“Gunnison Getaway” and year-round biking
By Adam Broderick
Gunnison County is determined to bring more visitors, and more money, to the valley in 2016, and the Gunnison-Crested Butte Tourism Association (TA) is planning some new strategies to reach that goal.
Promoting a new “Gunnison Getaway” campaign, grooming fat bike trails and promoting the Fat Bike World Championships this winter, and “doubling down” on mountain biking during summer are just a few items on the TA’s agenda.
This winter, the county commissioners, acting as the Local Marketing District (LMD), agreed to allocate $1.4 million from the county-wide 4 percent lodging tax it collects to help fund the TA’s projected $1.7 million spend in 2016. In 2015, the TA asked the LMD for $1.2 million. The following is a breakdown of how some of the funds is being spent.
With Fat Bikes expected to make up 20 percent of the mountain bike market within the next decade, the county is jumping on the bandwagon—or leading it, perhaps. The first-ever Fat Bike World Championships are slated for the last weekend in January, a time when it is usually more difficult to attract visitors than in, say, February or March. Not only will course tracks be ready for the event, grooming single track trails is likely in the near future for both ends of the valley.
According to county commissioner Jonathan Houck, the Bureau of Land Management has already approved a proposal to groom fat bike trails near the Gunnison Nordic Club by Hartman Rocks. “Fat bike groomers are narrower groomers than ski groomers, so that’s easier to do,” Houck said.
The new winter “Gunnison Getaway” campaign this ski season will promote the city of Gunnison as a place to stay, eat, and spend money outside of Crested Butte, and will promote different transportation options to the town and ski area a half-hour north.
Laurel Runcie, project manager for the TA, says Gunnison Getaway promotes the best value for skiing in Colorado because the lodging prices are so low in Gunnison. She says Crested Butte Mountain Resort is also partnering with the TA to offer some pretty low-price tickets. So far, selling Gunnison as a destination getaway seems promising.
“We had a writer from Summit Daily come visit. She stayed in Gunnison and she went biking in both ends of the valley and explored both towns, and she wrote about biking as a valley-wide commodity,” Runcie said.
The Summit Daily writer “also writes for Outside Magazine and Mountain Magazine,” added Rebecca Filice, the TA’s social media and public relations manager. “She basically said ‘I want to come in and I want to fat bike.’ When a bike shop in the north end of the valley couldn’t help her out with a rental, All Sports Replay in Gunnison took care of her. She also stopped in Double Shot Cyclery down there and right away one of the staff rattled off a bunch of trails and directions. She had a great time riding Hartman Rocks and also spent time in Crested Butte.”
Filice says having both ends of the valley as a resource makes her job a lot easier because if visiting media gets bored, it’s their own fault. “If it’s the off-season, that’s okay because they’re still going to have a great time,” she said.
Commissioner Phil Chamberland told the TA at the budget meeting he is happy to see them looking at new ways to bring in funds. “I think you’ll also see people who stay in Gunnison realizing how close Monarch Ski Area is and they’ll start skiing there for a day or two as well,” he said. “And now with the late-night bus, you can still enjoy the nightlife in Crested Butte and make it back down to Gunnison.”
The TA is also excited that the Warren Miller team will be filming a fat biking movie here this winter. One way the TA will benefit from the movie, besides the visual presentation of Crested Butte’s being close to the heart of fat biking, is that viewer emails will be collected along with ticket stubs at movie premieres around the country. Warren Miller has agreed to share those email addresses with the TA, so those people can then be targeted as potential visitors to the Gunnison Valley.
A popular mountain bike event held in Moab during spring and fall and in Whistler during summer could potentially land here as well. Outerbike attracts gearheads and bike companies to the annual multi-day gear-testing event. It brings more than 1,000 people to Moab for at least two consecutive nights, and organizers are currently looking for a Rocky Mountain location.
“Outerbike is a big deal in the field of bike tests,” says TA executive director John Norton. “All the bike manufacturers are there. We went this year to talk about the trails in the valley, and we’re trying to get them to come here. There’s no place at Hartman [Rocks] to put it, so we’re thinking maybe in the North Village.”
The TA will be promoting the county’s world-class trails next summer, but one of their main focuses will also be adding user information signs to existing trails. The TA received positive feedback from both local landowners and visitors alike about the signs that went up this past summer, so they’re hoping to add to those this coming summer. They’re also discussing what to put in a brochure for visitors, to explain the “rules of the roads” in hopes of protecting the backcountry from overuse and ensuring visitors have a quality user experience.
Norton is confident the TA will receive a $50,000 grant from Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW), which would help fund more signage, so this summer they should be doubling down on the number of signs they put in.
“[Commissioner] Phil Chamberland seems to think we will get the grant, and he’s very involved in the state program,” Norton said. “I do think we’ll get that money.”
The TA plans to spend roughly $1.7 million on marketing in 2016. Total projected revenue for the year is $1,648,525, including the $1.4 million budgeted by the LMD ($116,667 for each month in 2016) and the $50,000 CPW grant. Other revenue sources include $85,000 in admissions tax from Mt. Crested Butte, $18,600 to host the Fat Bike World Championships, and the 4 percent lodging tax the LMD collects. Add to that $101,360 in rollover funds from last year, and the TA should spend almost exactly what they project to bring in.
Should lodging tax revenues come up short, the LMD would have to reconsider its $1.4 million allocation. Neither the county’s finance department nor the LMD expects that to be the case; however, the amount the TA is awarded may need adjusting based on actual lodging tax revenues.
“They request $1.4 million and that’s what we’re going to appropriate for them,” explained county commissioner Jonathan Houck. “To be clear, the money they get is based on what they project to bring in, so we’re not over-appropriating funds.”