By Alan Gionet

JEFFERSON COUNTY, Colo. (CBS4)– It was a long slow crawl into the mountains Friday evening, with heavy volume backups allowing for grueling progress only to be exacerbated by an overturned semi at Vail Pass. The Pak family of Aurora spent two hours on the road, but got only to the Beaver Brook area on the west side of Evergreen.

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“I’ve never really seen it like this on an evening drive to the mountains,” said Phil Pak, whose family has had a place in Winter Park for decades.

Many of the cars bore out of state plates. Erin Pak talked about the reality that Colorado’s COVID-19 numbers are better than many other states.

“Definitely we have a really good control on it. And other states are seeing that and saying hey we have a three-day weekend, let’s head out.”

In Vail, things aren’t as bad as feared earlier in the pandemic.

“People are still spending money. There’s still economic activity going on,” said Chris Romer, President and CEO of the Vail Valley Partnership. “What we are seeing is a huge influx in drive traffic from a longer distance. We’re seeing visitors driving from Houston, from Chicago, from Minneapolis… 1,100 miles to drive to Colorado and they’re staying longer.”

Romer noted that hotel occupancy is off by about 30%, but short-term rentals of condos, apartments and homes are doing well.

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“We think people are staying a little bit longer so they want to have the space. People want to have the kitchen and the living room.”

And those longer stays are helping tax revenues, which are off, but not nearly as much as some expected.

“If you had told me that we’d be only down a little bit, single digits down in sales tax… I would have taken it to the bank, I would have run with it, I never would have believed you,” said Romer.

In addition, people who own second homes in the area seem to be staying longer.

“We’re seeing record enrollment in some of our private schools and people doing remote schooling from their second homes.”

At Red Rocks, CBS4 spoke with people visiting from out of state. Haley Marcus came from Pennsylvania.

“Been quarantined for a while now so we just wanted to get out and enjoy the weather and it’s beautiful.”

(credit: CBS)

Her friend Lisa DeMarco felt right at home, “I love it here. I’m moving here.”

Alan Gionet

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