A Growing Tourist Town

By Mike Rosso

We are currently experiencing the “shoulder season” here in Salida. The ski area closed this past weekend after record amounts of snow and visitors. I’ve not spoken to many downtown business owners about how the season went, but winter does have a way of separating the “wheat from the chaff” as we’ve already seen the city’s newest taco shop shut its doors.
Winter tourism in Salida is an anomaly. The ski rental shops, commercial lodging establishments, and most restaurants do well. The retail shops, not always so much. It’s possible that if there was more lodging downtown, overnight skiers might find their way into those shops, but in most cases, they are usually tired from a day on the slopes and just want to relax with a beverage and a meal. Shopping isn’t necessarily on the top of their lists. Many of them drive back to the Front range for the comforts of their own homes.
So, for the next few weeks, things will settle down a bit before the Memorial Day weekend kicks off the summer tourist season. a few eateries will close for a break and for cleaning. Shop owners often take this opportunity to head south or to Utah for some springtime recreation. There is a bit less traffic.
One thing which has not slowed during the winter months is construction. Whether it’s in-fill growth or expansion into the outskirts, Salida, Buena Vista, and especially Poncha Springs are experiencing a building boom, mostly housing. Folks who haven’t been up the canyon lately will be surprised by the scale and scope of the Two rivers subdivision project on the east end of Salida. Soon, the old auto dealership on u.S. Hwy. 50 will be torn down to make way for a large condominium project. rural growth is also occurring, with new homes popping up to the north, south and west of town.
I am meeting new folks all the time, many of whom have relocated here from Denver after taking advantage of the skyrocketing real estate market there. In many cases, they are recently retired and have given up on the traffic and noise of the Front range to live out their days in a slower, quieter community. Other, younger, newcomers have brought their jobs with them and are considered “lone eagles.” This summer will bring more tourists and many will fall in love with the “Heart of the rockies,” and find a way to make it their home as well.
One thing is for certain, to quote the eminent Mr. Dylan, “The times, they are a- changin’.”