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Gas headed toward $4 a gallon

Alison Miller
Vail, CO Colorado
Preston Utley/Vail DailyJeremy Behling of Avon puts gas in his tank Monday in Avon. Gas prices have risen dramaticly over the past week and may reach $4 a gallon by the end of the month.
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EAGLE COUNTY”It may be a clunker, but Kayt Calter has been pretty happy with her 1998 Oldsmobile Achieva that gets 20 to 25 miles per gallon these days ” especially given the soaring price of gas in Vail valley.

“Gas prices are getting ridiculous, so I’m just happy to be getting the kind of mileage I am,” said Calter, a resident of East Vail who commutes to Avon for work every day. “My commute is 18 miles each way, which is about a gallon a day in gas just to and from work.”

To avoid having to fill up more often, Calter and her boyfriend, Kevin, carpool in his work vehicle whenever possible, she said. Calter has also become more creative at the pump, trying to get the most bang for her buck, she said.

“I always get gas at the Conoco in West Vail because they offer a 10-cent discount to locals if you pay in cash and 5 cents if you use a credit card when you buy more than 8 gallons of gas,” Calter said. “Or you can choose to get a free lottery ticket. It makes it a little less painful to fill up.”

The customers who are buying the gas aren’t the only ones feeling the pain at the pump, or who wish the prices would go down, said Laura Simonik, manager of Vail Conoco.

“We don’t raise our prices because we want to, we raise them because the price went up for us too,” Simonik said. “We don’t get excited about it. We have to pay for gas, too. And it’s not like we say ‘Let’s raise prices today and have a party tonight.'”

Offering locals some perks for filling their tanks is not new at the Vail Conoco, but with gas prices rising with no end in sight, Simonik is hoping it will keep the customers coming, she said.

“We have a good, loyal clientele who understand gas prices are what they are and it’s not just in Vail that they are high,” Simonik said. “They get upset about the prices, but everyone is right now.”

The Vail Conoco and other gas stations around the valley have raised their prices twice since Thursday last week, Simonik said.

It’s a trend seen across the state, but is especially hard on customers in Eagle County where gas prices have historically been some of the highest in Colorado, said Eric Escadaro, spokesman for AAA.

The average price of regular gas in the valley is currently $3.29 per gallon compared to the $3.09 the rest of the state is averaging, he said.

“There are a lot of great reasons to live in Vail, but the cost of gas is definitely the downside of living there,” Escadaro said.

The reason Eagle County residents pay more is because it’s more expensive to operate a gas station here, Escadaro said.

There is also very little competition which allows for a higher price, he said.

Previous summers’ increases in price were due to active hurricane seasons and conflict in the Middle East, but this year’s hike is a production problem, Escadaro said.

“Colorado only has one refinery and the main source of Colorado’s gas, which is in Texas, was shut down in February because of a fire at the refinery,” Escadaro said. “They are pumping through the pipeline to Colorado again, but only in limited amounts.”

Prices may seem high now, but AAA is predicting that Vail’s prices could hit $4 a gallon by Memorial Day, Escadaro said.

Gas station owners and managers are also hearing the $4 buzz.

“There has definitely been talk among owners and customers that we might get to $4 a gallon, but right now it’s just speculation,” Simonik said. “It will go higher, but we don’t have any way of knowing how high it will actually go.”

Anything over $3.50 a gallon is outrageous, Calter said.

“That’s just way too high,” Calter said. “If it goes above $3.50 we’re just going to ride bikes. I don’t even want to think about how much it would cost to drive.”

In anticipation of the price hike, Joey Link is preparing to park his 2003 Ford F-150 and hop on a different kind of bike.

“I’ve been shopping around for a motorcycle because there is no way I’m going to break the bank for gas,” Link said. “A bike is cool, and crying at the gas station is not.”

People may be upset about gas prices, but rarely does that translate into a change in driving habits or vacation plans, Escadaro said.

“Last year we had record high prices and it was the busiest travel season in Colorado,” Escadaro said. “People work hard and deserve their vacations, and they won’t cancel them because of the cost of gas. They may just not go as far or eat and stay at cheaper places.”

Staff writer Alison Miller can be reached at 748-2928 or armiller@vaildaily.com.


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