Colorado mountain, resort communities are rebounding — and then some — from coronavirus-scarred 2020 |

Colorado mountain, resort communities are rebounding — and then some — from coronavirus-scarred 2020

Jason Blevins
The Colorado Sun
People are seen walking on the sidewalks of Breckenridge Main Street on April 8, 2021. The Colorado high country wasn’t as hard hit economically as expected, and early projections show the 2020-21 ski season far outpacing projections.
Photo by Tripp Fay

DENVER — The sky-is-falling scenario projected in the dark, early days of the pandemic never materialized in Colorado’s high country. A survey of sales tax reports filed by 20 resort communities shows combined spending in those places fell by only 3% in 2020 compared with the previous year.

Some communities — Copper Mountain, Keystone, Breckenridge, Vail and Aspen, for example — saw steeper declines, but not nearly as painful as projected last spring, when the threat of contagion appeared poised to decimate tourism businesses across the state.

And early reports show the 2020-21 ski season will end far outperforming projections, with visitors and residents spending like a regular ski season, despite capacity limits at ski resorts, restaurants and lodges, and a lack of public attendance at big-draw events and concerts.

It looked dire last spring. A terrible March tumbled into a dismal April, with spending in the 20 high country communities down 39%. While it was impossible to tell then, those months marked the nadir of 2020, and just about every community across the mountains started climbing out of that hole by early summer.

There are a lot of reasons why mountain economies didn’t collapse last year. Federal stimulus dollars bolstered bank accounts. Online shopping funneled more sales taxes into small-town coffers. Restaurants expanded into streets. City leaders dug deep to help. More people were eating and nesting at home, so grocers and essential retailers enjoyed big upticks in business.

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