As restrictions loosen, Summit County eagerly accepts visitors with certain regulations
Summit County receives more than 7 million visitors annually, with tourism contributing more than $1 billion in revenue to the local economy. With Breckenridge, Copper Mountain, Keystone and Arapahoe Basin ski resorts all within county borders, visitors are attracted to the area’s world-class skiing and snowboarding. However, tourism is not reserved only for ski season. Visitors come from around the world for the county’s captivating views, charming towns and expansive reservoirs.
While the county’s economy and businesses rely extensively on visitor spending, the coronavirus pandemic reduced visitor numbers as people across the U.S. followed stay-at-home guidelines. Regulations were being scaled back, however, as numbers of COVID-19 cases and fatalities begin to plateau and decline nationally. Colorado Gov. Jared Polis replaced stay-at-home regulations with a “safer-at-home” initiative that encourages physical distancing while allowing nonessential businesses to reopen with restrictions.
Summit County remains in the safer-at-home phase with nearly all businesses permitted to reopen in some capacity other than bars, which Polis closed Tuesday, June 30, in response to rising case numbers in nearby states.
As towns and businesses continue to reopen, Summit County is preparing to welcome visitors to the area while maintaining public health guidelines for residents and visitors.
Austyn Dineen, public relations director for the Breckenridge Tourism Office, released a guide of regulations for those visiting Breckenridge.
“Part-time residents and guests planning getaways to the welcoming mountain community should know what Breckenridge expects of them and what to expect when in town,” Dineen wrote.
While the statewide safer-at-home initiative encourages the use of masks, more than a dozen local ordinances throughout Colorado — including in Summit County — are requiring masks to be worn in businesses, restaurants and public spaces. Stores in Frisco, Silverthorne, Dillon and Breckenridge are selling masks for residents and visitors. Violators of local mask ordinances can be fined $50 for a first offense.
The Breckenridge Tourism Office is asking visitors to be flexible and compliant with local regulations that might differ from their home counties or states.
This story previously published in the Summer 2020 edition of Explore Breckenridge & Summit County magazine.
“When you are in Breckenridge, you are a part of our community,” Dineen said. “You wearing a mask protects us, and us wearing a mask protects you.”
Across Summit County, masks or face coverings are required to be worn in any building open to the public and outside when a 6-foot distance cannot be maintained.
In addition to the widespread guidelines to maintain 6 feet of distance between others whenever possible and practice good hygiene including hand-washing, the town of Breckenridge also asks visitors to be symptom-free for 10 days before traveling to the county.
Visitors also are asked to be understanding as restaurants and stores slowly reopen and adapt to regulations.
Lucy Westwood, the manager of Valleygirl Boutique in Breckenridge, explains that many retailers are taking steps to follow city regulations and protect staff and customers.
“You are not allowed to walk into a store without a mask; masks are required,” Westwood said. “We have hand sanitizer at the door and in the store. We have a cleaning list of cleaning areas in the store every hour on the hour.”
In addition to requiring masks and encouraging good hygiene practices, stores are regulating the number of people in the store and will ask guests to return later if the maximum number of customers already are inside. Some stores, such as Valleygirl Boutique, are also offering reserved shopping times before and after regular hours for customers who are still apprehensive about interacting in public or have underlying health conditions that make them more susceptible to the novel coronavirus.
“We have definitely seen a steady stream of traffic especially on the weekends,” Westwood said. “We are trying to monitor large groups to see if we can split them up.”
Many stores and restaurants in the county are eager to welcome back customers but simply ask visitors to be understanding of guidelines to keep everyone in the area safe.
“We are a little apprehensive about the rest of the summer, as there are many states that have not put in mandatory mask guidelines,” Westwood added. “So as long as people know what to expect when they come up here, everything will be good.”
Towns and businesses are swiftly evolving to create a safe environment for visitors and residents to enjoy leisure activities, such as shopping and dining.
The Breckenridge Town Council passed a resolution to turn Breckenridge’s historic Main Street into a pedestrian walkway, offering restaurants and shops additional outdoor space for physically distant service. The walkable Main Street is planned to last through early August. The town of Frisco also has temporarily closed a portion of Main Street to vehicle traffic to allow businesses to expand into the street.
“Opening the street to pedestrian traffic allows for appropriate physical distancing while experiencing the same downtown charm,” Dineen wrote.
Vanessa Agee, marketing and communications director for the town of Frisco, stresses that county and town regulations are not meant to discourage visitors.
“This is not about keeping people out of Summit County to keep residents safe,” Agee said. “This is about protecting visitors and residents both. This is all about making sure that all of us are safe.”
Summit County’s department of health website is where visitors can find the latest information on case data and public health orders: Co.Summit.co.us/coronavirus
The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment maintains a website that includes information on new case data, state health orders and additional resources on the virus: COVID19.Colorado.gov
The Summit Daily News has a section of its website focused on the latest news surrounding the novel coronavirus pandemic: SummitDaily.com/coronavirus
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