Jun 24, 2021 -- Posted by : goi70

As we all know, the past couple decades (and in some places longer) have seen beloved mountain towns build out more robust summer activities in an effort to promote themselves as warm-weather destinations that exist with a more year-round, less snow-dependent, tourism-centric economy. The passage of the Ski Area Recreational Opportunities Enhancement Act in 2011, eliminated the more challenging aspects of the permitting process on federal lands, and made it easier for resorts to develop summer recreational amenities such as bike parks, forest canopy tours, mountain coasters/alpine slides, and via ferratas. Vail Resorts was one of the first to capitalize upon this policy liberalization with the development of its Epic Discovery Program that offers zip lines, alpine slides, ropes courses, and other educational components. According to Tom Foley, with the resort marketing firm, Inntopia, “At many resorts, summer occupancy is high or higher than during the winter months.”

Many are expecting summer visitation to continue ramping up, with bookings for July, August, and September of 2021, already surging beyond the levels they existed at during the record-breaking summer of 2019. As most of us were forced to experience, summer 2020, also featured enormous pandemic-related stressors, and mountain towns quickly became overwhelmed by travelers while having a reduced ability to accommodate large volumes of people due to rampant worker shortages, social distancing, and hotel/restaurant, and transit capacity restrictions. Scenario planning has been tough, as the pandemic (in the US) only began to stabilize in the past couple months. Through very hard work, however, mountain towns are now more prepared to handle the volume of visitors, and many have developed management plans to address trailhead congestion and additional programs to educate visitors.

There are still (and will always be) challenges, and many locals have continued fears of overcrowding and greater consequences to overall affordability and quality of life. Particularly of note, is that the pandemic’s disruption has led a mass migration of city dwellers to areas where they now have greater access to the outdoors. This is great, though there are growing concerns that this (previously urban) population (having not had the privilege of frequent outdoor exposure prior to recently) may pose an additional threat to the outdoors due to a lack of familiarity with low-impact outdoor practices. Many towns are trying to combat this, and have focused on efforts to greet travelers with messaging about how to engage with the outdoors, other visitors, and hospitality workers (especially in times of potential staffing shortages). Breckenridge for example, has their B Like Breckenridge campaign, that encourages less consumption, respect for wildlife, good trail etiquette, and promotes sustainable modes of travel/mobility.

There is most always a degree of both symbiosis and tension between visitors and full-time residents. The degree of this will largely depend on how successful towns are at their educational programming and how receptive travelers seem to be to it. In a statement from Steamboat Springs Chamber of Commerce, Marketing Director, Laura Soard shared, “Steamboat is a resort town but also a tight-knit community. It’s newer for us to be giving visitors behavior expectations, and to say ‘we want you to come visit us, but we want you to follow our rules and respect our community.’” This sort of messaging is the new norm in the Rocky Mountains, and many are hopeful that resources can be conserved, and respectful and lasting relationships between visitors and towns can continue to be sustained indefinitely.


Get Forecast

I-70 traffic mountain travel tires congestion transit carpool holiday travel I-70 projects construction deals I-70 improvements


© C5BOX - Framework