Overcrowded and Overanxious

Colorado is having a good time, as far as numbers and statistics go. We have one of the best economies in the nation with low unemployment and booming industries. Like Marijuana, technology, and the subject of this post….tourism.

Since I was a little child I have been fully aware of how Colorado was a beacon to visitors. Every summer meant more traffic in our little town, more out of state license plates, more people asking directions.

Post high school I began working in tourist towns hawking fossils, or running museum gift shop counters. That turned into books in college and today it’s planning full trips for people.

Working in tourism in Colorado is a guaranteed gig, with a great summer season and a pretty good winter for the holidays. Year round something is happening, and with 300 years of sunshine a year, people come all 365 days of it. Rain, shine, sleet, ice, four feet of snow…someone will be here from out of town.

This has its perks. No doubt the entrance fees, hotels, car rentals, airplane tickets, and marijuana that are paid for assist in keeping our economy strong. Yet, as many locals will tell you, everything is far more crowded than it was once, and many locals are feeling pushed out.

I won’t go into the gentrification of the state on this post, but it is no doubt intertwined. Today I want to focus on the increase of tourism and how locals can stay sane.

Many people that live in Colorado, whether transplants or “natives” (this term is problematic and should be addressed another time) aka individuals that have spent their whole lives in Colorado (like yours truly), find that this constant flux of tourists is exhausting. This also feeds into the malcontent of the droves of people that are moving here.

The major issue is that Colorado has not caught up to its own boom. We lack the infrastructure such as roads, bridges etc. to handle the millions of new people and tourists and we lack the organization to handle it. We have a tax system (TABOR) that requires every new tax to be voted on by the public, which sounds great in theory but with a very anti-tax almost libertarian culture, any new costs and their approval are slow moving. Mix this with too many people, not enough roads, not enough public transportation, and a high demand for the same areas and you have a boiling and anxious frustration.

No doubt, my last few trips to the woods have been far busier than even a year ago. Some of it is going on a Friday and not getting there as early as sun rise. Some of it is the trails I have taken are somewhat easier and therefore more accessible to the average person. Other aspects include the time of year.

I understand nature isn’t the same alone as with 20 other people clanging around and making noise. Moose run, and elk get restless. Yet don’t you think that everyone is also looking for that same magical moment in the wild, that same great photograph to show everyone? That’s the downside of popularity, everyone wants it too. The hard part for Americans, I have found, is comprehending that these places are for everyone and we don’t, as an individual, have more right over someone else. Even if we feel like we should.

Summer is the warmest Colorado season, with regular highs in the 80s and occasional 90s to 100+. This makes the mountains either a place to cool off, or ideal for those afraid of cold and rain. What I suggest to locals is that it is best to just avoid it all together.

If the crowds annoy you and make you wish everyone would just go back to where they came from, then I have to emphasize that Colorado will get worse before or if it ever gets better. We’re a popular place and a nice place to live, work, and play. So more and more people are going to want to be here too. Meaning that we are looking at another few decades of growth and popularity. Much like California and other parts of the world, this is how it goes.

Therefore, if the crowds are driving you crazy, and the parking lot feels too full, it may be time to head further afield, explore in the cooler months, or ever transplant to another place. I keep hearing Idaho and Montana are good options.

Happy Travels!

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