Colorado’s 54 fourteeners – peaks that rise 14,000 feet or more above sea level – have long been destinations for adventurous climbers. Two Colorado State University research reports examined the potential boon to local economies when three private peaks soon will be officially opened for climbing. The studies also revealed the overall economic values derived from hikers ascending fourteeners.
The researchers found in the case of Mount Democrat, Mount Lincoln and Mount Bross – all of which have been closed to public access since 2005 – that the Park and Summit county economies stand to generate $1 million in activity and 25 jobs when the peaks are officially opened for climbing, according to the research of Catherine Keske and John Loomis, both faculty members in the Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics at Colorado State.
An additional $900,000 and 20 jobs toward the state economy could be generated, according to the researchers.
"The consumer data indicates that, indeed, hikers place a high value on the fourteeners of Colorado," Keske said. "They have a unique value, especially for people seeking to conquer all 54 of these peaks."
In March 2006, Colorado House Bill 1049 was signed into law, providing limited liability protection to landowners who allow public recreation and indemnifying them from lawsuits related to potential injuries occurring at old mine sites.
Fourteener recreation enables rural areas of the state to diversify their economies by providing off-ski season destination spots and additional revenue beyond traditional, natural resource-based industries such as mining, logging and livestock grazing, according to the researchers.
The average length of hiking trips was about a day and a half, and the median time spent hiking was about six hours. Many fourteener hikes require an early morning trailhead departure, so staying at a hotel the night before was found to be common. The average climber spent about $107 per day and the average group spent $179 per day and $246 per trip, according to the research. Expenditures cover the cost of camping, groceries, gasoline, equipment rental and other needs. Hikers drove an average of 152 miles one-way to reach a fourteener.
Loomis said the costs hikers are willing to pay to climb a fourteener is second to such exclusive outdoor activities like rafting through the Grand Canyon.
"In my 30 years of recreational value research, climbing the peaks of Colorado has proven to be one of the most economically valuable activities," Loomis said. "There aren’t many other states with fourteeners, and Colorado has 54 of them. That provides a tremendous economic boost to the state’s economy each year."