SkiBrew

The new website skibrew.us, which was started by Austin Cleek and Rosston “Buster” Ritter, features info about businesses, including hours and services that have been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. (Courtesy image) 

It’s a question every local has to answer: Where’s a good place to eat and get a drink? The answers are seemingly endless, as the area boasts numerous spots for a nip and a nosh, especially after hitting the slopes. It was those type of inquiries that gave locals Austin Cleek and Rosston “Buster” Ritter the idea of starting a website, SkiBrew, specifically for out-of-town guests to go to find après ski specials in Telluride and Mountain Village this winter. 

“The overwhelming number of questions we received from out-of-town guests while on the chairlifts, the gondola or sidewalks revealed a need for accessible local knowledge and opinions on the best places to eat and socialize in the area,” said Ritter, who recently relocated. “The flip side to this coin was knowing that there are so many more businesses and restaurants that area had to offer outside of what a guest might see just by walking on Main Street.” 

The duo was working out the behind-the-scenes logistics whenever the COVID-19 pandemic abruptly ended the 2019-20 ski season and changed life as everyone knew it. With shelter-in-place public health orders in effect, the two decided to shift the focus of their site and launch their new creation, skibrew.us, May 1 in an effort to help locals and visitors stay informed on what businesses were affected. 

“We had the name. We had the plan. Then the pandemic had other ones that forced us to realize that we weren’t going to be able to build out our idea in the near future, but it gave us a lot of free time,” Cleek explained. “Instead of just throwing in the towel, we decided we could hold off on the idea of being focused on a business plan and just try to help out as much as we possibly could instead. That’s where SkiBrew in the current form came from, and that’s what we are doing until things start to get better.”

The website expanded its focus to include all regional businesses, as the easy-to-navigate platform has sections for restaurants, bars (this also includes liquor stores and coffee shops), retail, dispensaries and services that include the latest information as it relates to current public health orders, which have allowed retail and personal service businesses to reopen to in-person business. There’s also a page outlining San Miguel County current public health orders and a link to its COVID-19 informational page. 

Cleek and Ritter explained that the site has seen significant usage, especially from locals, since going live within the month, and it continues to increase. 

“Since launching, we’ve had over 6,000 page views and roughly 35 percent to 40 percent of the local population appears to have accessed it based on geosynchronous data that we’ve been able to collect through analytics,” Cleek said Friday.

As the sole administrators, Cleek and Ritter said they’re not necessarily looking to expand the business right now, but they’re not ruling it out in the long-term. For now, they just want to help out the community as it navigates the uncertainty of the pandemic and a summer without major events.   

“It’s hard to say when things will get better, but we’re optimistic even if our original idea has to be put on hold, and we adapt to whatever it is that the post-virus world has in store for us,” Ritter said. “At the end of the day, this has been a labor of love for our community. We’re just really happy to help and if one day we can build a viable business model out of helping people we will go down that road when the time comes.”