The year of 2021 was busy, with a lot going on in Colorado's outdoor recreation space that's worth writing about.
While it was difficult to narrow it down to just five picks, here are a few stories that I'll be following as we enter 2022.
1. The lasting impact of wildfires
While big wildfires get a lot of media coverage as they're happening, the lasting impacts seem to fade from the public eye.
This year, the lasting impacts of wildfires in Colorado were made quite apparent. From the multiple interstate closures in Glenwood Canyon due to burn scar-caused mudslides from the Grizzly Creek Fire to the deadly flooding that took place in Poudre Canyon as water rushed down the Cameron Peak fire burn scar, it was made clear to Coloradans that a wildfire's impact doesn't stop after the blaze gets put out.
With Colorado's largest recorded fires happening in recent years, the impacts of wildfires aren't going away anytime soon.
2. Restrictions hit the hiking trails
As outdoor recreation's popularity in Colorado continues to pull huge numbers to hiking trails around the state, a number of very popular fourteeners saw restrictions put in place for various reasons.
The state's most popular fourteener, Quandary Peak, implemented a shuttle system and paid parking, while the Decalibron loop that summits multiple peaks was temporarily shut down to the public in its entirety due to irresponsible use. The standard route up Mount Lindsey saw a similar closure put in place – one that allowed hikers to tackle most of the route, but forced them to stop short of the summit.
Could more restrictions be coming to Colorado's fourteeners in years to come? We'll have to wait and see, but I'm guessing so.
3. Major mountain climbing accomplishments took place
As climbing Colorado's fourteeners seems to keep growing in popularity, major accomplishments in the mountains seem to be getting a bit more press – and rightfully so.
One major accomplishment of the year took place in July, when Andrew Hamilton climbed the state's 100 highest peaks in a record-setting 22 days, 16 hours, and 54 minutes. That's 471 miles of trail and 249,201 feet of vertical gain, some of which is quite technical.
Another major feat was finished in August, when Pawel Szafruga set the fastest known time for summiting all of Colorado's 58 fourteeners in a single, self-supported push (with no use of a bike or car in between trailheads). Literally walking the entire way, Szafruga covered 1,182 miles and 297,000 feet of vertical gain in less than 44 days, averaging 27.3 miles and 6,800 feet of climbing each day.
Each time a new endurance or speed record is set in the mountains, it can seem as if it's the craziest thing to ever happen, and that's how it seems with both of these feats. Will an even more stunning record be set in 2022? Though it seems unfathomable, the recent popularity boom of Colorado mountain climbing is bringing a lot of new talent to the trailhead. I'm doubtful either of these records will fall for quite some time, but there's always someone out there thinking up the next creative challenge to shock the state.
4. Resorts bounce back from COVID
After a 2020-2021 season of restrictions and reservation services that were much-complained about by skiers and snowboarders around the state, the winter season of 2021-2022 seemed to bring hope for a better on-mountain experience – especially now that the mountains are actually getting some snow.
Vail Resorts saw a massive uptick in pass sales, selling more than 2.1 million season passes for the 2021-2022 ski season. That's a 47 percent increase from the 2020-2021 season and a 76 percent increase from the 900,000 that were sold for the 2019-2020 ski season.
While a statewide resort shutdown at the start of the pandemic had some worried about the future of skiing in Colorado, it seems as if some popular spots have bounced back in a big way.
The real question now is how resorts will manage an increase in crowds while still balancing COVID-19 related precautions, such as crowd-size limits and masking requirements.
5. The housing market booms, creating problems in the mountains
As the real estate market continues to boom across Colorado, including in the mountain towns, a new problem has reared its head – lack of affordable housing.
With lots of second home buyers and people looking to purchase to rent turning to these mountain towns as a good spot to invest, prices have continued to rise, pushing out homebuyers that may not be able to afford a larger down payment.
Crested Butte even declared a housing emergency, with many seasonal and wage workers forced to live a homeless lifestyle due to lack of viable housing options.
With Colorado's housing market likely to keep booming throughout 2022, this problem may intensify in the year to come unless a solution is found.
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