DEL NORTE—The Upper Rio Grande Economic Development (URGED) group met for their monthly meeting at the Windsor Hotel in Del Norte on Tuesday, Feb. 13 to hear a presentation on economic development from Kristi Mountain Sports co-owner Raleigh Burt.
Burt began the presentation by stating he was asked to visit with URGED by founder Marty Asplin. “I was asked to come here and present by Marty to show how economic development in our outdoor recreation industry has grown in the past few years,” explained Burt.
Kristi Mountain Sports began in 1969 when the economic boom was occurring all over the Valley and outdoor recreation was as at all-time high. It wasn’t until 1983 that Raleigh’s parents, Eric and Lisa took over the establishment and began to make adjustments to the changing economy, offering different types of outdoor equipment that depended on several factors in the Valley. “I went to school and received a degree in industrial engineering from Montana State University before returning to the Valley and helping with the family business. We had to diversify the products we carried to meet the needs of the changing clients. For example, when the Great Sand Dunes was made into a national park, we began to carry things like sandboards and other hiking equipment to meet the changing demand,” said Burt.
It was in 2016, when after considering options to expand, the family-owned business decided to branch out and refurbish a historical building in Del Norte and began the process of building clientele in the western part of the Valley. “We saw an opportunity to bring business to this area and though it was slow going at first, it wasn’t long before things began to pick up.” Burt continued to explain that through a combined effort with other area organizations, Kristi Mountain Sports began to build an outdoor recreational foundation utilizing the many trail systems in the area.
“We realized the quality of what we have here in the Del Norte area can rival some of the bigger places like Moab and Fruita. For example, there is a group of bikers that travel the Continental Divide trail that passes along Highway 112, through town and up Pinos Creek. We could adjust our business to fit the needs of the bikers that came through the area,” explained Burt.
Burt also played a huge role in bringing the Del Norte Trail Showcase to the region. The showcase brings bikers from all over the US to ride the trails surrounding Del Norte and to give feedback on what they experienced. “We invite some of the top bikers to the area and partner with the Windsor Hotel to give them complimentary rooms for their stay. They then give us feedback on their rides, shop at local stores and visit other areas around the Valley. The best part is that when they leave, they come back— with friends.”
Through the partnership with the Del Norte Trail Showcase and the non-profit Dirt Worx, Inc Burt explained that they were able to purchase the 12 Hours of Penitence from the original founder and keep the event in the Valley. “There was a chance the race would have gone to the Front Range, but we wanted to keep it here and were able to reach an agreement and see that it stayed. It has really proven to be a worthwhile partnership.”
Burt finished the presentation with a closing statement on outdoor recreation and how people could work to further the economic growth in the Valley by bringing people to the area through marketing strategies. “We have a beautiful playground here and people want to play. If we build this; they will come.”