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Residents Turn To The Outdoors For Relief During Coronavirus Outbreak

Mar 19, 2020

Uphillers practice "social distancing" on Buttermilk.
Credit Christin Kay / Aspen Public Radio

The rolling ski hills under Buttermilk’s Tiehack lift are typically a popular spot for uphillers. But since the coronavirus outbreak, and Governor Jared Polis ordering the closure of all Colorado resorts through at least April 6, the route up to the top is even busier than usual with a steady stream of skinners and hikers going up daily.  

 

Aspen resident Maddy Jimerson said she’s been self-isolating at home. 

“I was on Instagram and social media and the news,” she said. “I can't even get my focus because it's like, I need to know what's going on.”

Maddy Jimerson prepares to skin up Buttermilk.
Credit Christin Kay / Aspen Public Radio

The first cases of coronavirus were identified in Aspen on March 11. Now, Colorado is under a public health order that limits gatherings to 10 people or less. Schools are closed through at least April 17. Restaurants are closed to in-house dining.

Jimerson worked at Aspen’s fine dining restaurant Cache Cache, which closed its doors for the season earlier this week. She’s looking to breathe some fresh air, and to clear her head. 

“It's really important for people to get outside. It's a good reminder that things are going to be okay,” Jimerson said. “It helps us normalize a little bit just being outside in the sun.”

In the parking lot at Buttermilk, Chris Beck took off his ski boots after skinning up and skiing down. He’s an anesthesiologist for Aspen Valley Hospital, and, like many health care providers, he has a lot on his mind. 

“It's certainly a time where we're all anxious about keeping our families healthy or older relatives healthy, but also keeping each other healthy as colleagues and providers so that we're ready to take care of people if they do get severely ill,” he said. 

Beck said getting into nature during the outbreak gives him perspective, and he sees it as a safe way to socialize by keeping safe distances from others.   

“I definitely always find solace in these mountains,” he said. “And at this time, there's certainly more to reflect on, even more to be appreciative for than on a normal day.”

A steady stream of uphillers make their way up the Tiehack ski area at Buttermilk.
Credit Christin Kay / Aspen Public Radio

In Pitkin County, health officials say analysis shows community transmission is occurring. Eagle County officials said on the county’s website that they believe "hundreds, if not thousands of community members" have contracted the virus. A shortage of tests statewide led Aspen Valley Hospital to announce that it would only administer them to severely sick patients, so the numbers of positive cases are not necessarily an indicator of how widespread COVID-19 is.  

Pitkin County Open Space and Trails director Gary Tennenbaum said social distancing is still important if people are outside.  

“If you want to get outside with friends, you just need to keep that six feet of separation,” he said. 

But with that in mind, Tennenbaum said, being outside is a great way to relieve stress. 

“Recreation? The word is basically to recreate yourself, and right now it's more important than ever to do that.” 

And Maddy Jimerson gets that. 

“I can't imagine being stuck in a city right now where I didn't have the opportunity to see the mountains and see the sun,” she said. “No matter what happens, you know, we have the mountains.”