This column, written by Laurel Runcie, Marketing Director for the Gunnison-Crested Butte Tourism Association, was featured in the Crested Butte News on October 18, 2018.

The branding study from 2003 that still guides a lot of our messaging at the Tourism Association identifies our valley as “the place that just feels right: unpretentious, warm and genuine, with an energetic vibe.” We’re down-to-earth people living in authentic mountain towns. That 2003 branding study still guides much of our messaging because it’s still true and truth resonates.

When we think about why those phrases are used to describe us, we certainly owe a lot to our coal mining and cattle ranching forbearers. In more modern times, we can point to our local creatives as the keepers of that unpretentious, warm, genuine, and energetic vibe. The arts are a completely immersive and integral part of the town of Crested Butte and the wider Gunnison Valley. Simply walking down Elk Avenue or riding a Mountain Express bus is an experience shaped by our local creatives. Romp skis, Montanya rum, plein air paintings of our local landscapes, and so many other creative products contribute to that “just feels right” feeling locals and visitors alike speak to when describing this place.

This feeling is a huge contributing factor to our successes with our mountain biking and skiing campaigns. The unparalleled recreation exists here right alongside our funky downtowns. We’ve been working together for a couple of years now on a few specific projects.

For the last 10 months, we’ve been specifically focusing on a regional collaboration called the Colorado Creative Corridor. It’s presented as a road trip between five state-certified creative districts including Carbondale, Paonia, Ridgway, Salida, and Crested Butte. We, in partnership with the CB Creative District, contributed $5,000 in funding that was matched by each of the other four communities. That $25,000 from the 5 local communities was then matched by the Colorado Tourism Office. The $50,000 campaign is already raising the profile of the 5 creative communities that make up the Creative Corridor. Led by the team in Carbondale, we’ve applied for a second year of funding and look forward to continuing this successful partnership in 2019.

Closer to home, a member of the Crested Butte Creative District marketing committee mentioned that her goal was for every visitor to learn on day one in this valley about all of the creative offerings and opportunities we have for visitors. We partnered with KBUT, the Chambers in both ends of the Valley, the Creative District, and several other local entities to bring a community calendar into being this year. This single online hub for all valley events has been something that has been discussed for at least the last five years if not a full decade+ and can be found at gunnisonvalleycalendar.com. We’re looking for more ways to get the word out to visitors about how they can take advantage of our creative events, classes, and shopping while they’re in town and invite partnerships to that end.

We’re looking forward to many future years of partnership with the Crested Butte Creative District and the arts community more generally.