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Kirsten Dobroth/Aspen Public Radio News

The entire outdoor industry has been impacted by the pandemic, and the regional backcountry hut system is no exception. The 10th Mountain Division Hut Association closed its huts last March and cancelled remaining reservations for the winter during the original spate of coronavirus lockdowns. They reopened to the public this summer, and have been taking reservations for the current winter season, albeit with new restrictions in accordance with local health protocols.

Courtesy of Dr. Brooke Allen

Throughout the Roaring Fork Valley, rates of new COVID-19 cases continue to rise. New cases transmitted over Thanksgiving are just beginning to trickle into county data, exacerbating virus rates that were already higher than any other point in the pandemic.

Roshni Gorur/Anderson Ranch Arts Center

The pandemic provided inspiration for Anderson Ranch Art Center’s outdoor exhibition “Sculpturally Distanced,” which featured 17 works of art scattered throughout the Snowmass Village campus this summer. As part of the art institution’s newest outdoor exhibition, six Roaring Fork Valley artists decorated trees around the facility for an artful take on more traditional holiday aesthetics.

Alex Hager / Aspen Public Radio

J-1 visas, which normally bring more than 800 seasonal workers to the Roaring Fork Valley each year, are still on hold following an executive order from President Donald Trump in June. Some local businesses were holding out hope that J-1 workers could come at the beginning of the new year, as the order was originally set to expire at the end of December.

Walter Gallacher

The “Promotora Program,” created by Voces Unidas de las Montañas, is meant to assist Latinos in Pitkin, Eagle and Garfield counties who have been disproportionately affected by the pandemic.

The Latino-led group, which is based in Glenwood Springs, is hiring two bilingual promotoras, or “trained community navigators,” to lead the initiative until the end of March. Local linguist Liz Velasco, who runs her own language translation company and is certified in medical interpretation, will be the lead promotora and they’ll be announcing the candidate for the second position later this week.

Alex Hager / Aspen Public Radio

Karen Koenemann, Pitkin County public health director, will spend her last day in the position on Friday, Dec. 4. She has held the position since the department's inception in early 2017. Koenemann spoke with Aspen Public Radio about the ups and downs of guiding the department through the pandemic. 

Alex Hager / Aspen Public Radio

Coronavirus rates appear to have slightly slowed their breakneck rise in all three Roaring Fork Valley counties, but local health experts say it may only be a momentary blip amid virus levels that are still worse than any other phase of the pandemic.

Alex Hager / Aspen Public Radio

Colorado’s election results will be official within a week at the most without the controversies surrounding lawsuits and certification seen in other states.

All but one of the state’s 63 counties certified their election results last week. Gunnison County experienced a delay after elections officials contracted COVID-19 and expects to certify results this week.

Courtesy Colorado Avalanche Information Center

When the pandemic shut down ski resorts across the state in mid-March, an influx of skiers and snowboarders descended on Colorado’s backcountry. The makeup of those users is now coming to light, thanks to a new study released by the Colorado Avalanche Information Center (CAIC).

Aspen Public Radio's Community Engagement In 2020

Dec 1, 2020
Lauri Jackson / Aspen Public Radio

In a time where we can't be with people in person, Aspen Public Radio would like to thank our listeners and donors for making our reporting and our community connection possible this year.

In 2020, thanks to your support, we provided critical information relating to COVID-19, the Grizzly Creek Fire, election 2020 coverage, new Spanish-language translation of stories, and support for our community.

Tim Mossholder / Unsplash

Many people feel like the last several months have completely turned their world upside down. From shutdowns, to civil unrest, to new rules popping up all the time, to a seemingly unending presidential election, people are run down.

Alex Hager

The ski mountains are open and Christmas is less than a month away. In Aspen, many businesses reliant on tourists and the dollars they bring during the snowier months will face a bevy of new challenges in a mid-pandemic winter.

Courtesy Aspen Center for Environmental Studies

A new coffee table book from The Aspen Center for Environmental Studies documents Aspen’s surroundings through photos and essays. The book is called “The Hidden Life Around Us,” and includes over 400 species of plants, animals, bugs and fungi surveyed at the organization’s 25-acre Hallam Lake Nature Preserve in Aspen.

Need a COVID-19 Nurse? That’ll Be $8,000 a Week

Nov 27, 2020
Luisella Planeta Leoni / Pixabay

In March, Claire Tripeny was watching her dream job fall apart. She’d been working as an intensive care nurse at St. Anthony Hospital in Lakewood, Colorado, and loved it, despite the mediocre pay typical for the region. But when COVID-19 hit, that calculation changed.

She remembers her employers telling her and her colleagues to “suck it up” as they struggled to care for six patients each and patched their protective gear with tape until it fully fell apart. The $800 or so a week she took home no longer felt worth it.

State Launches New Back-To-School Working Group

Nov 27, 2020
Kim Zimmer / Aspen School District

Gov. Jared Polis created a new group this week to come up with a strategy to safely reopen more schools to-in person learning next year. Many districts across Colorado recently switched to remote learning because of a spike in COVID-19 cases.

Districts in the Roaring Fork Valley have moved between in-person and remote learning since the start of the school year, depending on known cases among staff or students in accordance with safety protocols from the state. 

Alex Hager / Aspen Public Radio

State health officials are urging Coloradans to avoid meeting with family and friends for Thanksgiving festivities, as indoor gatherings could exacerbate already-high levels of the coronavirus.

New Restrictions With Pitkin County’s 'Orange Plus' COVID-19 Rules

Nov 25, 2020
Alex Hager / Aspen Public Radio

Surging rates of COVID-19 in Pitkin County pushed the area into the “orange” level of the state’s COVID-19 meter, a multi-tiered gauge used to impose restrictions on counties where the virus is worsening.

On track to move one level higher on the meter, Pitkin County is imposing its own set of rules – slightly stricter than the state requires – to avoid the mandatory shutdown of businesses that comes with the “red” level.

Jasperdo / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Even before the pandemic effectively scuttled human interaction, city officials in Rifle say they noticed that neighbors just weren’t being that neighborly anymore. People were looking at their phones instead of saying hello to each other on the street; COVID-19 only made things worse.

“Many people are even scared to look at you like you’re gonna get the cooties if your eyes meet, and I can’t stand it. I don’t want to live in that kind of world,” said Rifle City Manager Scott Hahn.

Alex Hager / Aspen Public Radio

For the first time since Coronavirus ended the season early in March, lifts will be taking skiers and snowboarders up Aspen Mountain and Snowmass this week. Both mountains are set to open on Wednesday, but pandemic safety measures will make the experience look a bit different.

Alex Hager / Aspen Public Radio

New cases of COVID-19 continue to stack up in all three Roaring Fork Valley counties, making the pandemic more intense now than at any other point since it began. The area is creeping closer to new mandatory restrictions handed down from the state.

Courtesy Hugh Carey/Cripple Creek Backcountry

When ski lifts across Colorado stopped spinning in mid-March due to the pandemic, there was a rise in backcountry use among skiers and snowboarders. Officials think that trend is likely to continue this year, too.

“Given what we saw last spring, we are expecting more people in the backcountry than we’ve seen in previous years,” said Brian Lazar, an avalanche forecaster with the Colorado Avalanche Information Center

Allison Johnson / Roaring Fork School District

As COVID-19 cases continue to rise in the valley, local schools are having to rethink their plans for the winter months. As of last week, nearly 250 students were quarantined in the Roaring Fork School District and the entire Roaring Fork High School moved to online learning for the week after several staff were exposed to the virus. 

“It’s very disruptive, the pivoting back and forth between distance learning and in-person learning,” said the district’s superintendent Rob Stein.

Week In The Arts: Nov. 16-22, 2020

Nov 16, 2020
Courtesy Aspen Film

This is Week In The Arts—a curated list of upcoming virtual events, exhibitions and reopenings around the Roaring Fork Valley.

Aspen Film streams the documentary “16 Bars” Thursday, Nov. 19 through Sunday, Nov. 22 this week. The film touches on the songs and stories within America’s prisons. More information can be found at Aspen Film's website.

A newly peer-reviewed online tool allows people to assess the risk of going out to a restaurant, a bar or a dinner party during the pandemic. And the numbers across our region don’t look good.

Garfield County Public Health

All three counties in the Roaring Fork Valley are experiencing their highest rates of COVID-19 since the pandemic began in March. Public health officials and hospitals are concerned about a grim winter ahead, with holiday gatherings and travel threatening to worsen already-unprecedented levels of the virus.

2020 has been a tough year for some of the Colorado River basin’s long-planned, most controversial water projects.

Proposals to divert water in New Mexico, Nevada and Utah have run up against significant legal, financial and political roadblocks this year. But while environmental groups have cheered the setbacks, it’s still unclear whether these projects have truly hit dead ends or are simply waiting in the wings.

Alex Hager / Aspen Public Radio

Gov. Jared Polis is extending a statewide mask mandate for another thirty days as coronavirus cases continue to surge. More than 1,000 people were in the hospital with the virus as of Monday. Polis is also asking residents to step up their social distancing efforts.

"As long as Coloradans are cancelling their social interactions the next few weeks with those outside their household, together we can save Christmas," the governor said.

Week In The Arts: Nov. 9-15, 2020

Nov 9, 2020
Courtesy Sopris Theatre Company

This is Week In The Arts—a curated list of upcoming virtual events, exhibitions and reopenings around the Roaring Fork Valley.

The Red Brick Center for the Arts opens two new exhibitions on Thursday, Nov. 12. “Alaprimas: Living Locally, the Art of Life in the Roaring Fork Valley” features watercolors by local artists, and the gallery’s Resident Artists Exhibition features mixed media work.

Courtesy of Valley View Hospital

Colorado is now seeing its highest coronavirus case counts and hospitalizations since the start of the pandemic, but Gov. Jared Polis is not issuing any new restrictions.

Instead, Polis is urging residents to do three things this month, including wearing masks, staying six feet apart and only visiting with members of their own households.

Pitkin County's Public Health Director Resigns

Nov 5, 2020
Alex Hager / Aspen Public Radio

Pitkin County Public Health director Karen Koenemann announced plans to resign, effective Dec. 4. She has served as director since the department’s creation in early 2017, and is leaving this job to work for a health nonprofit in her home state of Alaska.