14ers boost Colorado economy | AspenTimes.com

14ers boost Colorado economy

The Associated Press
Aspen, CO Colorado

BOULDER ” Each climber of the 14,000-foot peaks in Colorado may be pumping a couple of hundred dollars into the state economy with each trip ” and most would pay more, according to new research by a Colorado State University professor.

The research led by agricultural and resource economics professor Catherine Keske could help land managers map out how to pay for trail maintenance, signs and parking lots at the fourteeners. Although some peaks charge access fees, the funds to preserve Colorado’s peaks will need to grow along with their popularity.

The Colorado Fourteeners Initiative estimates more than 500,000 people attempt to climb one of the more than four dozen 14,000-foot peaks in Colorado each year.

Keske and her colleague John Loomis studied the economic impact of closing Mounts Lincoln, Democrat and Bross in Park County. The researchers also surveyed climbers on Summit County’s Quandary Peak.

They found that the median amount a climber spends on a trip is $221, and $191 of that is spent within 25 miles of the peak, on hotels, food and other services, the Camera newspaper in Boulder reported in Sunday editions.

“So many of these things to us seem priceless,” Keske said. “The problem is, if you want to get funding to maintain something ” like the mountains ” you actually need to come up with values.”

The fourteeners are in danger of being “loved to death,” Keske said, as trails widen, fragile tundra are crushed and steep slopes erode.

“How do you manage that?” Keske asked. “That’s where I put on my economist hat and say, ‘What’s it worth?”‘

She surveyed climbers returning to trailheads of the fourteeners in the study asking how much more they would be willing to pay for their experiences if prices increased for items such as gas or permit fees. The median amount was $168.

Some peaks already charge a similar amount. It costs $100 to climb the privately owned Culebra Peak in southern Colorado, or $150 to climb both the fourteener and a 13,000-foot peak on the property.

One possible way to take advantage of the extra money climbers are willing to pay is to charge more to climb a fourteener during high-demand times ” like summer weekends ” and less during the week. This could spread out the environmental impact of having large groups of hikers on the trail all at once, Keske said.

Boulder native Caroline Moore, 23, has climbed almost all the fourteeners in the state. If she makes it to the top of Capitol near Aspen next weekend, she will have climbed all of them within three years.

“One thing I have learned in the mountains: I found a satisfying freedom that surpasses anything that money and technology offers,” Moore said.