• Tom Genes

Maroon Bells Reservation System

or the second year in a row, reservations will be required to access the Maroon Bells Scenic Area either by vehicle or by RFTA bus (Roaring Fork Transportation Authority). Reservations for the season may be made by visiting www.aspenchamber.org starting April 12. Parking reservations will be required for the entire season as soon as the road opens in mid-May (exact date depending on snow conditions on Maroon Creek Road). The RFTA shuttle service will run from June 7 to October 17 or 24, depending on weather conditions, and the shuttle runs every 15 minutes from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

The price of a parking reservation is $10, and the price of the shuttle is $16 with proposed discounted fares ($10) for children under age 12 and seniors over age 65 (pricing will be confirmed by April 8). Seats on the shuttle may be limited and masks may be required depending on any COVID- related guidelines put in place by the Colorado and Pitkin County Boards of Health. If limited no-show tickets are available the day of, prices will be higher, so people are encouraged to purchase reservations in advance. Group reservation options will also be available. Paid parking is available at Aspen Highlands, or riders can catch the free RFTA shuttle from Ruby Park in downtown Aspen to Aspen Highlands.

When the shuttle service is operating (June 7 to October 17 or 24), parking reservations will be available for half-day, whole-day, or overnight. There will be the ability for private vehicles to drop off passengers between 6 a.m. and 8 a.m. without a parking reservation; however, visitors who are dropped off during this time will need a one-way ticket to ride the shuttle down to Aspen Highlands after 8 a.m. Commercial drop-offs are not allowed at any time.

For the first time, one-way downhill tickets costing $10 will be required from the Maroon Bells Scenic Area to Aspen Highlands. Tickets and reservations must be made in advance, as there is no cellular service at the Maroon Bells, and tickets may not be purchased at the Maroon Bells nor from the RFTA drivers. A significant number of one-way downhill riders rode the shuttle service for free last season, requiring RFTA to incur additional expenses for the extra bus service to accommodate them. The fare will enable RFTA to recoup some of this expense. The downhill ticket reservations will also allow RFTA to anticipate how much space will be needed each day for one-way downhill passengers hiking over from Crested Butte or other locations.

“A working group comprised officials from the White River National Forest, RFTA, Pitkin County, City of Aspen, Aspen Skiing Company, and ACRA had been working on solutions to mitigate traffic, parking, and environmental impacts prior to COVID-19,” said Shelly Grail, Recreation Manager for the USFS Aspen-Sopris Ranger District. “The reservations system put into place for the 2020 season worked to mitigate overcrowding and manage demand, while also providing safety for the public and the bus operators.”

Bicyclists There has been an increase in bicycle traffic on Maroon Creek Road, especially e-bikes. All bikes will be encouraged and expected to adhere to proper bicycling etiquette, including riding single file on the right side of the road (in the direction of traffic) and wearing helmets. Bikes are available to rent in downtown Aspen or at the Aspen Highlands Base Camp. For information or reservations on bike rental companies, visit www.aspenchamber.org/

Reservations System The reservations system is being continued for summer 2021 due to ongoing COVID-19 social distancing requirements and the need to estimate and safely manage demand. As public health guidelines change, service will be adjusted accordingly. The reservation system will provide efficient visitor transportation while protecting the scenic area, as well as adhering to state/county board of health social distancing requirements.

For more information, contact RFTA Communications Manager, Jamie Tatsuno at (970) 384-4864 or jtatsuno@rfta.com or the Maroon Bells Information Line at (970) 945-3319.

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