Popular Ski Destination Aspen Now Requires COVID-19 Testing

Planning on spending Christmas at Aspen? Pitkin County now requires all inbound travelers aged ten years and over to arrive with a clean COVID-19 certificate. The ruling comes into effect from today, December 14. Pitkin County says it’s necessary to take this step to protect the local community as the winter ski season gets underway.

Arrivals at Aspen/Pitkin County Airport will need to produce a travel affidavit from today. Photo: redlegsfan21 via Wikimedia Commons

Travelers to Aspen need to provide a travel affidavit from today

Pitkin County, in Colorado, takes in the busy ski resort town of Aspen. The county also owns and operates the local airport at Aspen, Aspen/Pitkin County Airport. That airport normally hosts well over 100 aircraft movements a day. In 2019, the airport handled approximately 307,000 passengers, making it the USA’s 165th busiest airport.

From today, passengers landing there must complete what Pitkin County is calling a travel affidavit. That affidavit, which can be completed online, requires all passengers ten years of age and staying at least one night in Pitkin County to upload evidence of a negative COVID-19 test result. The tests need to have been administered within 72 hours of arriving in Pitkin County.

The county also requires travelers to be symptom-free for 10 days before travel. If travelers haven’t completed a COVID-19 test, they will need to quarantine for 10 days upon arrival. If travelers have completed a COVID-19 test, they will need to quarantine until the test result comes back.

Pitkin County says failure to comply is a violation of a public health order. Fines up to US$5000 may apply.

American is one of the airlines flying into Aspen/Pitkin County Airport. Photo: Getty Images

Ruling specific to Pitkin County, but open access to the rest of Colorado

The ruling, which is specific to Pitkin County rather than wider Colorado, will mean skiers who make the short hop from Denver face the same requirements as someone who flies in from Texas or New York.

United Airlines is the big player at Aspen/Pitkin County Airport. Many of their Aspen bound flights come from within Colorado, from Denver and Grand Junction. United Airlines also flies in from further afield – Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, Houston, and Dallas. American Airlines also serves the airport, albeit with fewer flights than United Airlines.

While the county edict might seem abrupt, it has been floated for a while, and travelers coming in on today’s flights were likely forewarned.

It is relatively unusual that a county requires a negative COVID-19 test result to enter and move freely. But multiple states have entry restrictions. COVID-19 cases in Colorado appear to have plateaued, and the state has not enacted entry restrictions. However, neighboring states Kansas and New Mexico do. But the rules regarding entering Kansas change quite a bit.

United Airlines operates the majority of the flights into Aspen/Pitkin County Airport. Photo: United Airlines

Ruling presents a further problem for airlines

As entry restrictions start to filter down to county level, it’s likely to cause further problems for airlines scheduling flights and overall travel demand. Last month, United Airlines said it expected its scheduled capacity for the fourth quarter of 2020 to decrease at least 55% year-over-year.

United Airlines said there had been a deceleration in system bookings and an uptick in cancellations due to the recent spike in COVID-19 cases nationwide. Overall, the airline continues to see a significant impact in demand for air travel.

While it might be in the interests of public health and protecting Aspen residents, rulings such as the one imposed by Pitkin County today continue to be a drag on United States’ airlines getting back to business and profitability.

What do you think? Is Pitkin County right to require travelers to submit a travel affidavit? Will it impact the demand for travel to Pitkin County? Post a comment and let us know.