History all the rage in Breckenridge | VailDaily.com

History all the rage in Breckenridge

Duffy Hayes

BRECKENRIDGE – The competition for the tourist dollar is heating up among ski resorts across the West, and often, a town’s character – real or perceived – is a deciding factor for travelers.Breckenridge is one town that can boast a built-in advantage.”We have differentiation from other communities,” said outgoing town council member Larry Crispell, also a bit of history buff in his own right. “(Our history) is the critical differentiation. We should be out shouting it from the roof tops – we are an historic community. We are a real town,” he said.Turning the town’s history into dollars is a challenge unique in its own right, though. The first step ifs a pair of consultants who analyze Breckenridge’s historic sites and devise a strategy to attract so-called “heritage tourists” who are interested in history and culture.The town also has taken an active role in the last few years “to acquire, partner, protect, preserve and restore” sites with historical value, Crispell said. In just the past couple of years, the town has made strides in purchasing a number of historic mining properties, most notably the B&B Mine – at the heart of the Golden Horseshoe area set to welcome hikers and bikers to its wild environs in the near future.

Breck has also acquired rustic dredge boat properties, and is set to restore and interpret those areas as historic markers as well. Just a few years ago, folks created a society to preserve where the legendary Barney Ford once lived. Ford was an escaped slave, who fled the Confederate South and stuck it rich mining in Breckenridge.”Nobody else has that kind of story,” Crispell said.Who are the heritage tourists?Tom Gallaher, of Heritage Directions LLC, one of the consultants hired by Breckenridge, said heritage tourists spends more than the average visitor, stay longer, make more money, are more educated, travel in larger groups, and tend to stay in hotels rather than with friends. They also are willing to visit during slow, shoulder seasons, when many ski towns basically shut down, he said. Many resort towns fall into the trap of simply being a ski mountain in winter, and a hiking and biking destination the summer, said Breckenridge’s other consultant, Elaine Carmichael of a company called Economic Stewardship.

“One of Colorado’s strengths as a whole is that it offers different kinds of skiing destinations, but Breckenridge is unique within that set,” she said. “Breck is a real town, with a real history – it’s a real place that also has a ski resort. That’s a pretty rare combination.”Also, families are traveling together more often, and they to do activities other than skiing or riding, Carmichael said. Mom needs days off from the mountain; spouses might not ski or bike – they want to be with the family but they’re not a part of the main activity, she said. “You have to make sure that you have a destination that’s got something of interest to them,” Carmichael said.==========================================Anxious to cash in on history

Colorado recently finished their “Strategic Plan for Heritage Tourism.” Among the findings:• Trips including heritage activities accounted for 38 percent of overnight travel in Colorado in 2003. Though just 38 percent of all pleasure trips, they accounted for 45 percent of all visitor spending.• Heritage visitors spend 22 percent more money per stay than the average overnight visitor.• Nationally, heritage tourism is up 45 percent since 1996.==========================================Vail, Colorado

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