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Cat Palmer


In a normal year, local musician Shea Freedom can be found tearing up the stage at Belly Up in Aspen or performing for passersby on main street in Carbondale, but when the pandemic hit, his gigs were cancelled. 

As protests and social justice movements spread across the country, that forced free time gave Freedom a moment to reflect on what he was seeing and he used his creativity as a way to process everything. 

Drew Beamer / Unsplash

It may be a new year, but the stresses and challenges from 2020 seem to be trickling into 2021. At the national level, the Jan. 6 insurrection at the Capitol by right-wing extremists. Locally, people continue to navigate the financial difficulties that have come along with the ongoing pandemic. It has been widely reported that alcohol has become one of the nation’s key coping mechanisms, with consumption rising sharply among adults.

Courtesy of Aspen Chapel

Traditionally on Martin Luther King Day, the Aspen Chapel invites locals to cook a special dinner for people who visit the Aspen Homeless Shelter. Last year, nearly a hundred adults and children gathered for the annual meal at the chapel. 

“It’s always a lovely experience of doing everything together, but this year with COVID-19, we obviously couldn’t have a hundred people in a room together,” said Nicholas Vesey, the minister at the Aspen Chapel. 

UPDATE: Judge Denies Restaurant Owners' Challenge to Pitkin County Ban on Indoor Dining

Jan 15, 2021
Eleanor Bennett/Aspen Public Radio News

UPDATED 7 p.m. Friday: A judge denied the request from the Pitkin County Restaurant Alliance, meaning the indoor dining ban will go into effect on Sunday as originally planned.


A group of Pitkin County restaurant owners are trying to block tighter restrictions set by the county’s Board of Health that would ban indoor dining. Court papers filed Thursday evening in Pitkin County District Court challenge that ban, set to take effect on Sunday, Jan. 17. 

Aspen Airport Holiday Arrivals Down More Than 50%

Jan 15, 2021
Alex Hager / Aspen Public Radio

The pandemic took a heavy toll on Aspen’s tourism industry during the December holidays, usually the airport’s busiest time of year. In the two-week period around Christmas, the number of arriving passengers at Aspen-Pitkin County airport was down 53% from the year before. 

Courtesy Aspen Gay Ski Week

Since debuting over 40 years ago, Aspen Gay Ski Week has distinguished itself as the country’s longest running gay ski week. It’s also the largest normally with about 5,000 people descending on Aspen for a week filled with pool parties, après-ski gatherings, events at the Belly Up music venue, and a downhill costume competition on Aspen Mountain.

But this year isn’t normal as COVID-19 cases rise, and Aspen Gay Ski Week, Jan. 17-24 will look a little different. Organizers are calling this year’s celebration “Aspen Gay Ski Week Lite,” and the more social components of the annual pride festival will be scaled back to online events as Pitkin Country increases restrictions.   


It's been a tough year for gas and oil prices, but solar power has seen steady growth during this pandemic year. 

Liam James Doyle / NPR

The U.S. House of Representatives is debating an article of impeachment against President Trump following the violence at the U.S. Capitol. The article charges Trump with incitement of insurrection. Watch the debate and vote live.

Alex Hager / Aspen Public Radio

A new health order in Pitkin County will ban indoor dining and tighten restrictions on hotels and rental units beginning Sunday. The new rules, voted into effect by the Board of Health on Monday, come as the county’s soaring coronavirus rates rank second-worst in Colorado. 

Scott Franz/Capitol Coverage

For decades, the opening day of Colorado’s legislative session has usually been full of hugs, flowers, speeches and celebrations.

But due to the coronavirus pandemic and new fears raised by last week’s deadly attack at the U.S. Capitol, this Wednesday’s kickoff will be short, and subdued.

There might also be an increased police presence after a warning from the FBI about potential armed protests at state Capitols around the country.


The Community Office For Resource Efficiency (CORE) is launching a valley-wide art installation to tell the story of climate change, in partnership with a host of local organizations, including Colorado Mountain College. 

The community mural project “Stories of Climate Change/Historias del Cambio Climático” is a part of both CORE’s third annual Imagine Climate series and the Inside Out Project created by renowned muralist JR

Matthew Frank / Mountain West News Bureau

The insurrection in the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 stunned the nation and the world. Many lawmakers in the Mountain West played a role in this unprecedented moment in history – whether they have decried President Donald Trump's attempts to overturn a free and fair election or supported his baseless claims.

Prominent Republicans in the region including Sen. Mitt Romney from Utah and Rep. Liz Cheney in Wyoming have condemned the president's conspiracy theories.

Luke Runyon / KUNC

Record-breaking wildfires in 2020 turned huge swaths of Western forests into barren burn scars. Those forests store winter snowpack that millions of people rely on for drinking and irrigation water. But with such large and wide-reaching fires, the science on the short-term and long-term effects to the region’s water supplies isn’t well understood.

Lauren Boebert for Congress

Updated 1:50 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 10

A newly elected congresswoman from Colorado says she’ll carry a handgun on Capitol Hill.

"Even though I now live in one of the most liberal cities in America, I refuse to give up my rights – especially my Second Amendment rights," said Rep. Lauren Boebert, R-Colo., in a slickly produced video posted to Twitter Sunday.

Courtesy Nevada Public Health

Dulce Leyva is a bilingual contact tracer who lives in Reno, Nevada. Her job is to reach out to people who have tested positive for the novel coronavirus and make sure they're self-isolating. And she tries to help them remember who they've been around and could have been exposed to the virus.


Alex Hager / Aspen Public Radio

Months of dry weather have left much of the Roaring Fork Valley in critical levels of drought, even after snow in December. The region has not been so dry this time of year since 2002. The Roaring Fork River and many others across the state are below normal levels of flow, which is unlikely to change without an extraordinarily wet winter.

Photo by Pelle Martin on Unsplash

Back in 2019, licensed clinical social worker and therapist Kathleen Callahan was approached by Lindze Letherman and Quinn Gallagher about starting a mental health support group for hospitality and restaurant workers.

Letherman and Gallagher both work at Hooch, in downtown Aspen, and offered the space as a meeting place for local service industry workers to talk about their unique challenges and support each other. Since the pandemic hit, the group “Hospitality Matters,” hasn’t been meeting in-person, but they’ve continued their meet-ups virtually.

The Art Base

The Art Base has been passing out free art kits for kids from its Basalt location since everything shut down due to the pandemic in March. Since then, the art organization has distributed 1,600 kits to local families, and recently, it partnered with Carbondale based Dance Initiative for a special edition “Wild Rumpus” Art Box. 

Kwon Juhno / Unsplash

Updated at 8:40 a.m. Thursday

As of Wednesday night, less than 100 homes remained without natural gas following a widespread outage that began Sunday night affecting 3,500 customers. More than 170 technicians with Black Hills Energy spent the last several days restoring service and relighting appliances.

Rae Ellen Bichell / KUNC

Updated at 12:58 p.m. Wednesday

State health officials say a Colorado National Guard member has the country’s first confirmed case of the COVID-19 variant B.1.1.7. that some scientists say is more contagious. This is the same variant discovered in the United Kingdom. According to a news release, the Colorado State Laboratory confirmed and notified the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention of the finding.

Courtesy Chris Cassidy

AJ Carrillo farms 18 acres outside of Hotchkiss, Colo., in the high desert of the Western Slope about an hour southeast of Grand Junction.  When he irrigates his peach orchard, water gushes from big white plastic pipes at the top of the plot and takes half a day to trickle down to the other end of his five-acre orchard.

Colorado Avalanche Information Center

Snowpack in the Roaring Fork Valley is particularly ripe for avalanches this year thanks to an abnormally dry spell. Colorado is already considered the nation’s most dangerous state for avalanches, and unstable snow across the state has already led to a number of deaths this year. 

Ski Resorts Work to Stay Open as COVID Cases Snowball

Dec 24, 2020
Eleanor Bennett / Aspen Public Radio

The day after Thanksgiving, Dr. Jana Eller and Dr. Shiraz Naqvi were seated beside an outdoor fire pit at the base of Telluride Ski Resort, taking a short break from skiing.

The two physicians from Houston had driven more than 18 hours to get here for the holiday weekend, and they were staying (and preparing meals) in a rented home. They traveled with another couple and their kids, colleagues they’ve been “bubbling” with in Houston.

Dale Armstrong / Courtesy of Aspen Center for Environmental Studies

On a recent morning, local naturalist Rebecca Weiss led a small group of amatuer birders through the frozen cattails near the John Denver Sanctuary in Aspen. Dawning binoculars and masks, they stood at the edge of the Roaring Fork River to get a closer look at an American Dipper bobbing in and out of the frigid water as it foraged. 

“We heard this gorgeous singing and we were all looking and listening as hard as we could to try to pinpoint the sound and who was making it,” Weiss said. “And finally, we got a line of sight on the dipper.” 

Pitkin County Moves To 'Red' Restrictions

Dec 22, 2020
Alex Hager / Aspen Public Radio

Pitkin County moved to "Red Level" restrictions Tuesday after exponential increases in local rates of coronavirus. Under the new rules, personal gatherings can only happen with people in the same household, offices and gyms are capped at 10% capacity and restaurants are limited to 25%. Last call is at 9:30 p.m. and they must close at 10 p.m. 

Space Encyclopedia 2nd Edition by David Aguilar / National Geographic Kids Books

The year 2020 might feel like the year that never ends, or the lump of coal in Santa’s stocking that keeps on giving, but fear not, the stars are aligning just in time for 2021. Or, rather, the planets. 

Monday night, Saturn and Jupiter are going to draw so close together in the sky it is going to look like they are actually colliding. 

Courtesy Carbondale Clay Center

Before COVID-19 hit, arts and cultural events and institutions made up 12 percent of the Pitkin County economy, according to a 2019 study recently released by the Aspen Chamber Resort Association. That equals nearly half a billion dollars in economic output, and it is higher than the statewide average. The monetary value ripples up and down the valley, and data from 2018 point to over 3,000 jobs within the Roaring Fork Valley coming from the creative economy.

David Zalubowski / AP Photo, Pool

The nine members of Colorado's electoral college, like their counterparts across the country, met Monday at the state Capitol to cast their votes in the 2020 presidential election.

There were no surprises at the Electoral College ceremony in Colorado, where more than 55% of voters chose Joe Biden and Kamala Harris as the country’s next president and vice president.

Kim Zimmer / Aspen School District

For many of us, the ongoing pandemic has impacted our mental health in surprising ways, and this includes young people.

In the latest conversation from our “High Risk At High Altitude" series, Aspen Public Radio talked with local behavioral intervention specialist Sonja Linman about what she’s learned from her work with local kids and their families.

Jim Clarke / Associated Press

Colorado received its first shipment of the COVID-19 vaccine on Monday as part of the largest vaccination campaign in U.S. history.