As Glenwood Springs’ tourism offerings have advanced so has its attention to, and conversation around, diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI). In fact, DEI is foundational to Glenwood’s concept of hospitality—in honoring the past, remaining alive and well in the present and evolving to meet the future.
For centuries Glenwood Springs has been a premier Colorado destination for rejuvenation, fun and leisure. With history, hot springs, caves, rivers, trails and a ski mountain, there’s much to experience. Glenwood Springs tourism leaders seek to make its attractions, activities and establishments widely available, broadly accessible and perennially hospitable.
Actively integrating DEI
“Our long-held aspiration is that as a destination, we want to be a direct reflection of the community and guests we serve,” says Lisa Langer, director of tourism. “We’re guiding a culture of understanding and acceptance, and we hope that’s readily apparent through our tourism offerings and the guest experience for the people we host from all corners of the globe and from all walks of life.”
Lisa explains that Glenwood Springs is welcoming to visitors of all races, ethnicities, ages, abilities, sexual orientations, religious beliefs and more—and even has a historical precedent for doing so.
Honoring the spiritual significance of prehistoric sites
For Glenwood Springs’ original residents, the Indigenous Utes, the area’s natural wonders are held as sacred. The ancient hot springs and the miraculous caves that were subsequently formed by the springs are central to the Ute’s culture and religion. The holiness of the Yampah Spa and Vapor Caves is also profound for new spa owners Melinda and Alex Delmonico.
“We purchased the spa,” says Melinda. “And we became the stewards of the caves. It’s a sacred place.” The Delmonicos continue to offer complimentary access to the Yampah Spa and Vapor Caves for Ute tribal members and for any Native American who shows their tribal ID at admission.
Accessible and inclusive skiing, snowboarding and river recreation
Over the decades, Glenwood’s Sunlight Mountain Resort has hosted the Utes for complimentary skiing and snowboarding as a nod of gratitude and recognition for the ski area’s geographic location on traditional tribal homelands. Other inclusivity initiatives at Sunlight include the Big Gay Ski Day, (companion to the longstanding Big Gay Raft Trip) and the Boot Tan Fest, the world’s largest ski and snowboard festival designed for women.
Sunlight hosts robust adaptive ski and snowmobile programs. Sunlight’s highly trained team safely brings the singular sensation and experience of sliding on snow to people who live with a wide variety of physical disabilities.
For Heather Montross-Cowan, owner-operator of Defiance Rafting, accessibility to the river for those who have a barrier to access is of utmost importance to her. “Before becoming a business owner my profession was social work. It’s still how I identify,” says Heather. “It’s powerful and inspiring to see the excitement of a person who never thought they could go rafting.” Her goal is to provide river recreation to anyone who lives with a physical, emotional or developmental disability.
Coffee and community
For Justin Bishop, owner of downtown Glenwood Springs’ Bluebird Café, bringing people together in an environment that’s fun, welcoming and safe is a top priority. “Bishop” grew up as a self-described miliary brat from a large, diverse family with roots in Sugarland, Texas.
Bishop believes that the relaxed environment of his coffee shop lends itself to casual hosting of numerous, regular events, and as a venue for learning and discovery. He hosts a local American Sign Language (ASL) group where participants can also learn to sign in Spanish. “There’s nothing like being able to talk to someone in your own language or manner to make you feel included,” says Bishop.
Occasionally the Bluebird Café is staffed by special needs community members. Bishop calls it “Inclusive Café” and describes it as open-to-the-public on-the-job training that’s fun and empowering for everyone involved.
The Bluebird Café team works with local nonprofits on annual Pride events and festivals, and hosts the Queers & Coffee meetup, where people in the LGBTQ+ community come together to have coffee and discuss issues in a safe environment.
If it’s up to Bishop, the Bluebird Café will remain a hub for a diverse and inclusive Glenwood Springs for many years to come. “I like the vibe where I can talk to people and help where I can. This is where I want to be,” he says. “If there’s someone’s voice that isn’t being heard, we have an interest in hearing that voice. We have an interest in solving the problem. Let’s spread the love and spread the joy.”
Learn more about activities and events for everyone and find all the resources needed to plan your next vacation to Glenwood Springs.