Tourism with a twist

Rio Blanco, Moffat and Routt counties aim to put culture, heritage into tourism

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— To most people, tourism in Northwest Colorado means tearing up Mount Werner on a powder day, watching hot air balloons launch or exploring the beauty of the Rocky Mountains.

To the officials working to bring cultural heritage tourism to Northwest Colorado, it means stock dog challenge trials, tours of authentic ranches and experiencing the area the way it was generations ago.

About 40 people had cultural heritage and agricultural/natural tourism on their minds during a quarterly meeting of the Northwest Colorado Cultural Heritage Tourism on Saturday.

Shelly Flannery, director of tourism for Moffat County, said culture heritage and agricultural/natural tourism are for those interested in experiencing a different side of Colorado.

"We want to provide people an authentic experience when people visit Northwest Colorado. This is for people who want to absorb the culture and history of the area, not just look for entertaining activities like going to Disneyland," she said.

Cultural heritage tourism focuses on preserving the culture of the area, including the lifestyles of ranchers, farmers, miners, and cattlemen and women.

Flannery said the concept of cultural heritage tourism began in Northwest Colorado two years ago. Since then, ten communities including Yampa, Oak Creek, Hayden and Steamboat Springs, have partnered together to share the "authentic experiences" of the area with local residents and visitors.

Ned Miller, a Colorado Division of Wildlife representative in Moffat County, said residents of Northwest Colorado often take the history and plentiful nature of the area for granted.

"People spend a lot of money coming up here to enjoy the things we enjoy every day," he said.

Activities like hunting, fishing and spending time outdoors are some of the things Miller spends his days talking to tourists about, he said.

U.S. State Rep. Al White (R), Director of Community Agriculture Alliance Marsha Daughenbaugh and Meeker Classic Sheepdog Trails coordinator Ellen Nieslanik also made presentations during the meeting.

"We are a mosaic in Northwest Colorado. We're not a melting pot. We're 10 communities with 10 identities all working to preserve our culture, our heritage and the unique authentic experiences that only we can provode," Flannery said.

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