Drought, haze not visibly impacting tourism | SummitDaily.com

Drought, haze not visibly impacting tourism

Lu Snyder

SUMMIT COUNTY – Though locals are fretting about low lake levels and poor visibility this summer, the state’s drought and forest fires don’t appear to be affecting visits from out-of-towners.

“The fires might actually be helping us,” said Lynn Skall, executive director of the Summit County Chamber of Commerce. Many people are visiting Summit County from the Front Range as they try to avoid the haze there, she added.

While many people are calling with questions about the forest fires and smoke, no one seems to be cancelling their vacation plans.

“They’re concerned the fires are causing an air quality issue,” Skall said. “And (they ask) are the fires right here?”

“A lot of people have been calling and just making sure Breckenridge is not on fire,” said Jen Radueg, Breckenridge Resort Chamber director of public relations. “We haven’t had any cancellations.”

In fact, Radueg said, this year’s visitor numbers are higher than those for the same time last year. Many of this week’s visitors will be driving here from Denver, Kansas, Texas, Missouri and Nebraska.

Most of the large lodging companies in the area already are showing strong numbers for the Fourth of July, Skall said.

With no large fires in the vicinity, Summit County has been relatively clear of noticeable haze this summer. That doesn’t mean it hasn’t had it’s bad days, however.

On Sunday, in particular, the county was covered with a thick haze that left a light coat of ashes on some cars.

Tourists already in the area have commented on the hazy days but have not complained, resort officials said.

“I haven’t heard too many complaints,” Radueg said. “I think that people are still enjoying their vacations.”

In fact, Mary Waldman, co-owner of the Hotel Frisco, said a family visiting from North Carolina commented on how glad they were they hadn’t cancelled their vacation plans to Colorado this summer. Despite fires around the state, the family still enjoyed the outdoor activities for which the state is known, including biking, rafting, kayaking and hiking, she said.

“They said they had a great time,” Waldman said. “The smoke didn’t bother them.”

Some locals and tourists might decide to head indoors on smoky days like Sunday, though.

“The last couple of days (the haze) has been pretty much statewide,” said Christopher Dann, public information officer for the Colorado air pollution control division of the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. “You’d be hard-pressed to find a place that hasn’t been impacted by the smoke from time to time.”

The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment measures statewide air quality hourly, and averages the results in 24-hour periods, Dann said. So far, air quality has not exceeded federal air quality standards, he said.

“That doesn’t mean air quality hasn’t been impacted,” Dann said.

On days like Sunday, when the visibility is low and the haze is thick, it might be advisable to reduce outdoor activity and stay indoors, he said.

But it really depends on the individual. While some are easily affected by poor air quality, others will not notice it.

Dann suggested that individuals gauge their symptoms and modify their activity accordingly. Symptoms of poor air quality include eye, nose and throat irritation, coughing and trouble breathing or tightness in the chest.

Lu Snyder can be reached at 970-668-3998 x203 or lsnyder@summitdaily.com

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