Eagle County locals have long known about the spectacular trail network in the quiet bedroom community of Eagle, but now it seems that the word is out, and everyone from the skiing industry to the governor is taking notice.
During the past few years, the town of Eagle and community members have been working to establish the town as a recreation-based tourism destination, by building new trails, hosting the national high school mountain bike championships and hosting other outdoor summer events and races.
The efforts have gained so much momentum, in fact, that the town recently approved another $100,000 for some yet-to-be-revealed trail improvements and recreation tourism this coming summer. That adds on to another $80,000-plus in open space funds for trails and $45,000 on marketing and events over the past 3 years.
“We’re really seeing incredible leverage with these dollars,” said Eagle Mayor Yuri Kostick. “And it’s not just about mountain biking. It’s really about economic development and opening the doors in Eagle to summer tourism.”
Spreading the Word
Those efforts have been noticed, particularly after Eagle built a trail to host the Colorado High School Cycling League State Mountain Bike Championships.
Since then, the town’s marketing staff and Kostick have been guest speakers and panelists at a number of cycling and tourism conferences. In August 2014, Kostick spoke at the International Mountain Bike Association World Summit on the topic “New directions in mountain-bike tourism.” In November, town representatives also spoke at the National Bicycle Tourism Conference and later at the Snowsports Industry Association Assembly in January about summer tourism in ski towns.
At the recent Colorado Bicycle Summit in early February, Governor John Hickenlooper singled out the town of Eagle and Kostick in his speech to more than 250 bicycle and tourism industry leaders. Hickenlooper said that the town was doing great work to promote cycling and mentioned that he’d recently read about Eagle’s efforts in the media.
Other lawmakers are hearing about Eagle as well. The morning after the Bicycle Summit, Kostick joined other Summit attendees and Bicycle Colorado leaders in lobbying the Colorado House of Representatives and State Senate in supporting Colorado’s bicycling initiatives, notably the Safe Routes to School bill. This coming May, Kostick was also invited to speak at the National Professional Trail Builders Association conference in Portland on the topic of public-private-public partnerships.
Kostick said that through all these connections, town staff has also been able to learn from other successful summer tourism communities.
“What’s great about the exposure is that it goes both ways,” he said. “There are certain places that have really embraced summer tourism, we’re inspired by those examples. Example, Whistler Blackcomb’s summer tourism actually exceeds their winter tourism. Here in the Vail Valley, our goal — as evidenced by new Vail Valley Trails Connection group — is to have a world-class summer resort equal to our winter resort.”
Of course, the recognition has also served to do what the efforts were initially intended for — to attract people to Eagle.
Charlie Brown, owner of Mountain Pedaler bike shop in Eagle, said he’s seen more business and visitor traffic in town. He’s heard that things have picked up at local hotels and motels as well, he said.
“I’m pretty excited about (these efforts) both as a business owner and rider,” he said. “To me, it’s all positive. The high school league races are cool, and it gets word out across the state. I’ve had friends calling me from all over the country when they see something about Eagle’s biking in the media.”
Some of Eagle’s projects, such as its idea for Singletrack Sidewalks to connect the town with dirt paths, have resonated loudly with outdoor enthusiasts across the country. The project not only helps make the town more mountain-bike friendly, but provides a way for local kids to get to school on dirt singletrack.
Mark Eller, communications director at IMBA, said that when the organization posted the news of Singletrack Sidewalks, there was a huge response.
“This wrinkle of getting kids to school has gotten huge response as one of our top social media posts of the year,” said Eller. “It got a lot of positive feedback.”
Eagle resident and mountain biker Karen Jarchow said she is glad to see the spotlight on Eagle, adding that she hopes the exposure will translate into business opportunities and growth for the town.
“I absolutely love that Eagle has recently been receiving national recognition for its mountain biking. How I see it is, if we want to see positive growth we need to attract an active, healthy and respectful crowd. We can showcase what we have, plan for sustainable growth and put Eagle on the map as a progressive mountain town,” she said.
Assistant Managing Editor Melanie Wong can be reached at 970-748-2927 and at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @mwongvail.