would be a shame.

So council and neighbor concerns to take some of the heat off the fire or find a better location and pull back some of the mind-altering experiences and public peeing is not unreasonable. A clear message was sent to the Vinotok organizers last Monday that while most love the event, some of the ramifications are getting too close to the edge. Given the time between now and September 24, hopefully some interesting, creative, collaborative solution will be found to keep the fire wild and the town safe.

When is too much too much?

I don’t want June and September to become so busy that residents can’t enjoy the place. I told a certain mayoral candidate a while back I’d throttle him if he pushed for what he saw as the September “shoulder season” to fill up to summer numbers. Thinking about chilling out on the go-go promotion aspect is not just selfish (although it is a bit), it might also be good long-term business thinking. The workforce housing question will continue to be an issue as more people live farther away from their jobs because market prices push people out of Crested Butte. So, having fewer service workers trying to wait on more people is not a good equation. Service will slip, experience will be tarnished and people will stop coming.

Crested Butte councilman Chris Ladoulis pondered during a Chamber of Commerce presentation on Monday what the impact was on the Fourth of July when parade spectator numbers go up but the number of floats goes down, which he says has been the case the last few years. It does seem that fewer local people are putting in the time and effort for funky floats because they’re busy and a bit overwhelmed. So visitors coming to see wild, fire-jumping weirdos in Donald Trump costumes are instead seeing more waving state politicians handing out candy. Booooooring, and another indicator of a gentrification of the funk. There are still some fun highlights in the parade but…

So here we go. The trails already feel a tad busy (but will get more so). The parking is already filling up on Elk Avenue (but will get tighter). The lines at the post office are getting longer (but will get longer). Cars are driving faster (I bet up to 23 mph in the 15 mph zones but they’ll go faster). And they’re driving in weirder places (Coal Creek. But that might top the summer).

If you know where to go, summer is still special. An old-timer once told me you just need to go up another 1,000 feet in elevation to get away. It’s quieter and not as hot. And hot is an issue.

—Mark Reaman

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