Jump at the pump: Vail Valley gas prices rising higher than state average
Prices have already exceeded $3 per gallon in places
By the numbers
Price per gallon of regular gasoline at local stations as of April 29.
$3.08: Shell, Gypsum
$2.91: Costco, Gypsum.
$2.99: Kum & Go, Eagle.
$3.19: Exxon, Avon.
$3.24: Conoco, Vail.
EAGLE COUNTY — You’ve noticed, this, of course, but the price of gasoline is on its way up.
According to AAA Colorado, the average price of gas in Colorado had already reached a high point for the year — $2.77 per gallon for regular. That average is less than the national average of $2.88 per gallon, also a high for the year. According to AAA, Alabama has the nation’s lowest average price for gas, at $2.51 per gallon. California’s average price of $4.08 per gallon is the nation’s highest.
According to AAA, Colorado’s average price is 20 cents per gallon higher than it was at the end of March, and 63 cents higher than it was Jan. 1. The price this week is 12 cents higher than it was a year ago.
Gas prices in the Vail Valley are higher than the state average. According to price-tracking service GasBuddy.com, prices range from $2.91 per gallon at Costco in Gypsum to $3.24 per gallon at the Conoco station in Vail.
Refinery work impacts prices
Skyler McKinley, the director of public relations and government affairs for AAA Colorado, said gas prices usually go up this time of year due to a combination of factors. Those include shutting down refineries for maintenance and a switch to summer-blend fuels, as well as increasing demand due to the onset of summer, which is the busiest driving season.
Patrick DeHaan, the head of petroleum analysis for GasBuddy.com, said this year’s price increase includes all of those factors, as well as a run-up in the price of crude oil on world markets.
The price of West Texas Intermediate oil — one of the world’s benchmarks — closed Monday trading at $63.50 per barrel. But that price had come down from about $67 per barrel last week. DeHaan said he expects that price to go back to that $67 level, but it probably won’t go much higher.
While McKinley expects prices in much of Colorado to crest at $3 per gallon, DeHaan was more optimistic, particularly for the Denver area.
“In non-touristy (areas), I think $3 (per gallon) will be more the exception,” DeHaan said.
A small drop in June?
As more refineries come back online, prices usually fall back a bit. DeHaan said he expects this year’s summer prices in Colorado to average perhaps 20 cents per gallon less than prices seen in the summer of 2018.
While prices aren’t much different than they were a year ago, DeHaan said there has probably been a bit of a mental shock because of the size of this year’s increase.
In 2018, average prices in Colorado went from $2.45 per gallon at the beginning of the year to roughly $2.95 at their early-summer peak.
This year, prices went from an average of about $2.10 per gallon in February to the current high of $2.77 this week.
“This increase felt worse because we started off in a lower place,” DeHaan said.
This year’s prices continue an upward trend in gas prices that started in about 2016, and DeHaan said he expects that trend to continue due to various economic forces and actions of oil-producing countries.
On the other hand, no one is calling for big run-ups in the price of oil and, by extension, gasoline.
And, McKinley said, increasing fuel prices are good news, in a way. Higher prices usually come with rising consumer confidence.
“People are more confident they can afford (a driving vacation),” McKinley said. And, he added, it doesn’t take much work, on average, to buy a gallon of gas. In Colorado, the statewide average is 4.56 minutes of work to buy that gallon of gas. Your mileage may vary, depending on where you live.
Despite rising prices, don’t expect the cost of fuel to have much impact on local tourism.
In an email, Vail Valley Partnership CEO Chris Romer wrote that the Partnership has “never been able to track any impact” on visitation.
Paul Cuthbertson, a lifelong local of Eagle and Summit counties, died while skiing up to the Polar Star Inn to meet some friends for a celebration of his 21st birthday on Friday night.