Glenwood Springs hot on February’s top-listings trail
Glenwood Springs has had its fair share of top (fill in the blank) rankings over the years, but February has been a particularly good month when it comes to free publicity for the popular hot springs and river recreation resort.
Earlier this month, BuzzFeed led its list of “18 best family vacation spots that everyone will actually enjoy” with none other than Glenwood Springs.
In asking the so-called “BuzzFeed Community” to weigh in on the best family getaways, Glenwood — with its hot springs pools, hiking, whitewater rafting and mountain-top amusement park and cave tours — gained mention alongside domestic destinations such as Wisconsin Dells; Black Hills, South Dakota; Sunriver, Oregon; and a trio of national parks.
Several international hot spots are on that same list, including Riviera Maya, Mexico; Jibacoa, Cuba; Belize, and Iceland.
Last week, Glenwood Springs was informed that the greater Glenwood-Aspen “micropolitan” area was ranked 16th in the United States based on several economic performance indicators as researched by the Walton Family Foundation.
Also making that list were neighboring Edwards and the Vail Valley, ranked 17th, and Breckenridge/Summit County, coming in at ninth.
And on top of that came a listing by Martha Stewart Living magazine [marthastewart.com], which gave top billing to Glenwood Springs among the six best geothermal pools to visit in the United States.
“It’s wonderful to be in the news in a positive way,” said Lisa Langer, director of tourism promotion for the city of Glenwood Springs.
The Martha Stewart Living mention, in particular, compares six natural hot springs destinations in the U.S. with the famed geothermal springs near Reykjavik, Iceland.
“We got the lead picture and the top listing,” Langer said.
The Walton Foundation ranking, while exciting, does warrant some context, she said.
The so-called “Most Dynamic Micropolitan Index” ranked 531 micropolitan areas across the U.S. based primarily on job growth and income. A micropolitan area is defined as a geographic region with a population between 10,000 and 50,000.
Glenwood Springs came in 16th, but the report is clear that not only Glenwood was factored into the equation.
In fact, the section about Glenwood Springs leads off: “Home to one of the country’s most popular ski resorts, Aspen, the Glenwood Springs micro is centered on outdoor tourism.”
It goes on to explain how the greater Roaring Fork Valley (though the “valley” connection is never mentioned) rebounded from the Great Recession by working to build a stronger summer and shoulder season recreation and tourism economy.
That summer season has always been one of Glenwood Springs’ strong points, which is why Langer believes the report tagged Glenwood rather than Aspen.
“We’ve been more focused on trying to grow our shoulder seasons” in the spring and fall, she pointed out.
Summertime, with its rafting, hiking, biking and the expansion of popular attractions such as the Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park, is Glenwood’s high season, Langer said.
“Without a doubt, our neighbors on either side of us have seen the success of our summer business and have started to capitalize on things that Glenwood has been doing for a number of years,” she said.
It all goes to create a symbiotic relationship that benefits the entire region year-round, Langer said.
The drawback that often doesn’t get mentioned in economic rankings such as the Walton Foundation report is the high cost of living and the shortage of housing that go along with those economic successes, she added.
“It’s always great to be listed, and that recognition is awesome,” Langer said. “But it’s also very difficult to attract quality jobs and businesses where employees can afford to live here.”
It’s also one of the reasons tourism is a vital part of the valley’s economic equation. “These people can come and spend a lot of money in their time here, and then go home,” she said.
While the Glenwood Springs area ranked within the top 10 in the Walton Foundation report for per-capita income and medium-term personal income growth, it ranked near the bottom out of the 531 areas included in the study for short- and medium-term average annual pay growth.
“Looking ahead, the Glenwood Springs micro’s growth will depend on its ability to further grow summer tourism and provide affordable housing for resort and retail employees,” the report does note. “Governmental officials and business owners know this: the town of Glenwood Springs has a specific intent to become a year-round destination.”