Colorado Western Slope
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The Western Slope of Colorado refers to a region of the U.S. state of Colorado incorporating everything in the state west of the Continental Divide, including Moffat, Routt, Rio Blanco, Garfield, Mesa (Grand Valley), Delta, Montrose, Gunnison, Hinsdale, Ouray and San Miguel counties. The Colorado River and its tributaries divide the region into north and south at Grand Junction, Colorado. The area has a climate similar to that of the Great Basin.
Historically, Ute people inhabited the area, and most of it was part of Utah Territory before its inclusion into the Colorado Territory upon organization in 1861. White settlers began arriving in large numbers in the late 1870s and early 1880s.
The region has a rich heritage in farming and ranching, with agribusiness remaining a key industries for most of the western slope still today. It is also historically an energy hub, with coal, oil and natural gas production.
The Western Slope region is sparsely populated, containing 38% of Colorado's area but only 10.7% of its population. The region had a population of 563,138 in July 2013, an increase of 0.6% on the previous year, and had a low growth rate over the previous three years compared to the rest of the state.
The most populated areas of the Western slope are, first, The Tri County area, which contains Grand Junction, Montrose, and Delta, and second, the Intermountain area, containing Glenwood Springs, Aspen, and Vail. Grand Junction is the largest city between Denver, Colorado and Salt Lake City, Utah, with a population of 61,881 (2016, US Census Bureau).
Economic activity has primarily centered around ranching, mining, and tourism. Fruit farming is also prevalent in areas along the Colorado and Gunnison rivers, including the Grand Valley, where the Town of Palisade is recognized as the center of Colorado Wine Country, with over 20 wineries, and purveyor of Palisade peaches.
Much of the area's economy continues to dependent upon energy extraction services and tourism. The region contains plentiful sources of oil, natural gas, uranium, and coal. It is also known worldwide for its ski resorts, with popular destinations such as Aspen, Crested Butte, Vail, and Steamboat Springs. Most counties in the northern areas of the slope have at least one ski resort, which help support the tourism industry.
Outdoor recreation opportunities are not limited to the ski season, however. Many businesses in the outdoor recreation industry are moving to the area for year-round access to trails, slopes and waterways which offer numerous opportunities to not only enjoy an outdoor lifestyle, but to test products in these natural elements.
Although much the area's economy is still dominated by energy extraction services and tourism, the Grand Junction area's most prominent economic sector is health care. Grand Junction and surrounding Mesa County is a regional healthcare hub servicing approximately 11 counties in Colorado, Utah and Wyoming, which includes more than 500,000 people.
- Library of Congress. Authorities & Vocabularies. Western Slope (Colo.)
- Fox, Brooke (November 2014). "Western Slope Economy" (PDF). Colorado Business Review. Leeds School of Business, University of Colorado Boulder. 80 (4): 1.
- Steven C. Schultz, As Precious as Blood: The Western Slope in Colorado's Water Wars, 1900-1970. Boulder, CO: University Press of Colorado, 2016.