Analysis | Brower: Pondering our seasonal economic fluctuations |

Analysis | Brower: Pondering our seasonal economic fluctuations

By Patrick Brower Grand Enterprise Initiative
Patrick Brower

If you’ve heard it once you’ve heard it a thousand times: Grand County has a seasonal economy.

While this becomes screamingly obvious to anyone who has spent one full year doing business in Grand County, there are still some potential entrepreneurs and new business owners who should probably be reminded of this fact.

There are good and bad implications surrounding this truth about our local economy.

But first, let’s define seasonal economy. This phrase has different meanings for different towns or areas in the county. In Kremmling, it means that summer and fall are busier than winter and spring, mainly because ranching and agricultural activity picks up during those times and drive-by traffic and tourist traffic picks up during the summer.

In Grand Lake this means that the three and a half to four months of summer are very busy while most of the other times of the year aren’t very busy, mainly because Grand Lake is a tourist town that sits at the western gateway to Rocky Mountain National Park. Trail Ridge Road, the main thoroughfare through the Park to the Front Range, is closed during half of autumn, all winter and much of the spring.

Granby definitely sees a spike in business during the summer, but winter is getting busier too. Granby probably has the best year-round economy in the county because it serves as a service center of sorts for the county.

Winter Park and Fraser used to have a winter-only boom economy. While that trend still holds, summer business is definitely picking up, rounding out the economic peaks and valleys of the changing seasons.

What could possibly be good about such fluctuations?

Well, the first good point is self-evident but not so obvious to owners and managers struggling to manage a business through the seasonal fluctuations. It is good that we have “good” seasons. Yes, they may not be year-round, but we should count our blessings that we have those good seasons. Compare the annual profit and loss statements of local businesses to those in a place in the Eastern Plains of Colorado, for example, and the benefits of having good seasons become obvious. Many of those other communities don’t have anygood seasons.

If the price we pay for seasonal fluctuations is those hard-to-manage ups and downs, well, my guess is that it’s worth it.

Another good surrounding such fluctuations is that the off-seasons give local residents and business owners a chance to breath, rest, catch up and plan. With that thought in mind, just consider what it would be like to be in business here and live here if every week was like the week of Fourth of July or Christmas week. Yes, business would be a whole lot better, but life would be much more difficult. And at some point, locals might start to resent the visitors that are the economic life blood for many businesses.

As many locals tell me frequently: Fall is their favorite season in Grand County.

The ironic twist to the benefit of a seasonal economy is that the down times offer an opportunity to plan for the busy times. Most businesses pretty much know exactly when it’s likely to be busy and when it’s not. As they say, being forewarned is being fore armed. It is possible to manage around these fluctuations. While efforts to control or manage these seasonal changes may be imperfect, just imagine what it would be like if we had no way to reasonably guess when we would be busy.

While the predominant thrust of tourism development efforts in the county over the last few decades has been strengthening the off seasons, which has borne some fruit, the truth is we still have seasonal economies here.

They’re just not as intense or long as they used to be. And that’s certainly good news for entrepreneurs in Grand County.

Patrick Brower is the Enterprise Facilitator for the Grand Enterprise Initiative. He offers free and confidential business management coaching to anyone who wants to start or expand a business in Grand County. He can be reached by calling 970-531-0632 or at

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