Southern Colorado boasts some of the best opportunities just about anywhere to enjoy gazing into the night sky and seeing the vast sea of stars and planets; part of the galaxy we call home.

At the recent Governor’s Tourism Conference, Colorado Stargazing: Experience the Night won Outstanding Marketing Program for the growth in sustainable and overnight tourism it brought to many areas of southern Colorado’s rural communities.

One doesn’t need to look very far to see that our fascination with our cosmos is getting stronger. Earlier this year, SpaceX successfully sent and returned two NASA astronauts to the International Space Station, the first time a private company has done so. Additionally this year, Colorado Springs was chosen to house the US Space Command, renamed the Space Force.

With all the excitement, its no surprise that Colorado Tourism saw a rise in stargazing travelers, especially during the ongoing pandemic since it’s something that can be done amidst families and more intimate, small gatherings, VistaWorks explained in a recent press release announcing the honor.

The stargazing tour, which encompasses La Veta and Cuchara, was a partnership between Huerfano County Tourism Board, The Headwaters Alliance, San Luis Valley Museum Association, and Custer County Tourism Board. Other areas featured in the tour include Westcliffe, Creede, Crestone, Lake City, and the Great Sand Dunes National Park and Reserve.

Said the release, “Among the seven featured locations, visitors will find International Dark-Sky Association Designated Places, areas just starting the designation process, and everything in between. All of these communities are unified by their high elevation and low humidity, allowing for some of the best stargazing in the world.”

Cuchara Mountain Adventure Park and Mercantile owner Chris Smith said they hope to be able to jump in on the stargazing excitement.

“We’d like to get a deck built for up the hill at the top of one of the chair lifts eventually,” said Smith, who’s also been helping with the ongoing development of the Huerfano County-owned park. “Even without the deck though, people come out here with their telescopes all the time.”

VistaWorks helped the involved organizations with applying for and winning a Colorado Tourism Office $25,000 marketing matching grant to create, launch, and market the experience. VistaWorks said they are continuing to work with Colorado Stargazing, assisting with branding, content creation, marketing via social media and Google paid ads, and public relations.

“VistaWorks is honored to be a part of Colorado Stargazing: Experience the Night. This project allowed us to showcase rural communities and promote environmental stewardship of our night skies. These communities all have something special, a night sky that most people have never seen before.  Interest has skyrocketed from the very beginning, creating a travel opportunity that encourages increased visitation and overnight stays. Get out there and enjoy our night skies!” says Bryan Jordan, Chief Officer of Thought for Vistaworks.

Several southern Colorado communities, known for their preservation of dark skies in their area, developed a comprehensive resource for stargazers on Colorado.com/coloradostargazing, including logos, maps, event listings, stargazing sites, an album of images, suggestions for daytime activities to lengthen stays, and a media kit to help promote the offering.

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