GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. (KKCO) - Sunny skies and warmer temperatures have people coming out in record numbers to enjoy outdoor activities on the Western Slope. Those record numbers mean one industry is growing by leaps and bounds: mountain biking.
Experts say there are several different explanations for the recent boom in business. More people are staying near home for vacations, and others cite a winter they say was just way too long. Either way, it's netting local business some real cash.
Brad Stewart has been in the biking business for 35 years and business is usually pretty good, but this year has already been exceptional. "We've actually doubled our business in the last year, year to date," says Stewart.
His shop, Bicycle Outfitters on Colorado Avenue, has been so swamped he's even staying open on Sundays now to handle the mad rush. "A lot of new customers, a lot of out–of–town people come in here instead of going to Moab. They're stopping right here," he says.
Stewart says he sees customers from all over the nation and world who are making the Grand Valley their vacation destination and most fall in love. "They come out here to check it out and not want to go back," says Stewart.
This is exactly what Derrick Neahrenburg and his family did. They came to visit the Grand Valley this past August, all the way from Chapel Hill, North Carolina and got hooked. "I went back home, quit my job, sold the house and moved out here Oct. 6," he says.
Neahrenburg decided he'd open a new business in Fruita. He's calling it Juicy Fruita. "A lot of people use it for juicy gossip, so a juicy trail is a trail worth talking about," says Neahrenburg.
It's a GPS-based, mountain bike vacation service where people can get programmed routes to fit their times and talents. Neahrenburg hopes to have his new venture up and running by late summer so even more people can enjoy what he has loved for two decades. "The best place in Colorado to start and finish a mountain bike trip," says Neahrenburg.
According to the Bureau of Land Management, he's not the only one who thinks so. BLM officials have been tracking the usage of many trails for the past few years and numbers don't lie. "Just in those two years we've seen visitor ship go up 200 sometimes 300 percent," says BLM Public Affairs Manager Erin Curtis.
An increase like that means big money for businesses all around the Grand Valley. "It has an impact on the Valley of $20 to $30 million," says Curtis.
The entire town of Fruita is cashing in on mountain biking's growing popularity this weekend during the Fruita Fat Tire Festival.
To find out more about Juicy Fruita, click on the links below under 'Related Links.'