In the mountains, gas prices are usually 20 to 30 cents higher than in the metro area, and workers commute longer distances between work and home because of high housing prices in resort areas. With gasoline prices nearing $4 a gallon, employees in the Roaring Fork area between Parachute and Aspen are adjusting their driving lifestyles by going to a discount gas station, getting a gas subsidy from an employer or by carpooling.In the Roaring Fork region, 53 percent of the employees commute 20 miles or more to work, compared to 12 miles for the average Denver metro driver. In a vehicle that gets 25 miles to the gallon, an employee living in Rifle and driving to work in Glenwood will spend $8 for a round trip, compared to $3.50 for his Denver counterpart (gas comparison chart below.)
So saving even a couple of cents per gallon of gas can make a big difference on the family budget in the mountains.
How far will one go to find cheaper gas prices? Residents in northern Colorado can hop over to Wyoming and save 50 cents a gallon. In western Colorado, a drive to Grand Junction can save 20 cents or more a gallon. However, in the Roaring Fork Valley, only one station sells gasoline at a discount.
Because it is located between Aspen and Rifle, the Bradley gas station in Glenwood Springs boasts a trade area radius of over 60 miles because it sells gas cheaper than the rest.
“I travel from Aspen to Denver a lot,” said Jennifer, who asked not to use her last name. She was filling up her tank at Bradley on Tuesday. “Now I always stop here before I return to Aspen because prices are already over $4 a gallon.” Sometimes she does have to buy gas in Aspen, where she lives, but “it’s just enough to get me down valley to the Bradley station.”
Scott Richards from Rifle says he’ll drive 30 miles “on fumes” to Glenwood to gas up his family vehicle at Bradley. “Rifle gas is getting almost as expensive as Aspen.” This week gasoline in Rifle was selling at $3.79 a gallon in comparison to Bradley’s price of $3.67. Richards admitted once he ran out of gas on his way to Glenwood. “I joined Triple-A because I’m always pushing on empty.”
To save money, Richards and his wife, Nicole, drive to work in Glenwood together even though their work hours are very different. “I drive a company truck, so essentially we commute for free,” Richards noted. Sometimes he has to wait several hours for his wife to get off her 10-hour shift. “But I’d rather wait than pay for the extra gas to commute separately.”
Nicole Richards said gasoline prices have doubled since they moved to Rifle five years ago, so her husband’s company vehicle benefit has doubled in value, too. “I work with families who have to devote a two-week paycheck a month for traveling expenses. We would consider moving out of the area if we had to pay for both of us to commute to work.”
Rifle residents Jody Mac Gregor and her husband also commute to work together to Glenwood, but their salaries are not keeping up with the cost of driving. “It’s getting to the point where we could earn $2 less per hour in Rifle and end up making more money at the end of the month.”
Rifle Mayor Keith Lambert noted he paid 33 cents less per gallon for gas in Grand Junction than Rifle when he traveled there for a meeting on Tuesday. He calculated it was almost worth driving 60 miles there to shop and fill up than it is to go to Glenwood. “I’ve gotten gas for less on a Navajo Reservation in the middle of nowhere than in Rifle.”
Gasoline prices are also cutting into mountain lifestyles. Rose Bachaus, manager at a Glenwood print shop, said her trip to Moab last week was her last for a while. “I spent $100 for gas – that’s two weeks worth of groceries. I can’t afford to travel anymore.”