Gondola lines were lengthy this Fourth of July weekend. (Photo courtesy of the Town of Mountain Village)

There’s nothing quite like spending the Fourth of July in a small mountain town. Celebrating Independence Day in Telluride offers many traditions beyond the parade and fireworks, including the annual Rundola and the fire department barbeque.

In 2019, Telluride was named America’s Best Small Town to Visit by U.S. News & World Report, and many people chose to visit for the Fourth of July. No matter what events people chose to attend to celebrate the Fourth of July, there were likely crowds everywhere. Over the long weekend, Telluride was packed. The small sidewalks in town were difficult to navigate due to all the foot traffic. On Colorado Avenue, vehicle traffic continued seemingly nonstop. On the Thursday evening, traffic was so heavy that it took almost two hours for vehicles heading out of town to clear out.

Even though the holiday is over, Telluride is still full of visitors. Gondola lines were still quite long Friday afternoon and most restaurants in town had wait times for diners to be seated. Statistically, town occupancy was up this weekend as well.

The Inn at Lost Creek reached 100 percent occupancy Wednesday through the weekend, according to GM Jonathan Hanzas.

"The big difference in the summer time is that there's a lot people road tripping so there's a lot of last minute traffic," he said.

Short-term lodging numbers are similar to last year, though slightly up, according to Michael Martelon, Telluride Tourism Board president & CEO.

“The Fourth of July in Telluride is obviously a very special time that the community has taken great care in developing and curating for decades,” Martelon explained.

Though town is booming now, summer tourism season started off a bit slow this year. Late snow and capricious weather made the start to summer a little later than normal. Short-term occupancy in June was actually flat, and possibly down, according to Martelon.

The Telluride Bluegrass Festival invigorated the town and brought in the crowds. Bluegrass is traditionally one of Telluride’s busiest weekends. The town’s occupancy rate was flat for this year, but this did not surprise or concern Martelon. During Bluegrass, Telluride is regularly at its maximum capacity, so it would be difficult for occupancy to increase.

“It is one of less than a handful of times during the year that we can expect to be considered sold out,” Martelon explained.

Due to the popularity of Bluegrass, visitors often have to reserve their accommodations earlier than typically necessary. On average, according to Martelon, visitors book lodging over 150 days before Bluegrass weekend. In Mountain Village, it is an average of 130 days before the festival.

In both Telluride and Mountain Village, property owner occupancy peaked over Bluegrass. July marks the strongest monthly increase for Mountain Village. According to Martelon, property owners, or part-time locals, do not spend money in town in the same way as short-term renters, especially with retail and restaurants.

In general, summer occupancy continues to increase annually, Martelon said. In an email to the Daily Planet, Martelon explained that short-term rental stays in peak summer season, that is, June through September, are rising each year. Martelon notes that “year-over-two-years” rates are trending upwards even more.

Short-term rental occupancy has spiked most significantly for September month stays in Telluride. However, bookings are still coming in for July, August and September so the numbers many change, Martelon said.

Though these numbers are promising for the town’s tourism economy, Martelon does not want to draw any conclusions yet. He would not attribute the yearly rise to a trend without at least another year of data, he explained.

By the numbers, the rest of July is comparative to recent years. Locals and visitors alike should prepare for another busy weekend with the Ride Festival next weekend, July 12-14. Short-term occupancy bookings are higher this year, according to Martelon.